The Sacramento region is expected to get hotter, drier and more prone to extremes like mega-droughts, flooding and wildfires over the next few decades, according to California’s most recent Climate Change Assessment.
“Business as usual is not going to be business as usual anymore in the Sacramento Valley Region,” said UC Davis’ Benjamin Houlton, one of the report’s authors.
Houlton says the entire area between Shasta and the Delta could look and feel more like Phoenix by the end of the century, with maximum daily temperatures expected to increase by 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
"We typically had about four days per year where it would exceed 104 degrees,” he said. “We're going to be looking at 40 days per year where the temperature exceeds 104 degrees. This is going to be a tremendous challenge on public health."
Houlton also says a megaflood like the "Great Flood" of 1861, which flooded most of the valley, would also become more likely by 2100.
At the same time, the Sierra snowpack is predicted to nearly disappear, with extreme drought affecting people, plants, fish and other wildlife.
The report offers recommendations for how to tackle the threats posed by each of its predictions, and Houlton says he hopes communities take them seriously.
“We’re going to have to find ways to innovate through this problem,” he said. “I think this could be an opportunity for the region rather than a downer in terms of how we live our daily lives.”
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