Future Extreme Heat in California’s San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley – growing much of the nation’s fruits and nuts – is one of the wealthiest farm regions in the US, but one that is also challenged by high rates of poverty. In addition to these opposing socioeconomic dynamics, it is among the fastest growing regions in California. But population numbers are not all that will rise. Temperature and precipitation extremes will increase in frequency and severity as a result of unabated climate change. The Union of Concerned Scientists published this series of blogs to better understand future conditions in the Valley and their potential impacts on people and infrastructure under three climate scenarios. The blogs explore: population growth, future climate extremes, and how infrastructure development needs to be climate-smart and equitable; an analysis of how projected extreme heat will affect children, outdoor activities, and implications for school infrastructure and operations; and an analysis of the impacts of extreme heat on the electricity grid, implications for the climate readiness of the grid, and recommendations to enhance resilience and reliability of the electricity grid.

Download the methodology.


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As the San Joaquin Valley Grows Hotter, Questions Arise About Future Power Grid Reliability

, Former Western states senior climate analyst

This fall, as millions of Californians went without power and wildfires claimed homes and livelihoods, the fragile state of California’s electricity grid came center-stage. Our deep reliance on it to power our homes, businesses, schools, healthcare and medical devices, and other critical services also became painfully clear. Understandably, the current focus is on the grid’s resilience to wildfires.

The unfortunate reality is that wildfire risk is just part of the story. Heat waves, droughts, and flooding affect the grid and will become even more frequent and severe — in California and across the nation – if heat-trapping emissions remain unchecked. Heatwaves can also co-occur with wildfires, increasing risks to the grid. This raises important questions about the electricity grid’s readiness for more extremes today and in the future.

Read more >

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Derrick Z. Jackson
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PV system at Lick Wilmerding school in San Francisco, California
PV system at Lick Wilmerding School, San Francisco, California mjmonty/Flickr

Climate Change Affects Students’ Well-Being: Case Study of Extreme Heat in San Joaquin Valley and Need for Climate-Smart Schools

, Former Western states senior climate analyst

Schools are expected to provide safe and healthy environments for children to learn and grow. Yet many are ill-equipped to protect them from the heatwaves, floods, wildfires, and droughts that are happening in increasing number and severity across the nation. The repercussions can be huge, affecting school finances, students’ health and academic performance, and communities. The repercussions can be huge, affecting school finances, students’ health and academic performance, and communities. Read more >

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Development to Meet San Joaquin Valley’s Population Growth, Extreme Temperature Must be Climate-Smart

, Former Western states senior climate analyst

Living in the San Joaquin Valley means living with heat, where historically July temperatures can regularly be 95-100°F. Over the next 30-70 years, it will get even hotter due to heat-trapping carbon emissions, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels. These higher temperatures will place additional pressure on the region’s critical infrastructure and vulnerable populations, like children, the elderly, and outdoor workers. Hotter days and nights can also stress the infrastructure that people rely on to keep cool when it is dangerously hot outside, like the electricity grid and buildings. Read more >

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