United States weather scientists have revealed California is coming off of its warmest winter on record, aggravating an enduring drought in the most populous US state.
The state had an average temperature of nine degrees Celsius for December, January and February, an increase from 5.8°C in 1980-81, the last hottest winter.
Reuters Newsagency reports that figure was more than four degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the 20th-century average in California, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a statement.
Warmer winters could make the already parched state even drier by making it less likely for snow to accumulate in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, NOAA spokesman Dr. Brady Phillips said.
“Winter is when states like California amass their main water budget, when snowpack is building,” said Dr Phillips, a marine biologist. “If you’re starting from a deficit and going into the dry season, it’s setting you up for a drier summer.”
Reuters reports California is in the grip of a three-year dry spell that threatens to have devastating effects on the state and beyond.
Farmers are considering idling 200,000 hectares of cropland, a loss of production that could cause billions of dollars in economic damage, and several small communities are at risk of running out of drinking water.
The state also recorded its driest winter to date by March, despite recent storms, with an average of 114mm of rainfall, compared to 297mm over the previous winter, NOAA said.
The agency is planning to release its spring outlook climate forecast tomorrow.
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