Thursday, April 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Agency finds climate change taking a toll on California

In this 2009 file photo, the water level at Lake Shasta sits at 71 feet below normal. A new state report says Californians will have to deal with worsening droughts in the coming decades as a result of climate change. Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle

By David Perlman
California lakes are warming, sea levels are rising, wildfires are spreading, and mountain plants and animals are migrating to higher ground as the impact of climate change takes hold throughout the state, a new report says.

The evidence of the effects of the warming trend emerged in an analysis of 36 “indicators” — warning signs of changes — that are detailed in the 240-page report released earlier this month by the state’s Environmental Protection Agency.

While many California scientists have previously reported the impact of global warming on the state’s environment, the new report shows the effects of global warming more clearly than ever.

“The combined impact described by the indicators is dramatic,” said Matthew Rodriquez, California’s secretary for environmental protection, whose agency specialists prepared the report.

“The science is clear that we’re already seeing significant changes in every part of the state,” he said. “If you look at these indicators, you can’t really debate that climate change, and its impact, is here.”

Over the past 20 years, California industries have become more efficient in limiting their emissions, but the state’s overall discharge of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide and methane has continued to rise, the report notes.

Temperature swings
Average annual temperatures throughout the state, despite periodic swings up and down, have increased by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, and the pace of warming has picked up speed since 1975, the state’s scientists reported.

The impact of that warming is reflected in spring runoff from melting Sierra snows on the Sacramento River watershed, which like others in the state is crucial for down-stream farmers and their crops. In the century after 1906, the report says, that runoff decreased – again with many fluctuations — by 9 percent.

The report “paints a disturbing picture of how climate change is affecting our state and its growing threats to our future,” said George Alexeeff, the EPA’s health hazards chief.

Sea-level rise is another ominous sign. Over the past century, sea levels have risen along the California coast by an average of 7 inches, and levels have risen by 8 inches at the Golden Gate.

“Sea-level rise could lead to flooding of low-lying areas, loss of coastal wetlands, erosion of coastal beaches, saltwater contamination of groundwater aquifers and impacts on roads, sewage treatment plants and other coastal infrastructure,” the report warns.

Nor are the state’s inland waters immune: “Lake waters have been warming at Lake Tahoe, Lake Almanor, Clear Lake and Mono Lake since the 1990s,” the report says.

Separate Tahoe study
Confirming that evidence, an annual report on Tahoe’s condition, released earlier this month by the UC Davis Tahoe Center for Environmental Studies, said “climate change is impacting the entire Tahoe basin with drier years, less precipitation, higher lake temperatures and projected lower lake levels.”

Tahoe’s average annual surface temperature in 2012 was 52.8 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest ever recorded for the lake, the report said.

There was a bit of good Tahoe news, however: “an amazing increase in clarity” — meaning the water was clear down to 75.3 feet this year — better by 6.4 feet compared with the year before.

Effect on animals
While the impact of climate change on living organisms is less certain, population changes among many ocean animals “may be related to ocean warming,” according to the EPA report’s authors. Those include:

* A “dramatic” decline in fall-run chinook salmon in Central California.

* Varied success in breeding by Cassin’s auklets on the southeast Farallon Islands, with unprecedented failures in 2005 and 2006 and record high productivity in 2010.

* Increases in both California sea lion pup mortality and the stranding of yearling pups, which the report’s scientists said were too weak to handle climate changes.

Fire trending upward
The total number of acres burned in the state by wildfire due to drying landscapes has varied widely in any single year — from only 31,000 acres in 1963 to 1.4 million acres in 2008. Yet an upward trend in acreage burned suggests another indicator, the report notes: The annual average acres burned by California wildfires in the dozen years since 2000 (598,000 acres) is more than double the acreage burned in the 50 years between 1950 and 2000 (264,000 acres).

Climate change is impacting living systems too, the report maintains, with effects on both plants and animals.

A study on Southern California’s Santa Rosa Mountains shows that dominant plant species have moved upward — by an average of 213 feet over the past 30 years. And in the Sierra Nevada, the lower edge of conifer-dominated forests has been retreating upslope for the past 60 years.

About half the species of small mammals in Yosemite National Park similarly have moved their habitat ranges, compared with earlier in the century, and “most of these changes involved movement to higher elevations,” the report’s wildlife section notes.

— Reach David Perlman at dperlman@sfchronicle.com

San Francisco Chronicle

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 3 comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • ml1999August 13, 2013 - 1:31 pm

    This article leaves out a lot of factors the Left doesn't like to think about. A lot of these effects would dissappear if we had a wet winter or two? As far as CO2, we'd have less if we had more nuclear power plants, and even less if we didn't import electricity from out of state - that is produced by coal plants. Tahoe has had an amazing increase in clarity, and this stdy didn't address 250 Million crawdads that may contribute to Lake Tahoe not being crystal clear? Fires have surged as we have abandoned traditional forrest management, let beatle infestation rage unchecked, and built homes into the forrest topography. We could add more fire crews from non-violent prison inmates, which we're dragging out feet on. When I read the hypothesis that sea lion pups are dying because of GW, which is maybe a half degree increase over the past several decades, I figure this report started with a conclusion, and worked backwards.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Jay WangAugust 21, 2013 - 4:03 pm

    In this article, the author mentioned "In the century after 1906, the report says, that runoff decreased – again with many fluctuations — by 9 percent". This is a misleading citation. The original report said "the portion of runoff that occurs between April and June has declined by about 9 percent".

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Artemis EntrariMarch 18, 2014 - 9:10 am

    I like how they use Shasta Lake in the picture. Its a reservoir and the level fluctuates almost daily. Its not uncommon to see the lake in the condition in the photo used in this article. The perception of it being almost dry is the effect they are looking for. Shasta lake has 365 miles of shoreline and has a max depth of 518 feet. This lake is designed to look this way and drop in level to supply a steady flow of water to the Sacramento valley. Most climate studies show the globe has not warmed in the last 15 years. People need to stop beating this dead horse.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

News

 
4-H members get ready for Spring Show

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Will city move forward on public power review?

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

Attorneys at odds over Woodland infant’s death

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

 
Obama to Russia: More sanctions are ‘teed up’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 3 Comments

 
2 pursuits, 2 arrests keep Woodland officers busy

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
 
Youth sports in focus on radio program

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Rummage sale will benefit preschool

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Concert benefits South Korea exchange

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Conference puts focus on Arab studies

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Davis honors ‘green’ citizens

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Water rate assistance bill advances

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Program explores STEM careers for girls

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5, 5 Comments

 
Embroiderers plan a hands-on project

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Central Park Gardens to host Volunteer Orientation Day

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Volkssporting Club plans North Davis walks

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Hotel/conference center info meeting set

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
MOMS Club plans open house

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Cycle de Mayo benefits Center for Families

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8

Author to read ‘The Cat Who Chose to Dream’

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A12

 
.

Forum

Things are turning sour

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
The high cost of employment

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

High-five to Union Bank

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Broken sprinklers waste water

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Three more administrators?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Neustadt has experience for the job

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Here’s a plan to save big on employee costs

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

 
Davis is fair, thoughtful

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Ortiz is the right choice for Yolo

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

.

Sports

DHS tracksters sweep another DVC meet

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Another DVC blowout for DHS girls soccer

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1, 2 Comments | Gallery

Young reinvents his game to help Aggies improve on the diamond

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
DHS boys shuffle the deck to beat Cards

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

DHS/Franklin II is a close loss for Devil softballers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Baseball roundup: Giants slam Rockies in the 11th

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
UCD roundup: Aggies lose a softball game at Pacific

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

 
Jahn jumps to Sacramento Republic FC

By Evan Ream | From Page: B8

.

Features

.

Arts

Congressional art competition open to high school students

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Emerson, Da Vinci to present ‘Once Upon a Mattress’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Winters Plein Air Festival begins Friday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Bach Soloists wrap up season on April 28

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A11

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B6