Impacts and Implications of the 2012-2015 Drought for Los Angeles County Habitats and Energy Infrastructure

Project Summary

Southern California has experienced an exceptional four-year drought due to low annual precipitation and unprecedented high temperatures that were exacerbated by increased greenhouse gas-induced warming. Thus, the drought can be considered an indicator of future hydroclimatology and droughts in the Los Angeles region. Changes in vegetation health or cover due to drought can cause changes in fire behavior and the propensity for landslides. These factors in turn threaten increased damage to built infrastructure. As renewable energy generation sites and power transmission corridors often are situated on or run through wildland areas, such changes in vegetation conditions, fire, and landslides can have repercussions for energy supplies. In addition, transmission lines in landcovers with high fire potential can be sources of ignition and promote fires. This project uses an integrated analysis of data from vegetation remote sensing, digital elevation models, fire, landslide vulnerability and soil datasets, and downscaled observational hydroclimatic datasets to examine the impact and lessons of the 2012-2015 drought in terms of habitat and energy infrastructure vulnerability. In addition to developing techniques and strategies for rapid integration of multiple remote sensing, hydroclimatic and environmental data sets to assess drought impacts and vulnerability, the study provides baseline geospatial datasets for future comparative analysis and modeling of drought impacts.

Research Team

Glen MacDonald
Geography, Social Sciences

Greg Okin
Geography, Social Sciences

Tom Gillespie
Geography, Social Sciences

Richard Ambrose
Environmental Health Sciences, Fielding School of Public Health

Phil Rundel
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences