By Ken Ott, Research Associate, SustainLane
Sustainability research, Government Division
I rode Amtrak to the 4th Annual California Climate Change Conference in the state capitol on Tuesday, September 11th. By doing so, I enjoyed nice views of the San Francisco Bay and farmland in between the two cities. I also read more about the event before arriving.
This was my first California Climate Change Conference and it was a nice refresher course, in addition to a source for reams of new information which I still haven't finished reading. The California Energy Commission and California Resources Agency put on this conference and are the state's primary policy and planning agencies for energy and natural resources, respectively.
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I'd like to share what I learned at the morning session on water in this post. Instead of merely reading about climate change issues, in contrast, it was great to speak with panelists and other attendees in person. Although magazines or online articles can be important resources, there is no substitute for conversation and one-to-one dialogue.
The morning panels focused on probable climate change impacts such as: water (flood risk and mitigation) and air quality (soot effects on snow melt rates). I was able to listen to and speak with a great number of people who are experts in their fields.
Some of them included Michael Dettinger, Scripps Institution of Oceanography who works on observing increased flood vulnerability, and Sam Earson, Desert Research Institute, who studies groundwater supply issues, using gas tracers. All of the panelists do good work and contribute to a greater understanding of climate change issues as they affect the Western US as well as the global community. All of them are supported by state agencies or deparments and in turn report back to these bodies.
Below are synopses of most speakers' presentations with their respective conclusions as well as mine. If you are already knowledgeable in general you can skip my commentary and just read the indented text boxes. These contain much of my verbatim notes. You can also attend the sessions virtually. Sessions are archived in PDF and streaming audio/video for your convenience: Conference Home.
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CLIMATE CHANGE AND WATER RESOURCES IN CALIFORNIA
Session Chair: Jamie Anderson (California Department of Water Resources)
The early morning sessions were well attended and very clear in assigning further certainty to likely extreme weather events in the future. The main culprit in all cases was a human induced warmer biosphere.
“California Flood Risks in a Changing Climate”
Michael Dettinger of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography presented a model in which a global climate +3 degrees Celsius warmer leads to “flood friendly” conditions in California and along the entire West Coast. These conditions include increased winter snow melting and a stronger phenomenon of “Atmospheric Rivers.”
West coast more likely to get more rain
More rain than snow
Double area of rain --> double flooding
Additional winter melting: much wetter soils in northwest, slightly drier soils in CA --> but doesn't reduce flood risk
"atmospheric rivers" -- the storms to worry about. warm pacific storms.
"pineapple express" -- source of big storms/floods
More flood risk: rain rather than snow; wet snows & soils; more large storms; need to have better flood management through increase observation of snow, weather patterns...
|Michael Dettinger gives his presentation. Click for larger photo.|