The drought has crept across not just California but the entire West. The area in drought reached the largest extent recorded in the 21st century, which itself has a freakishly dry two decades for the region. Research shows even before the current nightmare conditions, the West was in the midst of its worst drought in at least 1,200 years.
It’s indicative of the toll the climate crisis is taking on the region. Rising temperatures mean more snow in winter—the wet season for the West—is falling as rain. In spring, the heat means snowpack melts out sooner, leaving soil parched so that it further locks in drought conditions.
California has always had boom and bust wet seasons, but research shows they’re becoming even more erratic due to the climate crisis. All this has created increasingly gnarly conditions for those who live in the West from the farmers pulling out their almond trees to those living in or near forests now more prone to bursting into flames.