California has had one weird winter this year: lots of snow and rain early, and almost none since January. It’s in years like this that it’s especially crucial to know just how much water to expect from melting Sierra snows — runoff that provides about a third of the state’s water supply. Current estimates combine patchy measurements with a kind of sophisticated guesswork. But that may be about to change with new technology that’s currently being tested.
There are more than 130 hydropower projects in California. They take advantage of steep terrain and gushing mountain rivers to churn out about fourteen percent of California’s electricity. It’s a delicate balance, dependent on heavy snow in the winter, and heavy runoff in the spring as the snow melts. But climate change threatens to throw that balance out of whack, a problem that federal regulators have chosen to ignore.
(From left to right) Brendan Weiner, Howard Nathel, De’Jon Banks, Fredrick Lake, Joseph Stewart, Anton Jackson and Joe Green look for pikas. Photo: Molly Samuel/KQED
The American pika is a squeaky little animal that lives at high elevations in mountains in the West. It could one day have a huge influence on America’s battles over climate change. And a new program is enlisting students to help scientists learn more about the critters.
When Congress created the National Park Service nearly 100 years ago, the goal was to protect places with historic or natural value for future generations. But climate change is throwing a wrench into those plans. Sequoia National Park could be heading toward a future without its signature gigantic trees.
Scientists often wish they had a crystal ball when it comes to climate predictions. But there’s a place to get a sneak peek of changes on the way: on high mountain peaks. There, the climate is shifting faster than it is closer to sea level. We join a team of botanists determined to get to the bottom of issue by going to the top.
This aired on The California Report on 9/16/11. There are more pictures and a post about the GLORIA Survey on the Climate Watch blog.