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Environment Report: It's So Hot That Even Low Temps Are Setting Records

State regulations are in the works that could reduce water to Southern California, there’s an upcoming vote on twin tunnels funding and more in our biweekly roundup of environmental news.

Image via Shutterstock

It’s been hot. That isn’t news.

But the heat is, more than ever, unrelenting.

When we talk about heat, we tend to think of how hot it is will get at the hottest point in the day. The National Weather Service and others are starting to point out something that’s gotten less attention: Even the lows are record-setting because they aren’t that low.

On Saturday, for instance, the recorded low temperature in Ramona was 76 degrees, the warmest low point for a July 7 since record-keeping began for that area in 1974. Riverside set a similar daily record going back to 1893, with a low of 82 degrees on Saturday.

Back in 2009, researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography noted that nighttime heat waves had become more prevalent in recent decades. The same is true in Arizona, where heat kills scores of people each year.

KQED, the public radio station in the Bay Area, noted that hotter nighttime temperatures also hinder firefighters’ work because “wildfires have not been ‘laying down’ at night as they had in the past.” Not only are firefighters now fighting fires all year, but they don’t have help from cooler nights.

  • A group of researchers, including one from Scripps, recently published an article in the science journal Temperature that looks at how quickly cars heat up on hot days and how deadly those hot cars can be for children. Within an hour, the temperature of the dashboard can be hotter than the inside of a cooked pork chop.

New Restrictions Coming on Northern California Water

The State Water Resources Control Board is working to finalize new regulations that may reduce the amount of water coming from Northern California into Southern California. This is one of those hard-to-follow, slow-moving regulatory processes that ends up meaning a whole lot once something actually happens.

The point of the draft regulations is to set aside more river water so that rivers can be rivers. For over a century, the waterways of Northern and Central California have been diverted, dammed and drained to supply water for farms and cities there and here in the south. That ends up killing off wildlife, mainly fish, which environmental regulators are now trying to save from extinction.

“Without adequate flow, floodplains don’t flood, migrating fish can’t avoid predators and pollution and salts don’t get diluted and flushed through the ecosystem as efficiently. It’s a cascading problem that is difficult to fix, particularly as climate change causes increasing extremes in precipitation,” the head of the State Water Resources Control Board, Felicia Marcus, wrote in a Sacramento Bee op-ed.

For humans, it means we’ll have less water, because these rivers naturally end up dumping into bays and then the ocean. When we leave more water in the freshwater rivers, we lose it to the salty Pacific.

The Modesto Bee offered its own assessment. IT said the regulations “came as no surprise to local irrigation districts and county and city officials battling what they call a state water grab.”

It’s not totally clear yet how the regulations will affect different water users, including San Diego. Doug Obegi, who oversees the Natural Resources Defense Council’s California river program, wrote that the regulations could end up meaning even less water coming into Southern California, despite a $17 billion water project meant to maintain existing flows.

The proposed regulations come at the same time the region’s other major source of water, the Colorado River, is entering its 18th year of drought.

In Other News

  • Sempra Energy, the parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric, is selling off a subsidiary devoted to developing renewable energy projects in response to pressure from activist investors who want the company to focus on profiting from its utility monopolies. The sale doesn’t mean that SDG&E will stop using renewable power, just that its parent company will stop building such projects on its own. SDG&E gets much of its renewable energy through contracts with various renewable energy companies. SDG&E is still obligated to buy increasing amounts of renewable energy to comply with state climate change laws.
  • The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency quit last week amid numerous scandals. His replacement, Andrew Wheeler, is a former lobbyist whose clients included a major coal company, Murray Energy.
  • If you want to read a cute comic book about squid and other ocean animals, Scripps has you covered.
  • The controversial plan to build 2,100 homes near San Marcos got approval recently from the county’s planning commission and now heads to the Board of Supervisors for final approval, although that decision will likely be followed by a lawsuit against the project. (Union-Tribune)
  • Because of the pollution caused by straws, Starbucks plans to replace straws with sippy cup lids in coming years. This is a big win for coastal cities that are trying to keep plastic from further ruining the world’s oceans. Later this week, a San Diego City Council committee will consider a proposal to ban Styrofoam, straws and other single-use plastic products. While sippy cup lids may seem infantile, straws themselves are also pretty absurd.
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