Image courtesy of Californian Em
Droughts and wildfires may well turn out to be the least of Californians' worries if some scientists' projections of what climate change-induced effects will befall the state's landscape come to fruition. First to fall victim will likely be California's (already short) ski season; a shorter snowy season - with snow that will melt much faster - will reduce the ski season by a month in some areas and, in others, end it entirely. Battered by a string of wildfires and water shortages, Southern California's sky season has already begun to suffer.
While opinions differ among scientists over the specific changes global warming will effect, the general consensus is that temperatures will rise 3 - 10°F statewide by century's end, potentially leading to a drop in rainfall across Southern California; this would put at great risk a variety of animal and plant species that live in the deserts east of Los Angeles. In an effort to save the iconic Joshua trees from uncertain doom, scientists are already considering relocating their seedlings to areas where the plants might endure.
Image courtesy of Omar Omar
Another concern is that warmer temperatures and more rain in the north could drastically reduce the Sierra snowpack, which typically stores 35% of the state's annual water supply. The loss of such a significant source of water could imperil the state's $30 billion agriculture industry and spark costly water disputes between urban and rural residents. As in other alpine regions around the world, the Sierra's has already started to recede, putting different plant species - including the giant sequoias - under stress and altering the region's long-established flora.
"I suspect as things get warmer, we'll start seeing sequoias just die on their feet where their foliage turns brown. Even if they don't die of drought stress, just think of the wildfires. If you dry out that vegetation, they're going to be so much more flammable," said Nate Stephenson, a USGS ecologist who is studying the impact of climate change in the Sierra Nevada.
Perhaps the most worrying unknown is what will occur along the state's coast when the world's glaciers and ice sheets melt; a particularly gloomy scenario has predicted that the sea level could rise by more than 20 ft, potentially inundating the busy ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. That's not to say what will befall California's marine residents: A weakening of the upwelling season, during which nutrient-rich deep water is brought to the surface, could starve the sea lions, fish and other organisms that depend on this source of food.
If the above scenarios don't provide the necessary impetus for some change - particularly in Southern California where residents continue wasting gallons upon gallons of water (amongst other resources) every day - we really don't know what will.
Via ::Associated Press: Global warming to alter Calif. landscape (news website)