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Calendar Year 2014: Record-Breaking Heat in California

Data from California Climate Tracker show that 2014 was, by a wide margin, the hottest year on record for the state of California.

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Intensification of Heat Waves

By 2100, if temperatures rise to the higher warming range, there could be up to 100 more days per year with temperatures above 90°F in Los Angeles and above 95°F in Sacramento. As  temperatures rise, Californians could face greater risk of death  from dehydration, heat stroke/exhaustion, heart attack, stroke, and respiratory distress caused by extreme heat. By mid century, extreme heat events in urban  centers such as Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino could cause two to three times more heat-related deaths than occur today.

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Electricity Demand

Climate change may significantly affect the operation of California's electric power system, in both the demand and supply sides. As temperatures rise, electricity demand will also increase to meet air conditioning and other cooling requirements. This in turn will further escalate the emission of greenhouse gases and the air pollution due to use of unclean sources of energy.

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Loss of Winter Recreation

Continued global warming will have widespread implications for winter tourism. Declines in Sierra Nevada snow pack would lead to later starting and earlier closing dates of the ski season. Toward the end of the century, if temperatures rise to the lower warming range, the ski season at lower and middle elevations could shorten by as much as a month. If temperatures reach the higher warming range and precipitation declines, there might be many years with insufficient snow for skiing and snowboarding. Decreases from 40 to almost 90 percent are likely in end-of-season snowpack under high emissions scenarios in major ski resorts.

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Rising Temperatures in Agriculture

The agriculture industry of California is the largest and the most diverse of the country, producing 300 commodities and half of the country’s fruits and vegetables. As temperatures rise in the state, there will be a direct impact on the water supply, proliferation of pests, outbreak of diseases and overall quality and quantity of the produce.

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Wine Industry

California is the nation’s largest wine producer and the fourth largest wine producer worldwide. High-quality wines produced throughout the Napa and Sonoma Valleys and along the northern and central coasts generate $3.2 billion in revenue each year. High temperatures during the growing season can cause premature ripening and reduce grape quality. Temperature increases are expected to have only modest effect on grape quality in most regions over the next few decades. However, toward the end of the century, wine grapes could ripen as much as one to two months earlier, which will affect grape quality in all but the coolest coastal locations (Mendocino and Monterey Counties).

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Wild Fire

As climate changes, it appears that summer dryness will begin earlier, last longer and become more intense. These changes may exacerbate fire occurrences, which have historically peaked in late summer and early fall.  If temperatures rise into the medium warming range, the risk of large wildfires in California could increase by as much as 55 percent, which is almost twice the increase expected if temperatures stay in the lower warming range.

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