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California's Mountains Are At A 500-Year Snow Low

California s Mountains Are At A 500 Year Snow Low


The second problem is that, thanks to record-breaking winter temperatures over the last four years, the precipitation that has fallen across the mountain range has largely been rain, not snow. Instead of sticking as snowpack and slowly refilling reservoirs over the spring and summer, she explains, winter rains sweat off the mountainsides almost immediately, "complicating water management and, [to make full use of the water,] requiring new reservoirs where you didn't need them before," she says.


How exactly can scientists compare today's level of snowpack against snowy seasons from centuries ago, even before the state's recorded history? Weirdly enough, by looking at tree growth rings. Trouet and her colleagues can model the mountains' snowy history by comparing the yearly size of tree rings in thousands of blue oaks, which live at the base of the Sierra Mountain range and grow at dramatically different rates depending upon changes in water—with trusted reconstructions of historical temperature.

In other words: Because they can tell how wet and how cold it was each winter, the scientists can say how much snowpack accumulated in a given year. While it's not a perfect method, this odd tree-ring reconstruction faithfully matches the last 80 years of snowpack measurements with astonishing accuracy.

Now,  Trouet is careful to point out a tricky caveat. Yes, she says, the Golden State is currently seeing a 500-year record low in snowpack. But that doesn't mean the state is also experiencing a 500-year record drought. The lack of snow reflects years of increasingly hot winters (unanimously agreed in the scientific community to be driven by climate change) in addition to California's current lack of water. 

Stashed in: Science!, California, Snow!, Climate Change, Calamities, Climate Change!, Nuts!, Drought

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Until the snowpack is replenished California will have a water crisis, regardless of when the drought ends.  

Top Reddit comment:

For those that don't know, the Central Valley farming (one of the most productive farmlands in the world, that supply to the U.S. and globally) rely on mountain runoff as their main source of water. This massive water shortage has skyrocketed the price of water and has drastically changed the landscape of crops in the region as a result. A lot of land is now being unused or crops are changing to more cost efficient. This coupled with the waves of layoffs means this is bad news. Let alone the infighting as neighbors are welling deeper and blaming each other for stealing water. All California jokes aside, this is big news, not just for California, or the U.S., but for the world.

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