The Central Valley is America's salad bowl. But providing the world with all that food — $37.5 billion worth in 2010, making California the nation's top agricultural state — takes a lot of water.
And that has strange consequences, according to a new UC Irvine study.
Turns out that some of that irrigation comes back to L.A. in the form of …
Yep, UC Irvine earth system science professor Jay Famiglietti and his team published their research on the Valley's contribution to rainfall in today's edition of the Geophysical Research Letters journal.
All that extra juice pumped into the lettuce, nuts and fruit of the Central Valley “accelerates the severity of monsoons and other potentially destructive seasonal weather events,” according to a summary of the research.
It can increase rain by 15 percent or more.
Irrigation in the Valley leads to a 28 percent increase in runoff for the Colorado River, which provides agua for 35 million people, including the fine citizens of Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
But it's so much agricultural irrigation that it also fires up our annual storm cycle and draws extra vapor from the Gulf of Mexico, intensifying our weather.
Famiglietti says “it's like throwing fuel on a fire.”