Blistering temperatures in the Coachella Valley are expected to increase over the next century, affecting local economic drivers like agriculture and tourism, while likely increasing the risk of
wildfires, according to a state climate report released today.
California’s fourth Climate Change Assessment concluded that daily average high temperatures will increase by eight to 14 degrees by the end of the century due to climate change. In Palm Springs, which has about 135 days per year above 95 degrees, the city was forecast to have 179 such days by the end of the 21st century, according to the report.
The section of the report that focused on the desert portions of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, as well as the entirety of Imperial County, stated that rising temperatures will impact local water supplies, which in turn will affect agriculture, the region’s largest economic driver.
The agriculture industry was projected to face water-related issues stemming from climate change, including “potential climate-driven reductions to Colorado River flow,” the major source of regional water supply.
Water supply issues were also projected to affect efforts to restore the Salton Sea, which is receding at an exponential rate, exposing toxic dust from the lakebed that has proven harmful to local residents, wildlife and crops. The report states that “climate change will exacerbate stresses to the
limited water supply feeding the sea and may accelerate the pace of decline.”
The exposed playa from the Salton Sea shoreline, combined with rising heat, was projected to affect crop yields and the health of farm workers.
Water supplies from the Colorado River — which has been the subject of contentious water-rights disputes — is critical in an area with such little rainfall, the report states.
Drier conditions, combined with the already strong winds in the Coachella Valley and San Gorgonio Pass could contribute to an increased wildfire risk in the coming years.
Coachella Valley tourism, identified as the second-largest economic driver in the region, was also expected to be affected by rising temperatures, with as much as a third of the days “with favorable temperatures for outdoor activities” projected to disappear in the wake of increased heat.The lack of temperate days could constitute “a big blow to the local economy,” which “generates 50,000 jobs and more than $6.4 billion annually,” according to the report.
Major outdoor desert attractions, such as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and BNP Paribas Open, “will have to either shift their dates or provide more cooling infrastructure to accommodate their guests.”
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