The California drought and its water system can be a complicated issue, and a UC Merced talk next week could help shed some light on the subject.
UC Berkeley geography professors B. Lynn Ingram and Frances Malamud-Roam are set to present a talk based on their book “The West Without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us About Tomorrow,” which is about California’s water issues and overall climate history.
The two-hour talk, which is free and open to the public, is set for 7 p.m. May 7 in the Merced Theater, 301 W. Main St.
The book is part of UC Merced’s “common read,” which means it is used by multiple areas of study. Tom Hothem, assistant director of the Merritt Writing Program on campus, said the book is incorporated into research fields, and he hopes local residents will also give the book a read.
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According to the book, Hothem said, the population boom in the state in the late 19th century corresponded with a relatively wet era, but since then the state has been drying out. “One of the things the authors want to emphasize is that the kind of the drought we’re seeing now is part of California’s back story,” he said.
The book was released in August 2013 by the University of California Press. It documents the tumultuous climate of the American West over 20,000 years, according to the UC system’s website, with tales of years of past droughts and water abundance.
It also brings predictions about the impacts of future climate change on water resources. “Their research shows there have been droughts lasting centuries in the past,” Hothem said. “They’ve recently said we may be in a mega-drought now.”
The book argues that California has been in a drying pattern since 1998’s El Nino – a wet weather pattern – with the exception of three years.
Looking at the region’s current water crisis from the perspective of its climate history, the UC website says, the authors ask the question of what is really the “normal climate” for the West, and whether the climate of the past century will continue into the future.
The authors warn that it is time to face the realities of the past and prepare for a future in which fresh water may be less reliable, according to the website.
Josh Viers, a watershed scientist at UC Merced, said water and climate education is important and complicated. “It’s for that reason that bringing outside expertise on this subject and providing a forum for increased dialogue around this subject is very timely and very important,” he said.
Part of the UC system’s function is to reach out to the community and share in the knowledge that individual campuses are studying, Viers said.
“Having a University of California campus in the community provides a unique platform to bring in experts from around the world to talk on timely subjects that are important to people within the community,” he said.
The authors, who continue to study the state’s climate, are expected to bring new numbers and reports from their work since the book’s 2013 release.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Research Institute and the Center for Climate Communication.
Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.