From intense heat to deadly fires, California has been pushed to extremes, but some of the most alarming evidence of climate change is out of view.
What You Need To Know
- Not too long ago, young great whites were rarely found in colder waters north of Point Conception. Now, there’s a sizable population in Monterey Bay, where water temperatures have risen
- The sea otter population that extends from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz has been under attack with shark bites as the leading cause of death over the last 10 years. Sharks mistake the fur of otters for the blubber of elephant seals
- UC Berkley professor Todd Dawson did a study of the narrow band of redwoods that extends from the Oregon border to Big Sur and found that in the north, which is cooler and wetter, the trees are fine. But some of the redwoods at the southern end of the band, where it is warmer and drier are dying off inexplicably
- President Trump recently visited California, and he insisted better forest protection is needed to prevent wildfires. While part of that is true, he shrugged off the reality of climate change
LA Times Columnist Steve Lopez wrote about California's changing ecosystems, and why we need to listen to nature's chorus to reverse it.
So much of our weather is driven by what is happening in the ocean. Lopez said he reached out to some oceanographers to find out what trends they are seeing.
"The one that stood out to me was that juvenile sharks and great white sharks are usually the ones we see on our coast in Southern California. The babies have thermal regulators that give them a sweet spot for water temperature. They like it to be between 60 and 80 degrees. Southern California's water temperatures were always just right for them, but Northern California was too cold for them. Now, the water temperature on the Northern California coast has gotten warmer, and they're seeing a great white juvenile nursery in Monterey Bay where that impacts everything," Lopez said.
There have also been juvenile shark sightings and attacks off Santa Cruz, which is affecting its ecosystem.
"Those sharks have been attacking sea otters, and the sea otters take refuge in kelp. Still, kelp is in decline partly because of warming water and because starfish are dying off, and starfish attack sea urchins, and the whole ecosystem has been changed because of warming waters and the presence of great juvenile whites," Lopez said.
Along with marine creatures in our waters, California's redwood trees are also affected by climate change.
"The redwood trees grow in California in a narrow band from about the Oregon border to down around Big Sur. The ones in the north where it is cooler are still ok, but down south, they are beginning to see that those redwoods' growth is stunted and that some of them are dying off inexplicably. Scientists believe this may be related to the lack of cloud cover, lack of fog, lack of moisture, combined with the drought and some of the nutrients that are carried in the fog," Lopez added.
President Trump visited California recently, and he insisted better forest management is needed to prevent wildfires, but he shrugged off the reality of climate change, as he has for years.
"I think the forests are a part of it, and better management would certainly help, but climate change is real despite the number of people who want to deny it. The fish, the trees, the grapes are talking to us. They seem to know better than we do on what is happening. These are signs that we have to respond to by changing our behavior," Lopez said.