Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Fifth Year, Now Without Rain

We've entered a period of drought here in the Southwest; last year's record dry winter appears to be the new normal. This pattern has been predicted by the climate models, and so here we are. Planning is in place now with appointments at the State level for a drought management team:

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Jim Costa (D-16) on Dec. 9 sent a joint letter to Gov. Jerry Brown asking him to declare a statewide drought emergency that would activate the state’s emergency plan and permit some relaxation of state regulations concerning water. Cowin hinted a drought declaration could be coming.

There's more to consider than just the economics and logistical problems of water scarcity. We have forests and an urban biosphere that are severely stressed already. The ecology of forests and their complexity rely upon sufficient water and soil humidity to maintain the forest structure and underground water and nutrients. During droughts, the resiliency of these forests and landscaping are greatly reduced, and the recovery is a slow and complex process, potentially threatening its viability. A video from the University of British Columbia examines the nature of this integration of the living forest.

In this real-life model of forest resilience and regeneration, Professor Suzanne Simard shows that all trees in a forest ecosystem are interconnected, with the largest, oldest, "mother trees" serving as hubs. The underground exchange of nutrients increases the survival of younger trees linked into the network of old trees. Amazingly, we find that in a forest, 1+1 equals more than 2.

Update Dec. 21, 2013: There's a reason for that.
The extraordinary California dry spell continues: 2013 will probably be the driest year on record (from California Weather Blog)