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Climate Changing in California Farm Regions

October 17, 2013
By: Fran Howard, AgWeb.com Contributing Writer
Southern Calif
  

While agriculture’s part in driving the state’s climate change is only 7%, the state’s ag industries will be heavily affected by climate changes.

Those who still are not convinced climate change is fact—and not just a piece of political fiction—need look no further than a recent report issued by the California Office of Environmental Health and Hazard Assessment. The report, titled Indicators of Climate Change in California, was used as the basis for a newer report detailing the steps California specialty crop growers can take to cope with a changing climate.

While agriculture’s part in driving the state’s climate change is only 7%, compared with 38% for transportation, 20% for industry, and 23% for both in-state electricity generation and imported electricity, the state’s agricultural industries will be heavily affected by climate changes.

Temperatures

"Over the past century, minimum, average and maximum temperatures have all been increasing. Since 1895, annual average temperatures have increased by about 1.5° F across California," the report notes. "Parts of the Central Valley and Southern California have experienced the greatest warming."

Summer heat waves are also becoming more common in California, which can result in decreased agricultural production, increased irrigation requirements, and greater electricity demands.

Daytime heat waves have increased in number everywhere except in the Central Valley, where irrigation likely has had a cooling effect, according to the report. Nighttime heat waves, however, are increasing in all regions.

Water

Over the past century, spring runoff from the Sierra Nevada mountain range to the Sacramento River has decreased by 9 percent.

"Lower runoff volumes from April to July may indicate: (1) warmer winters, during which precipitation falls as rain instead of snow; and (2) earlier springtime warming," the report states. Reduced runoff means less water for agriculture.

The report also notes that over the past century sea surface temperatures have increased near La Jolla at twice the global rate, and warmer ocean waters contribute to extreme weather events.

Specialty Crops

Last week as part of an ongoing effort to ensure that California is prepared for the impacts of climate change, the Climate Change Consortium for Specialty Crops released the report Climate Change Consortium for Specialty Crops—Impacts and Strategies for Resilience.

"This is essential work as we prepare for a future that will require significantly greater food production while using fewer natural resources," said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

California is the nation’s largest specialty crop producer. Specialty crops are defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops including floriculture.

To access the reports, go to: http://oehha.ca.gov/multimedia/epic/


 

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