Drought’s Homicidal Ways Killing Trees

All Californians should be leery about conserving water as much as possible during the drought, but even the most conscious residents who hold off on watering lawns, washing cars or excessively long showers can’t stop carnage like this report:

But in California’s 33 million acres of forest, the starkest evidence of the drought’s toll is a brick-colored pine tree, its needles brittle and broken.

Each red tree is a dead tree. And drought-stricken California now has 12.5 million of them.

That’s according to a recent survey from the U.S. Forest Service, which examined more than 8.2 million acres of Californian forest last month and found dead trees on nearly 1 million of them as a result of the recent extreme weather — a swath of devastation about the size of Rhode Island.

“The national forest is stressed out,” William Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told the Los Angeles Times.

[Wild animals in drought-stricken Western states are dying for a drink]

The aerial survey used a digital mapping system to track the devastation in California’s many state and national forests, as well as some private land. The vast majority of dead trees were in the Sierra Nevada (home to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, among others), though about 15 percent of the trees were in forests in southern California.

“When you start thinking about what it takes for a tree, which is usually a fairly hearty type of plant to die off, it’s telling you a pretty clear signal of just how intense the drought has been,” Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, told San Diego’s KPBS.

Lots of victims in this mess.