The Trail of a Drought

The Trail of a Drought 

by Andrew Butt | Photo by Gavin Mills


Along the West Coast especially in Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino counties, it’s not hard to see the effects of the three-year drought. Simply look up towards the tops of our usual lush green trees and you will find the definite orange and red colors that mark these giants. Conversations held with local fisherman confirm the already known effects of the drought. While the rivers are much lower then some of us have seen in our lifetime, the effects stretch way beyond the stream. Farmers in our area are feeling the impact themselves, as well as both their crops and livestock. Rationing the remaining water supply is of the essence as we enter what may be our fourth dry year.

Certain areas have seen specific sanctions on water usage which could result in heavy fines if exceeded. One of the biggest aids we have in solving this water crisis is to look at history. Is this consecutively long and dry period something that will soon come to an end, or is this trend going to become more common? First lets take a look at the average precipitation over the past 50 years and the trend for the next 90 years, with each county being charted on its own line: precipitation_History

It is obvious that there is a predicted slow decline in the amount of precipitation through the coming years. Perhaps this trend is incorrect, but regardless the facts are here now that water is becoming more scarce in our area! Cal-Adapt had this to say on the topic:

“The Mediterranean seasonal precipitation pattern is expected to continue, with most precipitation falling during winter from North Pacific storms. One of the four climate models projects slightly wetter winters, and another projects slightly drier winters with a 10 to 20 percent decrease in total annual precipitation. However, even modest changes would have a significant impact because California ecosystems are conditioned to historical precipitation levels and water resources are nearly fully utilized.”


Even with the problems associated with the current situation there is hope. Lately the fog has been rolling back in off Humboldt Bay. Repeatedly in the mornings there is plenty of mist and haze to help offset the dryness in the area.  Soon this season’s problems will draw to an end as the rains will set back in and winter progresses.  Yet one question still lingers for us locals: Will the coming years bring more of this trend? Or will the snow and rain come back to the counties? Only time will tell.

Emerald contributor since March 2012


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