Tag Archive | "droughts"

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Where Did All the Water Go?

Posted on 27 April 2015 by Jerry

With the World Meteorological Organization declaring 2014 as the warmest year on record and droughts continuing throughout the world many are wondering what is happening to our fresh water.  The answer is it is disappearing because we are using it.  With replenishing sources of water drying up (glaciers, reservoirs and lakes) because of global warming, people all over the world are turning to underground water sources, using up natural aquifers.

The problem is that underground sources take a long time to replenish and once they are gone, they are gone for a long time.  Unfortunately the problem is getting worse.

A recent study by Wada and Bierkens divided underground water sources into renewable and non-renewable factoring in global warming.  This study reveals that non-renewable subterranean water use has grown by 50% from 1960 to 2010.  This is largely because of the growth of irrigation in the U.S., China, India, Pakistan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and northern Iran.  Their study says, “Crucially, this rise is primarily attributed to non-renewable groundwater withdrawals.”

Droughts are widespread and the whole world is reeling.  California is in the midst of a drought and has implemented its first ever, mandatory water restriction.  It focuses on non-agricultural water use and requires a 25% reduction from levels established in 2013.

A Nature magazine “News in Brief” released in the April 9, 2015 edition states, “Many of California’s ski resorts have closed early this year because of low snow levels.  On April 1 for the first time in 75 years, surveyors had no snow to measure at an annual assessment at Phillips Station….The water department measured only 3.6 centimeters of water content in the snowpack statewide – 5% of the historical average for April 1.  The snowpack accounts for about 30% of the state’s fresh water.”

India is in a midst of a drought that has already exacerbated a poor water situation.  The dry months of June and July account for frequent power cuts and water shortages.  They offer a snapshot of what life in India will be like in the future.

In the dry months of 2013 hospitals in New Delhi stopped surgeries at one point because there was no water for sterilization of instruments.  They could not clean operating theaters and there was no water for the staff to wash their hands.  Luxury malls had to close their restrooms and not use their air conditioners.

India could be facing severe friction with its downstream neighbors.  Both Pakistan and Bangladesh have accused India of using too much water so the populations of these countries also have water shortages.

Even a short drought of two years duration is causing major water shocks in Brazil.  We are not talking about the groundwater but rather rainwater that is held in reservoirs and lakes.  Barring a reversal in climate, according to an article written by Herton Escobar printed in the February 20, 2015 issue of Science magazine, “Officials are contemplating drastic rationing that would deprive millions of households of water for up to 5 days a week.”

Further the article said, “The Cantareira system, which provides water for 8.8 million people, is so depleted that authorities are tapping the last 8% – little more than stagnant dregs.  Even if rainfall were to return to normal it will take several years to rebuild these reservoirs.”

At a conference on water security, the Chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachauri stated, “Unfortunately, the world has not really woken up to the reality of what we are going to face in terms of the crises as far as water is concerned.”  Further he said, “Naturally, this (water crisis) is also going to lead to tensions – probably some conflict between riparian groups and riparian states.”

The shortage of fresh water worldwide is reaching epic proportions.  Residential consumers will feel the heat before farming communities because the farmers feed us all and are a big source of employment.

We must speak up to the rest of the public and get them and us to demand action by our elected representatives.  Contingency planning is required if we are to avoid future shortages and disasters.  We must conserve and find other sources of water using the latest technologies, like desalinization.

Each of us must do our utmost to protect this diminishing resource.  We must do away with lawns; stop flushing as often and generally cut back on our water usage.  Droughts are not restricted to the countries mentioned but are everywhere.  There are too many of us demanding and using too much water.

Use the following links to gain more information or access the original source articles for this blog.

http://www.nature.com/news/seven-days-30-january-5-february-2015-1.16837 (Scroll down to “Warmest Year”)

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v516/n7530/full/516179a.html

http://www.nature.com/news/how-california-can-survive-the-drought-1.17265

http://news.yahoo.com/world-not-woken-water-crisis-caused-climate-change-130410305.html

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/347/6224/812.summary?sid=bc17f9cf-fc91-4609-bbf0-3ad5205328b9

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When is late, too late for climate change?

Posted on 20 January 2014 by Jerry

We must stop responding to climate change deniers.  They have had their say and the global scientific consensus rejects their positions.  If the overwhelming preponderance of data is not enough to convince them, we should stop listening to their protestations and assume many of them serve other motives.  It is time to move past them in order to take urgently needed action to save the livability of the planet.

The Nobel Prize winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the world’s authority on climate change.  Its reports represent the collaboration of thousands of researchers, the world’s governments and various climate models at the world’s universities.  An early, leaked release of the IPCC’s 2014 final draft report cites the increase of warming on the planet as averaging 2.2% between 2000 and 2010.  That negatively compares to the 1.3% average from 1970 to 2000.

The report states that if the present rate of international foot dragging continues for the next 15 years, it may be too late to control global warming with existing technologies.  There is simply no existing technology that will enable the world to take enough greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere for storage underground.  We will have missed a sure solution to maintain the planet’s livability.

We must remember that climate change accentuates the highs and lows of weather.  The summers become hotter and the winters colder and wetter.  New weather records are being broken each year throwing more and more of the world into serious life threatening weather patterns.  These include the droughts around the world and the changing weather patterns that sent arctic air into North America to produce record breaking cold.

Evidence of global warming abounds. The combined average world temperature over land and the oceans in November of 2013 was a record highest temperature in 134 years. Australia experienced its hottest year on record in 2013.  Russia had its warmest November (2013) since record keeping began in 1891.

Droughts declared “extreme” and “exceptional” covered more than half of the continental U. S. in 2012.  Our oceans are acidifying at an “unprecedented” rate and losing their capacity to take up atmospheric CO2.   This decreases their capability to moderate climate change.  Fresh drinking water scarcity has become a major worry the world over.

In the United States take California as an example.  The governor has just declared the state as in a severe drought emergency.  Enough snow has not fallen on the Sierra Nevada Mountains to produce sufficient water for the various areas of the state whose water supply depends on adequate snowmelt.  The state’s snowpack was 20% of the historical average normally experienced.  Lakes and reservoirs are at record lows.  The water level of Folsom Lake has become so low it is now revealing remnants of a Gold Rush ghost town on its dry lakebed.

California is called the ‘breadbasket’ of the world because of the quantity of food produced by its agricultural industry.  Farmers have already let fields go fallow in anticipation of a deepening crisis.  One report cites “an estimated 200,000 acres of prime agriculture land will go unplanted in Fresno County” this year alone.

But the world’s greatest contributors to climate change have done little to stop it.  Earlier articles on this blog have shown the United States is in a political gridlock that keeps the country only “nibbling” at the problem through the executive actions of President Obama.  Politics and climate deniers have effectively kept the world’s greatest polluter and country from providing the world with the leadership it sorely needs.

We must get beyond the pressures of negative forces to effectively use today’s technologies to stabilize the world’s climate.  We must reject the naysayers and treat their pronouncements as we have treated racist remarks.  Our society no longer tolerates racist comments to be spoken out loud.  This same societal pressure should be brought to bear on climate deniers.  The majority must weigh in hard now on this issue.

Use the following links to gain more information or access source documents used in this article. 

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23950-leaked-ipcc-report-doesnt-let-us-off-the-hook.html  

http://www.stopgreensuicide.com Access this site to see a complete copy of the IPCC draft report.  Unfortunately the accompanying commentary is from a climate change denier.  I would read the New Scientist article for a more balanced view.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/14/leaked-ipcc-report_n_2300558.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25573712

http://www.nature.com/news/water-risk-as-world-warms-1.14446

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/18/us/as-californias-drought-deepens-a-sense-of-dread-grows.html

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-17/california-governor-brown-declares-drought-emergency.html

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/

 

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Rising Heat, Decreasing Water

Posted on 06 March 2013 by Jerry

As a result of climate change supported by a consensus of the scientific community, extremely hot temperatures are being experienced more frequently around the world.  James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute in a recent report shared that extreme heat which used to strike about .02% of the world’s land area in any given summer now strikes about 10%.  The estimate is that within 10 years this will rise to 16.7%.

An article in the September 8, 2012 issue of Science News quotes John M. Wallace of the University of Washington as saying he sees a shift toward more extremely warm days and hotter extremes within those days.  He said there is good reason to believe global warming elevates extremes.

For a preview of areas of the world where water shortages will be significant by 2050 look at the accompanying chart which is reprinted from an article that appeared in Nature Magazine.  If you live in an area of the world where the human population is using water at a faster pace than it can be replenished you may need to follow the water and relocate to an area which still has a robust aquifer to support its population.  If you haven’t looked at the current technology and cost of desalinization, you may be in a place that will not be able to get water from the ocean.

At first glance, the surprise in the chart is the identity and number of areas with large ground water resources.  After some thought you may conclude the plentiful water supply correlates with relatively small human populations and/or areas which do not have large agricultural production and irrigation.  The authors of the article indicate the hyper water consuming nations are India, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mexico and the United States.

Focusing on just one of the areas of water shortage, an article in the February 8, 2013 issue of Science explores China’s worries about rising temperatures and the shrinking aquifer in the eastern rim of the North China Plain, China’s breadbasket.  In a country that already has 20% of the world’s population and only 7 percent of its arable land, which is shrinking due to urbanization, there is increasing demand for greater food consumption.  This added to rising temperatures which will further shorten the traditional growing seasons, will inevitably lead to lower crop yields. 

Northern China depends on the Yellow River and natural water table for irrigation.  Unfortunately, pollution of the river and diverting water for urban uses has caused the region to rely more heavily on its aquifer.  This has led to a steady shrinkage of available water as more water is consumed than can be replaced by rainfall.  The last four decades have seen the area use approximate 120 billion cubic meters more water than have been replenished in the aquifer. This coupled with rising sea levels in the traditional rice growing areas will put significant pressure on China to solve its water shortages and long term threats to its food supply.

After a few years of significant droughts in the United States, early signs from the nation’s snowpack show the droughts will continue.  With very light snow fall in the Rocky Mountains, the Western states reservoir water levels are still only half full.  This indicates the soil in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada is drier than normal once again.  In a New York Times article a Colorado farmer, Mike Hungenberg states “It’s approaching a critical situation.  A year ago we went into the spring season with most of the reservoirs full.  This year, you’re going in with basically everything empty.”

Some areas of the United States have benefited from a good winter snow which will ease their water shortages.  Some parts of Montana, Oregon, Utah, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri have reason for hope as a result of new rains and snows. Other areas are anticipating another year of drought.

Climate change leads to higher average temperatures which cause shrinking water supplies.  Increasing urbanization adds pressure on present aquifers.  The need to protect water supplies and/or plan for acquisition of water from other sources is a clear and present need for the areas affected.  We all should be mindful of what is causing this shortfall and what each of us needs to do to help fix it.  We should all embrace actions which conserve water even in areas where it is plentiful.

For additional information use the following links:

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/342823/description/extreme_hot_spells_rising

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v488/n7410/full/nature11295.html  

http://www.nature.com/news/demand-for-water-outstrips-supply-1.11143

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6120/644.summary?sid=183e5277-6810-4ce1-aa13-9c8c09bb8086

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/23/us/in-drought-stricken-heartland-snow-is-no-savior.html

 

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