With the mercury again rising throughout the southland this weekend, the ongoing drought will only be exacerbated. That’s the latest assessment from climatologists from U.S. Drought Monitor and other forecasting agencies which reported this week that California is about to enter its driest season without any immediate prospects for rain.
“Now that a great portion of the rainfall season is behind us, the writing is on the wall. This could be California’s driest summer in decades,” said Ken Clark, an AccuWeather expert on western climate patterns. He said the only good news amid the drought reports is that major reservoirs “… are at a higher level of storage right now compared to last year.”
Heat waves like the one that began on Thursday, according to climatologists, can lead to what is known as a “positive feedback loop” which means hot weather dries out the ground due to evaporation, resulting in diminished chances for rain which, in turn, causes more heat to rebuild. In looking ahead through the Easter weekend, Clark said, it does not look like any major storms will deliver any meaningful rain to the southwest.
The Drought Monitor report has not changed much over the past year, reporting that 93 percent of California is experiencing a “severe” drought and 40 percent of the state lies within the “exceptional” drought category.
The drought has legislators working overtime in Sacramento to find relief for the agricultural sector. On Thursday, the Assembly approved a package of $1 billion in emergency funds to help reinforce local water infrastructure. This is in addition to the $7.5 billion bond measure passed in November 2014 for drought relief.
“When we passed the historic water bond last year we said we would revisit it to do more if needed,” said Assembly Speaker Tony G. Atkins (D-San Diego). “The package before us today is the first step in fulfilling that obligation and in helping bring relief to Californians suffering the effects of the drought. We will also take additional steps, as needed, going forward. But the severity of the drought requires that action start now.” AB 91 and AB 92 will go to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.
The Salton Sea, California’s pre-historic shallow saline body of water between the Imperial and Coachella valleys, is about to get even drier. It already looks putrid with dead fish scattered among patches of fetid water, and the drought has made the area even worse. The former seaside resort which once was a playground for water skiing, yacht racing and fishing, today looks more like a ghost town marred by an earth mound and scattered abandoned, rusted cars. And to complicate the dire situation there, in 2017 an agreement between Imperial county and the Colorado River Authority that involves sharing water from the river will come to an end, leading to an expected further decrease in water flowing in to the sea.
Bruce Wilcox, an official with the Imperial Irrigation District, said the Salton Sea will probably lose a third of its surface area in just a few years, while its bed of sand mixed with sediments of cadmium, phosphates, fertilizer and insecticides will likely spread further. “The consequences for the ecosystem could be even more dramatic,” Wilcox explained, “and could decimate the few fish which remain in the sea, as well as birds deprived of a key stopping point on their migratory flight path.”