The sound and sights of the California drought

As noted here a week or so ago, Ronald Reagan's close friend and confidant George Shultz published an op-ed declaring that if Ronald Reagan was president today, he would take action to restrain climate change. Along similiar lines, this week Reagan's biographer Lou Cannon published a tough warning about drought and California that began with a great/horrifying lead:

“The heart of the West is a desert, unqualified and absolute,” wrote prescient 20th century Texas historian Walter Prescott Webb. Nearly six decades later, the desert is returning to claim its own.

Cannon surveys the parched state, nodding at desalination, frowning at the exploitation of deep aquifers containing the water of thousands of years of rainfall, and ultimately concluding that California farmers are living "in a dream land"…and that the desert is coming back. 

He didn't even mention the pictures of the dry Sierra Nevadas, as seen from satellites or on Gov. Brown's snow survey, or in charts. It's a scene depicted as amusingly as possible by Steve Breen:


Nor did Cannon mention any of the latest research, which continues to sound alarms:

Wenju Cai and colleagues report that increased land warming relative to the ocean and an increased frequency of extreme El Niño events, are setting the scene for these events every 13 years compared with a past frequency of one every 23 years. They use a collection of global climate models, selected for their ability to simulate extreme La Niña events, to investigate how the frequency of those events will change with global warming. The authors find that extreme La Niña events will increase in frequency and that approximately 75% of this increase will occur immediately following an extreme El Niño event. The implication of this is that weather patterns will switch between extremes of wet and dry.

Kind of like now, only more violently. What is the sound of a drought? 

Tom Toles has an idea: 


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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