California mega-drought. Some have lasted more than 200 years

San Joaquin Valley. Dead orchard
San Joaquin Valley. Dead orchard

The past one hundred years in California have been among the wettest in 7,000 years. Some think the current drought already is a California mega-drought. One cause is the “negative Pacific decadal oscillation” which creates high pressure ridge that blocks storms. This is not linked to climate change, however global warming could make a dire situation even worse. No one knows yet.

In a prolonged mega-drought, agriculture and ranching will get clobbered. Farmland would go fallow. Orchards would die. Small towns in farming areas will dry up and blow away. Farmers with water rights will sell the water to cities. Others will go broke.

California cattle rancher who gets all his water from ponds and a lake on his land says half his ponds are dry, the lake is a tiny fraction of normal size, and the usual rain that provides grasses for his cattle hasn’t come.

This is worse than the drought in the 1970s,” Van Vleck said. “That drought lasted longer but at least there was more rain per year. So, our lands are severely impacted. When you have no water, you have no grass. And when you have no grass you have no meat.”

Cities will enact mandatory 50% cuts in water. Grass lawns and golf courses will be banned. We will survive just fine. However things will definitely be different. Rainwater storage from roofs into barrels needs to be universal along with storing water in every way possible.

Already, the 2013-14 rainfall season is shaping up to be the driest in 434 years, based on tree ring data, according to Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist at UC Berkeley.

“It’s important to be aware of what the climate is capable of,” she said, “so that we can prepare for it.”