As if you hadn’t already noticed, it was warm in 2014 – the year that just slipped into history 10 days ago. Two stories summarized the findings of recent scientific analyses of the state of the climate in 2014. One focusing on California is found in SFGATE.COM and another focusing on Nevada and Reno is found in RGJ.COM.
Briefly, scientists are reporting that 2014 average temperatures in California were 4 degrees (fahrenheit) higher that the 20th century average and that 7 of the 10 hottest years in the Golden State have occurred since 1994. As goes California, so goes Nevada where 2014 average temperatures were 3.6 degrees higher than the 20th century average. Reno saw average temperatures 1 degree warmer than the record set in 2012. Warm temperatures coupled with drought are a bad combination for both states now facing a long dryer-than-normal period of more than 14 years.
The U.S. also saw its 18th consecutive year where average temperatures exceeded the average temperatures for the 20th century.
The revelations about the high temperatures should be alarming, but mostly the reports about the warm (and continually warming) temperatures here and elsewhere in the northern, northern hemisphere are ignored by most. Certainly too many legislators and governors openly scoff at the reports and ignore calls to slow down the trend by limiting greenhouse gases. Government scientists who undertake the studies that underpin the reports of warming are frequently pooh poohed by talking heads from Fox to PBS. Scientists have looked at ways to reduce greenhouse gases and slow or (unlikely now) reverse the warming.
How does warming effect the Lake-Tahoe-Truckee-River-Pyramid-Lake system? For one thing, it increases evaporation – significant since the Truckee River includes 2 large lakes which collectively evaporate several hundred thousand acre-feet of water each year. Warming temperatures also increase the amount of water plants need in everything from urban landscaping to farming potentially reducing recharge to groundwater and lowering flows in streams. We are very likely already seeing effects from warming in increases in evaporation and evapotranspiration loss.
As I’ve mentioned before, we are still hoping for a miracle series of large Pacific storm systems to save us from the drought. If, however, the drought is of our own making – however unwittingly – that may be a false hope.