If California's climate becomes warmer and wetter due to global warming in the decades ahead, as many experts predict, then the state could face a future fraught with water shortages, wildfires and adverse affects on its habitat, economy and quality of life as soon as 2030.
That is the prediction of a study released today by the Ecological Society of America and the Union of Concerned Scientists which includes major contributions by three University of California, Santa Barbara scientists.
"The bottom line is that climate change is real," said Frank Davis, a geography professor at UCSB. "It will affect all Californians, and is a topic that should be discussed broadly by all citizens."
Also adding expertise to the two-year study, which calls on the public and state officials to begin to formulate mitigation measures, were John Melack, a UCSB ecology, evolution and marine biology professor; and Steve Gaines, director of the university's Marine Science Institute and also a professor of ecology, evolution and marine biology.
In all, seven scientists participated in the study.
Based on current weather data, scientists believe California's average winter temperatures will run 5 to 6 degrees warmer in the years between 2030 and 2050, said Melack, who studied how climate change might affect water availability and quality. That means more precipitation falling as rain and less as snow, which could lead to more winter flooding and a smaller spring mountain snow pack, he said. And with less water stored as snow, the state will find it more difficult to maintain water supplies through summers expected to be 1 to 2 degrees hotter.
"There will be too much water at the wrong time and too little when we need it," Melack said.
Agriculture could be hard-hit in a water competition with domestic and industrial use, a battle already ongoing as the state's rapid population growth and development continue. Particularly vulnerable would be crops s
Contact: Bill Schlotter
University of California - Santa Barbara