Top Climate Change Risks: Drought, Fire, Heat
Use this page to learn how climate change is affecting people in California.
Then, use our tool to check your address for local and property-specific heat, precipitation, drought, fire, and flood risk.
People in California will experience especially increased risks from drought, fire, and heat due to climate change over the next 30 years. These risks, through 2050 and beyond, may change depending on how much we reduce emissions in the near future.
ClimateCheck Risk Ratings measure the risk posed by a hazard on a 1-100 scale, using historical conditions and projected scenarios through 2050. Climate change has complex, interacting local and large-scale effects that impact everyone on Earth, and a low risk rating does not mean no exposure to impacts from that hazard. See how we measure risk.
Of these top cities in California, the city with the highest overall risk is Los Angeles. The city with the lowest overall risk is Riverside.
Among the lower 48 states, California's highest ranking is #2 for drought risk.
Nevada ranks highest for drought risk Mississippi and Vermont rank lowest for drought risk
California ranks #17 for fire risk.
Highest fire risk: Oklahoma and Wyoming
Lowest fire risk: Maine and Vermont
See our fire ranking methodology.
California ranks #47 for heat risk.
Highest heat risk: Louisiana and Mississippi
California ranks #40 for storm risk.
Highest storm risk: Rhode Island and New York
Lowest storm risk: Nevada and Arizona
California ranks #39 for flood risk.
Highest flood risk: Arizona and West Virginia
Lowest flood risk: Utah and Nevada
Drought risk is based on water stress, which is a projection of how much of the water supply will be taken up by human demand.
In the figure, the blue bars represent the available water every 10 years from 2020-2060, and the orange bars represent demand. The drought risk rating is based on the ratio of supply to demand and the projected change in this ratio. Lower supply and higher demand correspond to a higher score.
Locally, fire risk depends on proximity to vegetation, the type of vegetations and other landcover in the area, and topography. On a given day, fire risk is greatly increased in the presence of a red flag warning, when heat, low humidity, and strong winds converge.
An extremely hot day in California depends on your location: 105ºF is extremely hot for Bakersfield, while 79ºF is considered extremely hot for San Francisco. This is based on historical maximum temperatures on the top 2% of days in an average year.
The frequency of very hot days is increasing. On average, someone in California will experience about 37 extremely hot days in 2050.
To measure precipitation risk, we look at the amount of precipitation that falls in 48-hour periods exceeding a location-specific threshold, and how many times this happens per year. A precipitation threshold is based on the top 1% of rainiest days per year for a location.
Historically, Sacramento experienced an average of 1.1 inches of rain about 10 times per year. In 2050, it is projected to experience an average of 1.1 inches of rain about 11 times per year.
Historically, Bakersfield experienced an average of 0.4 inches of rain about 9 times per year. In 2050, it is projected to experience an average of 0.4 inches of rain about 9 times per year.
Mitigating climate change—by eliminating our emissions into the atmosphere and reducing our strain on the environment—and adapting to our changing planet are both vital to our well-being.
Check your address and get a free report describing risks to your property and in your area.
Explore detailed projections of changing risks throughout California with Cal-Adapt.
Your level of risk depends on your city's capacity to adapt. Look up information on your city's characteristics and how they relate to preparedness for climate change: ND-GAIN Urban Adaptation Assessment.
Check our free report for tips on protecting your home from hazards.
Green infrastructure is a category of nature-based solutions to increasing precipitation. Find resources for individuals and municipalities through the EPA's Soak Up the Rain initiative.
Planting trees and vegetation helps reduce extreme heat in urban environments. Cool Pavements can also help urban heat islands. Search the Heat Island Community Actions Database to see what some municipalities have been doing to reduce extreme heat risk.
Read more about building resilience for communities: U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit.
Use the Common Cause tool to find your representatives—federal to local—how to contact them, and information about political contributions and bills they have introduced.
Change is necessary–and possible–across the globe and in every part of our society. Learn more with Project Drawdown's introduction to climate solutions.
Estimate your home's carbon footprint with the CoolClimate Calculator. Or, estimate the carbon footprint of your business.