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Earth Science

New Maps Show Spread and Impact of Drought On California Forests (latimes.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes: According to a new study 58 million trees are dead or dying due to the California drought and hundreds of millions could die if the conditions persist. The LA Times reports: "The researchers used an airplane, high-tech remote sensing technology and satellite imagery to produce the first maps that show how much water the state's trees have lost. Virtually every forest has been affected in some way, said study leader Greg Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University. Asner said he was struck by the 'sheer degree of loss and mortality' in Southern California forests as he flew over the depleted trees."
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New Maps Show Spread and Impact of Drought On California Forests

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    OMG, trees in a desert are going to die?

    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday December 31, 2015 @07:54PM (#51219149) Journal

      OMG, trees in a desert are going to die?

      Most of California isn't a desert, and most of the desert parts of California don't have trees (because, you know, it's a desert).

      • OMG, trees in a desert are going to die?

        Most of California isn't a desert, and most of the desert parts of California don't have trees (because, you know, it's a desert).

        It's not a desert yet. If the drought continues and they continue to pump every last drop out of the ground it might become one.

      • Most of California isn't a desert, and most of the desert parts of California don't have trees (because, you know, it's a desert).

        Most of the world's landmass at SoCal's latitude [unep.org] is desert. This band is called the Hourse Latitudes [wikipedia.org]. Southern California is at the same lattitude as the Sahara [wikipedia.org] desert.

        • So is Alabama, and that place is wet as the backside of a hog. The "Hourse Latitudes" have poorly defined borders as a biome predictor.
          • East Texan, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia are the reason I used most instead of all.

            • The point is, you can't say, "oh, it's at X latitude, so therefore it's a desert."
              • You can say that at 30 degrees latitude land tends is either desert or arid except for a small area known as the gulf coast.

                • If you want to know if California is a desert, it's better to just look at California. You know, look at actual data instead of a generalized model.
                  • The Mojave Desert (pronounced: /mhvi/ mo-HAH-vee) is a rain-shadow, mostly high desert area, that occupies a significant portion of southeastern California and smaller parts of central California, southern Nevada, southwestern Utah and northwestern Arizona in the United States. The Mojave Desert's boundaries are generally defined by the presence of Yucca brevifolia (Joshua trees), considered an indicator species for this desert. It is the driest of the North American deserts.[5] The desert is believed to su

                    • No one doubts that the Mojave Desert is in fact a desert, you don't have to post a link to Wikipedia. Your model says that a certain latitude is a desert, but obviously that fails because Los Angeles is not a desert, San Diego is not a desert (although close), the Laguna mountains are certainly not a desert; most of India and Southeast Asia is not a desert. You can't go based on the model, you have to go based on the data, and look at individual places if you want to know if they'll be a desert or not. Most
  • I drove through the Central Valley recently, the trees look very happy with the water they've been getting.

    We're getting a normal amount of rain so far this year, which is good, but the reservoirs are still empty, so if the rain doesn't continue, or if we have a bad year next year, then we'll still be in trouble.
    • I drove through the Central Valley recently, the trees look very happy with the water they've been getting.

      In the mountains of Southern California a lot of the tree loss is due to various insect species, some foreign invasive. Not sure about Northern California. It's not just from drought.

    • Drive around some more then. Lots of orchards were being left to die in summer, so rain in winter does no good. Others were cut back to their stumps to have new growth grafted. Kind of scary to see brown everywhere.

      Also as far as those maps go, many trees in Sequoia & Kings Canyon have died off due to pests (tussock moth), which could account for much of those low-water canopy sections. Of course the largest wild fire by far this year was in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, 151 thousand acres (612 square k

      • Article says fire affected areas were not counted in the survey.
      • But trees seldom die due to drought. They simply grow less. Thus giving us tree rings that show us droughts and wet years. This drought is only a few years long so far, there have been much longer droughts in the past, indicated by the tree rings of trees that lived through those much longer droughts just fine.
    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Let's hope El Nino help this drought situation. It won't fix it 100% though.

  • 1938 storm 'The Long Island Express'
    http://www.nydailynews.com/new... [nydailynews.com]

    "Cars also took a beating - roughly 26,000 vehicles sustained damage in the storm - while 2 billion trees were reportedly wiped out across New York and New England."

    Today you can't even tell 2 billion trees were knocked down. And it has happened multiple times.

    • How many trees on Earth....

      3,000,000,0000,000 - 3 trillion

      http://www.npr.org/sections/go... [npr.org]

      • And? Much of what was thriving triple canopy rainforest in the greater Amazon Basin only 30 years ago is now gone, deliberately burned, cleared for agriculture, and so forth. Most of the land's fertility in that part of the world consists of its stand, living vegetation. Once that is gone, what is left is hard, infertile lateritic soil that at best supports low value scrub species. Once the forest is gone, also gone is the source of evapotranspiration-induced rainfall. Due to the widespread destruction of
    • Not true. Yes, New England is heavily forested. But go just about anywhere and try to find old growth forest of any kind. Not easy to do because it is very rare.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Bring the water from central Canada down to California. Problem solved!

    Plus we need it for the fruits..

    • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday December 31, 2015 @08:34PM (#51219323) Journal

      The days when California could rely on taking other jurisdictions' water are long long gone. It was pretty much an undeclared war when Southern California began redirecting every significant source of fresh water its way eight decades ago, but this time around I think it would get even more violent. California's agriculture industry has been on an unsustainable path for the last hundred years.

      Gobbling up natural aquifers that took millions of years to form to grow fucking almonds. I can't imagine a surer sign of the sheer stupidity of humanity than that.

      • Southern California is not the same as Northern and Central California which do not get water from other states but rely on snow pack, reservoirs, and wells (aquifers drying up though over the last hundred years). Almonds are not the biggest crop, and until relatively recently were mostly concentrated in only a few areas. Biggest problem is the byzantine water rights issues, with rights handed out in the early days when the state was small which are still in effect today.

        • by Ramze ( 640788 ) on Friday January 01, 2016 @03:04AM (#51220449)

          Southern California relies on the Colorado River -- which is drying up due to drought, dams, and water being diverted for farmlands. It now ends 50 miles inland instead of reaching the sea.

          http://www.smithsonianmag.com/... [smithsonianmag.com]

          California doesn't receive enough rainfall to support the agriculture grown in the region (except maybe the north west portion). Almonds may not be the biggest crop, but they are among the ones which require the most water, and almond growers say that even though they're now giving their almond trees brackish water from wells, they plan to grow more almond trees b/c they're very profitable -- water shortage be damned.

          Most farmland is in mid-eastern to eastern half of the US... which gets enough rainfall to support crops. California generally doesn't rely on rainfall - it needs water pumped from rivers, aqueducts, and aquifers. The areas of CA that get the most rainfall are the mountains which feed a few rivers. It's not sustainable. Water rights issues won't matter if there's no water to squabble over. CA needs to build more storage for fresh water -- often, when it rains, water washes quickly into concrete channels and is fed out to the sea instead of stored. Sad, really.

          https://www.crwr.utexas.edu/gi... [utexas.edu]

          • Efficient storage isn't generally an option due to environmental concerns. New dams are almost never allowed by the courts, and there are minimum required releases from reservoirs to keep certain river fish populations happy. Of course if there were a serious water shortage people would start collecting on their rooftops like in Australia, but California has plenty of water for its population, just not for the large scale farming... so nobody is considering drastic measures.

      • Or to ship millions of gallons of scarce dryland water back east in the form of iceberg lettuce.
  • My books on the pre-history of the American SouthWest over the last 2200 years is riddled with severe drought indications that caused entire civilizations to abandon their settlements and move to new areas. Thomas Mails described a lot of this in his book "The Pueblo Children of the Earth Mother.

    • Global warming must have started a couple of thousand years earlier than we thought. Maybe they burned too many buffalo chips back then.

      • Oh? The globe has warmed and cooled many times over its history, due to purely natural phenomena. There is now however clear correlation with the inexorable rise in the planet's temperature since the beginning of the fossil-fueled industrial revolution. There is strong geological evidence that bit for the increase in the atmosphere's "greenhouse gases," we would already be moving back toward the next glaciation. If only our forebears had not killed off the Bison. We would now have a sustainable source
  • How weird must it be, when you're looking out over the ocean, that the governor is telling you there is a water shortage? This is the very same governor that told us (I was living there then) the very same thing 38 years ago! And look how far they have progressed... NOT! Absolutely astounding...

    • This is the very same governor that told us (I was living there then) the very same thing 38 years ago!

      That's the surreal part. Same governor, same issues, nothing changes.

    • Yes because desalination is so inexpensive and environmentally friendly that you can create so much fresh water in order to replace the rain missing on the mountains. /s

      If it's too expensive to supply most drinking water in many places in the world then why do many people keep on thinking that you can use desalination for watering crops which would require magnitudes more water? If agriculture isn't feasible then supplying water for nature is completely out of the question.

      • Eh, do without then. I'm sure the loses from doing nothing will be much less if your calculations are right.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The choice is not doing nothing or desalination. Other choices can and more importantly are being made first.

          Like for example, fixing leaky pipes.

          • Well, they're not even doing that, are they? The behavior won't change until it all dries up. Then everybody will be starting a war. Eh, another 40 years down the drain. Let the kids deal with it.

    • Of course there's no water shortage in an absolute sense -- not even a fresh water shortage if you wanted to transport all the rain from the northern part of the state to where it's wanted. There's a water-cheap-enough-for-growing-current-levels-of-affordable-food-without-damaging-natural-habitats shortage.

      • So, it's an argument over the price [marketwatch.com]. You are being robbed... I so wish people would wake up. Whatever happened to the motto, *Anything Anywhere Anytime*? Don't believe the bullshit. Take the bank bail out money back (that's 4.5 trillion) and put it to work. But please, don't try to tell me it's not worth it, that it's more beneficial to just let the place dry up, while these people fly off to Paris on a political junket on our dime. How so very fortunate for them that people believe everything they are told

    • Huh? Ever tried to drink ocean water or grow plants with it? The water scarcity in California and elsewhere in the west is not a new phenomenon. Just think, why else would it have been necessary all those decades ago to build the California aqueduct? Other fact: from the time it was first attempted to apportion the rights to the Colorado River system's water, the system has been over-appropriated. I.e. Not enough water in the system to give anyone what they are supposedly entitled to have. There are thos
      • Ever tried to drink ocean water or grow plants with it?

        Bleh, the money being spent in the derivatives markets (or the bailouts alone) would cover hundreds of processing plants. There's no excuse... You are being scammed into believing it can't be done. The only issue is and always has been the profit margin and who gets it.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama