Climate

California’s Drought Threatens Halloween Tradition

CREDIT: Shutterstock

As California’s drought continues in October, a Halloween classic is at risk. A combination of a lack of water and higher temperatures have led to smaller pumpkins than usual, while farmers say that they may have to stop growing pumpkins unless California sees more rain.

In California, higher-than-average temperatures and the drought have combined to make an environment inhospitable to pumpkins. This year, pumpkins became ripe earlier than usual, thanks to high temperatures. At the same time, lack of water forces farmers to turn to alternate methods of watering pumpkins. Drip irrigation, which saves water, leads to more insects which can damage pumpkins. Beyond insects, less water simply means smaller pumpkins. Farmers have said that they’ll have to increase the costs of pumpkins by around 15 percent to keep up with the costs of growing.

California is currently the second-largest producer of pumpkins in the United States, led only by Illinois. Earlier this week, a California-grown pumpkin set a new national and state records for the heaviest pumpkin recorded at 2,058 pounds. But this pumpkin is the exception, not the rule.

Pumpkins join other crops that have been negatively impacted by the drought. About a quarter of California’s annual rice crop could not be planted because there was not enough water, leading to fears that sushi prices would rise. Earlier in the year, farmers moved around 100,000 cattle out of the state due to expenses caused by the drought. Overall, California lost between one and two percent of its dairy industry because of the drought. Meanwhile, the price of almonds climbed by about 10 percent, thanks to the difficulties of growing them in drought conditions; almond farmers in California have faced criticism for the amount of water they use to grow the crop, with some people accusing them of siphoning valuable groundwater. Other crops, including corn, wheat, and olives, have been hurt by the drought.

A recent study funded by the National Science Foundation concluded that “the atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought in California are very likely linked to human-caused climate change.”

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, all of California is at least in severe drought. April was the first time in the monitor’s history that all of California was in drought conditions. In January, Gov. Jerry Brown put California in a state of emergency over the drought. Cities across the state, such as Los Angeles and Santa Clara have created policies to limit water use. California is expected to lose over $2 billion and 17,000 jobs as a result of the drought this year alone.

Amelia Rosch is an intern for ThinkProgress.