Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Report outlines possible effects of warming on California

Los Angeles Times: As California warms in coming decades, farmers will have less water, the state could lose more than a million acres of cropland and forest fire rates will soar, according to a broad-ranging state report released Wednesday. The document, which officials called the "the ultimate picture to date" of global warming's likely effect on California, consists of 37 research papers that examine an array of issues including water supply, air pollution and property losses.

Without actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions, "severe and costly climate impacts are possible and likely across California," warned state environmental protection secretary Linda Adams. The draft Climate Action Team Report, an update of a 2006 assessment, concludes that some climate change effects could be more serious than previously thought.

By the final decades of the century, acreage burned across much of the state's northern forests could easily double and under some scenarios quadruple, said Anthony Westerling, an assistant professor of geography and environmental engineering at UC Merced. The reason is simple: As the temperature rises, the fire season lengthens and woodlands get drier, burning more readily.

Moreover, if growth continues at the wild-land edge, more fire will mean mounting home losses -- as high as $14 billion a year by century's end. "If you spread development all through the Sierra foothills over the next 50 years," Westerling said, "you will have a situation like the hills of Southern California or Oakland" -- where wildfire has destroyed thousands of homes at a time.

Flames of the Simi Valley fire ravage a Southern California mountain side. This is one of many catastrophic fires that plauged Southern California. U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules pilots flew eight C-130 cargo airplanes and dropped 129,600 gallons of retardant on the Simi fire during 48 sorties and 32 flying hours as of Oct. 29, 2003

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