Phil Isenberg, Jerry Meral, and Michael Dettinger/Daniel Cayan on the drought and the Delta, and more in the latest issue of San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science Journal

SFEWS_LogoThe latest issue of the San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science Journal is now available online.  Besides the expected fare of peer-reviewed research articles on the latest cutting-edge research underway in the Delta, this issue features essays on the drought from Phil Isenberg, Jerry Meral, Michael Dettinger/Daniel Cayan.  In soliciting the essays, the writers were asked the question, ‘What do we need to know to better prepare for, or cope with, drought in the Bay–Delta?’ with the goal being to discuss both what is needed in the long-term and the short-term to address our vulnerabilities to drought, but they were also told not to feel necessarily constrained by the question.

These three essays point out that the effects of drought are complex and multi-dimensional; and sometimes not intuitively obvious,” writes Sam Luoma in his editorial.  “In describing the natural science dimension of this complexity we find important suggestions for future research.  But we  are reminded that the human and societal dimensions of the water challenges are just as important and complex as the natural dimensions.”  Click here to read Sam Luoma’s editorial.

Here are the essays:

  • Phil Isenberg:  The Current Drought Exposes—Not Creates—Long-Standing Water Problems: Can Policy-makers and Scientists Learn From This? California is in the midst of its third year in a row with “below normal” water supplies. We call that a drought. However, much of our public debate is not about how to solve the problems exposed by the drought. Instead, we demand ‘more water’ as the answer to ‘not enough water.’ If it was only that easy! The drought amplifies—but is not the cause of—our long-standing water problems.  For example: The current drought did not force cities like Folsom, Roseville, or Sacramento to use significantly more water per capita than the state average, as they have done for decades. The current drought did not force farmers in the Sacramento and Central valleys to substitute water-needy permanent tree and vine crops for more traditional annual crops, which often use
    less water.
    … ”  Click here to read this essay.
  • Gerald Meral: Dry Years: Political and Other Effects on the California Delta:The State of California is experiencing an extreme drought as a result of very low precipitation in water year 2013–2014. The continuing drought in California offers several lessons for those inter- ested in management of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta.  Perhaps the most important lesson is how easy it is, in the face of a real crisis, to lose sight of the long- term needs of the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta (Delta) with respect to ecosystem values and water supply. Regardless of whether one is a proponent or opponent of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP, plan), it is in everyone’s best interest to see the plan completed, and either accepted or rejected by the biological agencies (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS], the National Marine Fisheries Service [NMFS], and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife [CDFW]). … ”  Click here to read this essay.
  • Michael Dettinger & Daniel Cayan:  Drought and the Delta: A Matter of Extremes:  “California is in an extreme drought as a result of low precipitation in water year 2012, record low pre- cipitation in 2013, and the remarkably dry first few months of 2014. We typically receive our largest pre- cipitation totals in Decembers and Januaries (which provide about 36% of the precipitation in the Delta’s catchment), and when those months are as dry as they were this year, subsequent months have to be unseasonably wet to avoid drought. Most of the cur- rent winter, especially December 2013–January 2014, was dry because a persistent ridge of high (atmospheric) pressures set up offshore, diverting storms away from California and into Alaska. That same diversion gave the Delta’s catchment its warmest winter in 120 years, as well as bringing all that cold weather to the eastern US. While the February 2014 storms provided minor relief and momentarily slowed the spiral into deeper drought, the drought continues apace. Nonetheless, as harsh as it is, the current drought is not unprecedented in the Delta’s history, and even less so in its prehistory. In this essay, we consider the ways that droughts in California arise from a few missing storms and from long-term variations and changes in climate, in order to identify drought-science needs for Delta management. ... ”  Click here to read this essay.

Also in this month’s issue …

RESEARCH
POLICY AND PROGRAM ANALYSIS

Click here to view all articles on one page.

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