drought

Saving the Sequoias: The Most Magisterial of Trees in California Face a Big Risk

Ronald Reagan was (in)famously unmoved by ancient forests, claiming that “when you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all.” But most of us still feel a frisson when we stroll among old-growth trees, particularly when they’re the biggest dang trees on the planet: Sequoiadendron giganteum, otherwise known as giant sequoias. (That’s biggest by volume, by the way. Coast redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, may be taller but typically are more slender.)

The Giving-Out Trees: Drought-Stressed Sequoias and Blue Oaks May Start to Vanish

Todd Dawson’s research has taken him to forests, savannas, and deserts all over the world. But his recent investigations close to the UC Berkeley campus have taken him to the edges where ecosystem types transition.

The professor of Integrative Biology has found that the blue oaks (Quercus douglasii) at Berkeley’s Blue Oak Ranch Reserve near San Jose and the giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in the Giant Forest of the Sierra Nevada are so drought-stressed that they may begin to disappear from the landscapes they currently define.

From the Winter 2014 Gender Assumptions issue of California.

GMOs: Research Says They’ll Help End Starvation, but Americans Remain Wary

With global warming, drought and the shrinkage of American farmland, will there be enough food to feed the world? It’s a question with which experts are consumed—and should be. “Millions of people are going to die from climate change,” says Kathryn De Master, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of agriculture, society and the environment.

And experts say some of those millions are going to starve.

Why is California Suffering a Record Outbreak of West Nile in Midst of Drought?

West Nile infections are spiking to record levels in California, making it the country’s hot spot for the virus. And that’s something of a conundrum, given the state’s drought. Logic would dictate that the dread mosquito-borne disease would fall off during dry periods. But mosquitoes don’t need much water to propagate, and indeed, some evidence suggests that the drought may be exacerbating the problem.

Doomsday 3: California May Oscillate Between Drastic Droughts and Deluges

Editors’ Note:  The Summer 2014 issue of California magazine is called “This is the End.” Every day this week: a different catastrophic scenario.

California’s climate, long known for having a sunny, likeable disposition, is poised to become a major bad actor. As anthropogenic climate change threatens the Sierra Nevada snowpack and brings even more uncertainty to a region already prone to extreme drought and flooding, catastrophic weather events may define our future.

From the Summer 2014 Apocalypse issue of California.

No Joy in Mudville: Amid Drought, California’s Reservoirs are Clogged with Gunk

As the drought drags on and reservoir levels keep dropping, our politicians predictably are clamoring for new dams. But there may be a better and cheaper way to squeeze more water out of California’s desiccated watersheds: Clean out the gunk behind existing reservoirs. That’s because dams collect sediment from eroding watersheds along with water. Our reservoirs rapidly are filling up with silt, sand and rocks—and the more sediment, the less room there is to collect life-sustaining water.

Stormy Weather

During a terrible storm in the winter of 1969, Berkeley professor Lynn Ingram, just 8 years old at the time, remembers looking out her window and seeing her backyard disappear. The rain-drenched earth of her Santa Barbara home was sliding down into the canyon below. She worried that her whole house would wash away.

From the Summer 2013 A New Deal issue of California.

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