How dry was California in 2013?
It’s official: 2013 was the driest year ever in recorded California history.
Here are some statistics for selected cities. The number represents the percentage of normal seasonal rainfall that has fallen so far during this year’s rainy season. (Figures courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle)
Los Angeles: 6.4%
San Diego: 21.7%
San Francisco: 8.7%
San Jose: 9.8%
Santa Rosa: 6.2%
Napa City, meanwhile, had only 22.7% of its normal yearly precipitation average, according to the Napa Valley Register, making 2013 “the driest year since reliable records started being kept nearly a century ago in Napa.”
Granted, the 2013-2014 rainy season still has many months to go. But we’re getting off to a bad start, and people are scared.
The numbers clearly are unsustainable, and reflect the fact that the drought is statewide and not merely regional. All previous drought records, dating back to 1850, have not only been surpassed, but pulverized. “The official drought map of California looks as if it has been set on fire and scorched…”, a reporter wrote in the San Jose Mercury-News.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein in early December asked Cal. Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency, an action Brown so far has resisted taking, although a week after Feinstein’s request, he did form a task force to study the issue. Some municipalities aren’t waiting for statewide action. The city of Folsom on Dec. 23 mandated a 20 percent rationing order. Three days later, Sacramento County asked some residents to reduce water consumption of 20 percent. In Sonoma County, the County Water Agency has asked permission from the state “to slash flows from Lake Mendocino to the Russian River,” in order to keep the reservoir’s dwindling water level from falling even more.
Other cities are expected to enact similar water-saving mores in January.
The American Geophysical Society announced that California, and large parts of the West, may be experiencing a “megadrought” that could last for decades. They released this drought map
showing the extent of “severe” and “extreme” drought, with the worst areas centering on California and northwestern Nevada.
What impact could the drought–if it continues through the rest of the winter and spring–have on California wine? Vintners fear there won’t be enough water to spray for frost protection during the crucial early budding season. And there won’t be enough water for vine irrigation next summer, especially if we have heat waves. This enforced dry-farming probably means lower crop levels, especially compared to the last few years. Catastrophically dry conditions could spark massive wildfires that take out vineyards.
Is the drought related to climate change? I’m not prepared to go that far.