California enters its fourth year of devastating drought

ThinkProgress reports: The rainy season is over in California before it ever really began.

As the state enters its fourth year of a prolonged and devastating drought, new snowpack estimates give Californians little to aspire to other than more hot and dry conditions. According to the Department of Water Resources, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is lower than any year since 1950, and at the end of March it is just 8 percent of the historical average.

This year’s paltry snowpack is less than one-third of the previous smallest size on record, which was 25 percent of average — an amount that was reached both last year and in 1977.

Winter is normally California’s rainy season, but the state has been parched since several big storms swept through late last year. And that looks like it’s going to continue — state climatologist Michael Anderson told the The Fresno Bee that there is “no significant precipitation in sight.”

“I think we’re done,” he said. “I see heat and more heat in the coming months.”

The impacts of the ongoing drought — which studies have shown is exacerbated by climate change — are being seen in everything from energy production to the survival of critical species like the Delta smelt.

According to a new report from the Pacific Institute, the ongoing drought is causing California to rely on natural gas to replace unavailable hydroelectricity power sources. The report states that the switch has cost California ratepayers $1.4 billion more for electricity than in average years, and has resulted in an 8 percent increase in carbon dioxide and other pollutants between 2011 and 2014. [Continue reading…]

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