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California Suffering Unprecedented Drought

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California Suffering Unprecedented Drought

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Drought is gripping California, which has recorded the lowest rainfall in its 163-year history. Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency to release more funds to cope with the effects of the drought, including agriculture losses and potential wildfires.

“We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation, and people should pause and reflect on how dependent we are on the rain, on nature and one another,” Mr. Brown said during a press conference reported on by The Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper wrote: “In California, with its huge economy, the financial impacts are likely to ripple beyond the farmers. Growers in the Central Valley’s Westlands Water District, for instance, are expected to fallow 200,000 of their 600,000 acres this year, resulting in job losses in surrounding communities, according to a statement by the agency. Other businesses that stand to suffer include landscapers, nurseries and orchards.”

Ranchers have started selling off cattle to offset potential losses.

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Parched: A dead tree is seen against a barren landscape in the Tejon Pass between the San Joaquin Valley to the north and Los Angeles to the south in California (Jan. 22, 2014).

“We’re in the drought now, so a lot of these are going back to Texas,” rancher and auction house co-owner Monty Avery told The Associated Press. “We usually sell about 100-150 animals per week. Now we’re seeing 800-1,000 per week, so the volume’s jumped up.”

The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which feeds the state’s largest water reservoirs, remains alarmingly low: “Manual and electronic readings up and down the range placed the statewide snowpack at 20% of normal for this date, adding to worries that 2014 could be a bad drought year,” Los Angeles Times reported.

While there has been extensive media coverage of the dry conditions, University of California Berkeley paleoclimatologist B. Lynn Ingram told the school’s NewsCenter that she does not feel reports are capturing the seriousness of the situation.

By her calculations, she said, “This could potentially be the driest water year in 500 years.”

She stated that she would not be surprised if drought conditions continue for the foreseeable future. 

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