Summer in California this year will be the hottest and driest on record for the state, elevating the risk of widespread water shortages and raging wildfires if the scorching conditions continue.
Nearly one-third of California is experiencing “exceptional” drought levels, the highest percentage of the state affected by such drought conditions ever recorded by the Drought Monitor, which began in 2000, the National Climatic Data Center said late last week. The rest of the state remains in severe drought, the worst the state has seen in the last four decades.
On top of that, California is enduring its hottest year on record as temperatures were about 5 degrees above average for the first five months of 2014, Jake Crouch, a scientist at the data center, told reporters on Thursday.
California is the country’s top farming state, and the drought is widely expected to cripple the region’s $42.6 billion agriculture sector as harvests shrink and businesses shutter. Farmers so far have been able to partially compensate for declining water deliveries by pumping more groundwater, USA Today reported.
But regular residents are learning to live with less water. The northern community of Outingdale, for instance, was told by its water provider to consume no more than 68 gallons of water per person per day, about one-third of the state average, and millions more Californians could soon find themselves in a similar situation, the Sacramento Bee reported on Saturday.
In Southern California especially, the hot, parched conditions are creating a perfect breeding ground for wildfires. On Sunday, California’s state fire department said it had responded to more than 2,100 wildfires that have ravaged more than 17,000 acres so far this year, compared to 1,250 wildfires and about 10,000 acres for the same period in a typical year, according to Los Angeles news station KTLA.
Drought will continue to grip the state at least until September, the National Climatic Data Center said in its monthly update. Meteorologists had projected that an unusually strong El Niño climate system in the tropical Pacific Ocean would bring ample rainfall to California later this year, but now the scientists say they’re expecting a moderate to weak event, which would bring less relief to the rain-starved state, ClimateWire reported.