Would we let terrorists poison our water, if they promised jobs?

February 4, 2014

Great, potent question.

What do you think?

And, where did that photo come from?

Protester in West Virginia:  "Would we let terrorists poison our water supply, if they said it created jobs?"  Photographer unidentified; so is protester.

Protester in West Virginia: “Would we let terrorists poison our water supply, if they said it created jobs?” Photographer unidentified; so is protester.

Keep your eye on West Virginia.

Here’s why:  Do you know what factories may lie upstream from your drinking water, and do you know how they are regulated?  Is the regulation done well?

More:


Anybody got photos of Texas’s Big Lake with, you know, water in it?

February 15, 2013

Contrary to popular rural and redneck legend, Caddo Lake is not Texas’s only natural* lake.  There’s also Big Lake, near the town of Big Lake.

Problem being, of course, that Big Lake’s water sources these days generally don’t flow.  So Big Lake is often dry.

Which produces a further problem for site like Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:  If Big Lake is really a lake, why are there no photos of the lake with water in it?

A comment at AustinBassFishing.com got me thinking about this again, no photos of Big Lake as a Lake.  In the previous post here, we featured a photo of Big Lake Playa, sans water.  I searched the internet at the time and found no photos showing water in the lake.  My authority on Big Lake, Brad Wachsmann, swore that he had recently seen water in the thing (“recent” being “in the last decade or so”).

So, sorta good news:  A few photos of Big Lake, with water, plopped onto the internet since our last search.  Here are a couple from Panaramio:

Big Lake, Texas, with water in it.  Photo by doning

Water in Big Lake, near the city of Big Lake, Texas, laps at the State Highway 137 passing nearby. This photo comes from 2004, by doning.

Water in Big Lake, Texas, June 2005; photo by evansjohnc

Photo of water in Big Lake from June 2005. Photo by evansjohnc.  This photo appears to be about midway along the intersection of the lake with State Highway 137.

Big Lake, Texas, in dry phase, by cwoods

Big Lake in its dry phase, from looking north from the southern end of State Highway 137’s transection of the lake. Photo by cwoods.

Sign noting location of Big Lake, Texas, during dry phase. Photo by cwoods

Non-historic marker for Big Lake, also along State Highway 137, looking west. Photo by cwoods. Photo taken during Big Lake’s dry humor phase.

Now:  Can we track down the rumors of other natural lakes in TexasSabine Lake?  Green Lake?  Natural Dam Lake?

And, Dear Reader, can you find good photos of Big Lake with, you know, water in it?

_____________

* Is Caddo Lake a natural lake?  Originally, the lake seems to have been formed by an enormous blowdown of trees, probably during a hurricane, well over 400 years ago.  In that sense, it was a natural lake when European explorers first found it, and during all of Texas’s “six flags” historic periods.  Or, what is known as the Great Raft, a log jam, dammed up the Red River near the confluence of the Big Cypress Bayou, in about 1799.  By 1800, Caddo Lake was wet all year-round, and deep enough for shallow boat navigation.  In 1835, Capt. Henry Shreve blew up enough of the logjam that steamboat traffic could get past (the guy after whom Shreveport, Louisiana, is named).  After the Civil War, locals tried to expand boat traffic by completely removing the logjam.  Instead of making traffic easier, this removal led shrinking water levels in the lake, and it destroyed navigation farther up the Red River.  Several efforts to restore higher water levels achieved some success by about 1915.  When oil was discovered under the swamp, pressures came from oil companies to make drilling easier — travel in the mud was difficult.  After the invention of the Hughes drill bit (by Howard Hughes‘s father, the founder of Hughes Tool Co.) to allow drilling through water and mud into oil-bearing rock, a dam was built near where the logjam had been, to raise the level of what is known today as Caddo Lake.  What is seen today is a human-enhanced version of the Caddo Lake known by the Caddo Tribe.  This is all preface to the current Texas water wars.

More:


Clean Water Act at 40

October 18, 2012

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.

In this photo, an entry in the 2012 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Photography Contest, can you tell the answer to Ben  Franklin’s not-rhetorical question:  “Is this a rising, or setting sun?”

Sun and ocean, entry in 2012 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Photo Contest

Sun and ocean, entry in 2012 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder Photo Contest – click to contest site to see whether it is a rising or setting sun.  Photo by Ramsay age 14,
and Kyle age 43

We’re in the home stretch for the 2012 elections.  Are your congressional representatives among those who have pledged to cut funding for enforcement of the Clean Water Act?  Are they among those who have pledged to kill EPA?

How would that affect beaches like the one pictured above, by Ramsay and Kyle?

Nancy Stoner wrote at an EPA blog:

I am proud to be at EPA in 2012 for the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s foremost law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource. I often think about how a generation ago, the American people faced health and environmental threats in their waters that are almost unimaginable today.

Municipal and household wastes flowed untreated into our rivers, lakes and streams. Harmful chemicals were poured into the water from factories, chemical manufacturers, power plants and other facilities. Two-thirds of waterways were unsafe for swimming or fishing. Polluters weren’t held responsible. We lacked the science, technology and funding to address the problems.

Then on October 18, 1972, the Clean Water Act became law.

In the 40 years since, the Clean Water Act has kept tens of billions of pounds of sewage, chemicals and trash out of our waterways. Urban waterways have gone from wastelands to centers of redevelopment and activity, and we have doubled the number of American waters that meet standards for swimming and fishing. We’ve developed incredible science and spurred countless innovations in technology.

But I realize that despite the progress, there is still much, much more work to be done. And there are many challenges to clean water.

Today one-third of America’s assessed waterways still don’t meet water quality standards. Our nation’s water infrastructure is in tremendous need of improvement – the American Society of Civil Engineers gave it a D-, the lowest grade given to any public infrastructure. The population will grow 55 percent from 2000 and 2050, which will put added strain on water resources. Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution is increasingly harming streams, rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters. Climate change is predicted to bring warmer temperatures, sea level rise, stronger storms, more droughts and changes to water chemistry. And we face less conventional pollutants – so-called emerging contaminants – that we’ve only recently had the science to detect.

The absolute best path forward is partnership – among all levels of government, the private sector, non-profits and the public. It is only because of partnership that we made so much progress during the past 40 years, and it is partnership that will lead to more progress over the next 40 years.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has been part of protecting water and for working to ensure that this vital resource our families, communities and economy depends on is safeguarded for generations to come.

About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water

Tell us about your favorite stretch of clean water, in comments.

More:


Annals of global warming: Understanding climate change, modeling, glaciers and water supply

September 13, 2012

Even during the sturm und drang and donner und blitzen of a presidential election year, scientists carry on their work to understand our planet, its weather and climate, and help others understand it, too.

Good on them.

Comes this morning an e-update newsletter from the National Academy of Sciences, with news on the study of climate change.

First:

A National Strategy for Advancing Climate Modeling

A new report from the National Research Council concludes that climate models will need to evolve substantially to deliver climate projections at the scale and level of detail desired by decision makers. As climate change has pushed climate patterns outside of historic norms, the need for detailed projections is growing across all sectors, including agriculture, insurance, and emergency preparedness planning.

Despite much recent progress in developing reliable climate models, there are still efficiencies to be gained across the large and diverse U.S. climate modeling community. Evolving to a more unified climate modeling enterprise–in particular by developing a common software infrastructure shared by all climate researchers, and holding an annual climate modeling forum–could help speed progress.

Learn more about the report at a free webinar on September 28 at 1:30 pm EST, where you’ll be able to watch live presentations by the report’s authoring committee and ask questions about the report’s findings.

Second:

New Website Provides “101” on Climate Modeling

Earth’s climate system is, in a word, complicated. It incorporates thousands of factors that interact in space and time around the globe and over many generations. For several decades, scientists have used the world’s most advanced computers to both simulate climate and predict future climate. Industries such as those mentioned above increasingly rely on information from these models to guide decision making–and with a changing climate, the information is more important than ever. Along with its new report about advancing climate modeling, the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate has released Climate Modeling 101, a website designed to help the public learn more about the basics of climate modeling–how they work and why they are important. The site features short videos and animations that explain everything from the difference between climate and weather to how climate models are built and verified.

Third:

Impact of Himalayan Glaciers on Water Supply Unclear

Another report from National Research Council, released on September 12, 2012, concludes that, although scientific evidence shows that most glaciers in South Asia’s Hindu Kush Himalayan region are retreating, the consequences for the region’s water supply are unclear. The study looks at the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, where several of Asia’s great river systems meet, providing water for drinking, irrigation, and other uses for about 1.5 billion people.

Recent studies show that at lower elevations, glacial retreat is unlikely to cause significant changes in water availability over the next several decades, but other factors, including groundwater depletion and increasing human water use, could have a greater impact. Higher elevation areas could experience altered water flow in some river basins if current rates of glacial retreat continue, but shifts in the location, intensity, and variability of rain and snow due to climate change will likely have a greater impact on regional water supplies.

Along with the report, the NRC has released a slideshow of stunning images and data-rich maps that explain what was learned in the report.

More:


Meanwhile, back in reality, Superfund cleanup of Torrance DDT site continues

July 11, 2012

English: Map of Superfund sites in the US stat...

Map of Superfund sites in California. Red indicates sites currently on final National Priority List, yellow is proposed for the list, green means a site deleted (usually due to having been cleaned up). Data from United States Environmental Protection Agency CERCLIS database available at http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/phonefax/products.htm. Retrieved April 24, 2010 with last update reported as March 31, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s near midsummer, so the sputtering of right-wing and anti-science propaganda calls for a “return to DDT” should begin to abate, absent a serious outbreak of West Nile Virus human infections, or some fit of stupidity on the part of DDT advocates.

DDT remains a deadly poison, and you, American Taxpayer, are on the hook for millions of dollars needed to clean up legacy DDT manufacturing sites across the nation.  Contrary to bizarre claims, DDT really is a poison.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works constantly at these cleanups.  Comes this press release from EPA talking about a small success, a $14.6 million settlement with past property owners or users of sites in Torrance, California, designated for cleanup under the Superfund.  The money will pay for cleanup of groundwater at the sites.

Links to sources other than EPA, and illustrations are added here.

EPA Reaches $14.6 million Settlement for Groundwater Cleanup at Torrance Superfund Sites

Release Date: 07/10/2012
Contact Information: Nahal Mogharabi, mogharabi.nahal@epa.gov, 213-244-1815

Plant will Treat a Million Gallons per Day, Prevent Spread of Contamination

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a $14.6 million settlement with four companies for the construction of a groundwater treatment system at the Montrose and Del Amo Superfund sites in Torrance, Calif. Construction of the treatment system is the first step in the cleanup of groundwater contaminated by chemicals used to manufacture DDT and synthetic rubber over three decades.

Once operational, the system will extract up to 700 gallons of water per minute, or a total of a million gallons each day, removing monochlorobenzene and benzene, and re-injecting the cleaned, treated water back into the aquifer. The treated water will not be served as drinking water, but will instead be re-injected to surround the contamination and prevent it from any further movement into unaffected groundwater areas. Construction of the treatment system is expected to be completed in 18 months. EPA will pursue further settlements with the four companies and other parties to ensure that additional cleanup actions are taken and the groundwater treatment system is operated and maintained until cleanup levels are met.

“One of the toxic legacies of DDT and synthetic rubber manufacturing is polluted groundwater,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “The treatment plant will be a milestone for the site, protecting the groundwater resources for the thousands of people who live or work near these former facilities.”

Montrose Chemical Corporation of California manufactured the pesticide DDT from 1947 until 1982. Monochlorobenzene was a raw material used in making DDT. The Montrose site was placed on the EPA’s National Priorities List (NPL) in 1989. The Del Amo Superfund site, located adjacent to the Montrose site, was formerly a synthetic rubber manufacturing facility that used benzene, naphthalene and ethyl benzene. The Del Amo site was placed on the NPL in September of 2002. Groundwater contamination from both sites has co-mingled and will be cleaned up by this single treatment system.

The four responsible parties for this settlement are: Montrose, Bayer CropScience Inc., News Publishing Australia Limited, and Stauffer Management Company LLC. In addition to constructing the treatment system, these parties will also pay oversight costs incurred by EPA and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

To date, extensive investigations and cleanup actions have been performed at both sites. EPA’s DDT soil removal actions in the neighborhood near the Montrose site were completed in 2002. In 1999, Shell began cleaning-up the Del Amo Superfund site, constructing a multi-layer impermeable cap over the waste pits and installation of the soil-vapor extraction and treatment system. Additional soil and soil gas cleanups at the Del Amo site are slated to begin in 2013.

The proposed consent decree for the settlement, lodged with the federal district court by the U.S. Department of Justice on July 9, 2012, is subject to a 30-day comment period and final court approval. A copy of the proposed decree is available on the Justice Department website at: http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html

For more information on the Del Amo and Montrose Superfund Sites, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/socal/superfund/index.html

###

Follow the U.S. EPA’s Pacific Southwest region on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EPAregion9
And join the LinkedIn group: http://www.linkedin.com/e/vgh/1823773/

More: 

Map of NPL sites in contiguous US

Map of NPL sites in contiguous US (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Right or wrong reasons, North Texas governments back into water conservation

April 4, 2012

It’s a win-win situation for North Texas politicians, like Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings — they can take action that helps mitigate problems of global warming, but they don’t have to say they’re doing it for global warming.

Downtown Dallas in the background with the Tri...

Water supplies will limit future growth for cities like Dallas, if good water policies cannot be made to assure water to critical functions - Downtown Dallas in the background with the Trinity River in the foreground. Taken from the N Hampton Rd bridge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mayors of several cities announced they will push to keep watering restrictions on, to conserve water, even though their cities’ water supplies got big boosts from massive rainstorms over the past few weeks.

Bruce Tomaso, editor of The Scoop, a blog at The Dallas Morning News, wrote down all the details (comments at that site are worth visiting).

Thanks to last year’s brutal drought, most North Texans have gotten accustomed to watering lawns sparingly.

As lake levels dropped through the dry, hot summer and fall of 2011, emergency conservation measures were enacted throughout the region.

In some cities — Plano, for example — watering was restricted to twice a month. (That restriction was just eased to once a week.)

In others, including Dallas, a less stringent limit of twice a week has been in force.

On Wednesday, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings , joined by the mayors of Fort Worth, Arlington , and Irving , will recommend that a twice-a-week limit on watering be made permanent. The mayors plan a 9:30 a.m. news conference at the offices of the North Texas Council of Governments, 616 Six Flags Drive.

“Although recent rains have improved current water supply availability, a twice weekly watering schedule provides predictable expectations to customers for landscape planning and a way for the region to continue to use water resources wisely,” says a joint statement from the four cities.

Bill Hanna of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes that says the idea of making the emergency conservation measures permanent was raised a while ago by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who discussed “a coordinated regional approach” with Rawlings, Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck, and Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne.

“I think water conservation is probably the most important issue we have in the next three decades,” he quotes Rawlings as saying. “We cannot continue to grow without water, and I want to continue to grow.”

In each of the four municipalities, the City Council would have to approve a measure to implement permanent limitations on lawn watering.

On a related note, the Texas agriculture commissioner unveiled a new water conservation coalition plan Monday in Mesquite.

It’s a good move, even if they do it for the wrong reasons.  Texas lives in a world of trouble with regard to water.  Too many people live in big cities with water supply systems planned and built a half-century ago, for fewer people.  Massive aquifers that offered backup to surface water supplies have been mined out.  In a short phrase, Texas doesn’t have enough water even in a good rain year, and needs to conserve and develop a state-wide policy on how to allocate water, and how to protect water supplies needed for farming, for industry, and for residential use. Global warming threatens each of those resources in disparate ways, all of them bad.

Conservation is a lot cheaper than building more dams and more pipelines, and more environmentally friendly.  Nice to see these guys endorse conservation.

Trinity River in flood and Dallas at night, 9-2010 IMGP5052 - photo by Ed Darrell, Creative Commons License

Texas should not rely on freak floods to mitigate long-term drought; growth of cities like Dallas require better water policy. Photo shows Dallas at night over the Trinity River flooding, September 2010. Photo by Ed Darrell, Creative Commons Copyright

Tip of the old scrub brush to Sara Ann Maxwell.


Get your Texas Drought Survival Package from Texas Parks & Wildlife

February 20, 2012

We’ve had serious rain in Dallas, but most of the state still resides well in the thrall of drought.  Plus, the rains in Dallas have been unseasonal, which suggests the drought is not done with Dallas yet, either.

Texas Parks & Wildlife has words of advice:

More information from TPWD:

The drought has taken a toll on everything from wildlife to water bills. To help Texans cope, Texas Parks and Wildlife is offering a Drought Survival Kit http://www.texasthestateofwater.org/


A study in geography: The Red River of Texas – film from Texas Parks & Wildlife

December 26, 2011

Seven minutes on the Red River of the southern U.S., the fickle border of Texas and Oklahoma, the river of story and legend.  Good for a map study, good for the fun of it — how much do you really know about the Red River?

George Washington did not cross the Red River; George Washington may not have known the river even existed.  His loss.


Chronic drought complicated by chronic denialism

May 26, 2011

Which is worse:  To be in the depths of a drought, or to deny drought where it exists?

I ask the question because, as one cannot tear one’s eyes away from a train wreck about to occur, I watch Steve Goddard’s blog.  Occasionally Steve or one of his fellow travelers says something so contrary to reality or fact that I can’t resist pointing it out.

In some discussion over there, Goddard suggested that because there is above-average snowpack around Salt Lake City and in Northern Utah, Lake Powell’s decade-long struggle with extreme drought is over.  Therefore, to Goddard, global warming does not exist.

(No, I’m not really exaggerating.  Seriously.  Go look.  No one there seems to have ever had a course in logic, nor in English composition and essay writing.  If Al Gore got svelte, one suspects half the commenters there would never be able to speak again.)

It is true that this year, contrary to the past decade, snowpack is high along the Wasatch Front and in the Uinta Mountains of Utah, and in Wyoming and Colorado areas that drain into the Green and Colorado Rivers.  Consequently, forecasters say that Lake Powell may gain a few feet of depth this year.  Powell is down about 50 feet, however, and even a record snowpack won’t erase the effects of drought on the lake.  (Yeah, I know:  The Wasatch doesn’t drain into the Colorado system — it drains to the Great Salt Lake, as indeed do many of the streams that have great snowpack in Utah — so a lot of the record snowpack won’t get within 400 miles of Lake Powell.  That’s geography, and it would be one more area that commenters would embarrass themselves in.  Don’t ask the pig to sing if you aren’t going to spend the time to teach it; if you need the aphorism on teaching pigs to sing, look it up yourself.)

Since Lake Powell won’t lose a lot of elevation this year, the Goddardites (Goddardians?  Goddards?  Goddardoons?) pronounce the U.S. free of drought.

Right.

Check it out for yourself, Dear Reader.  Here’s an animation from the National Drought Center, showing drought measurements in the contiguous 48 states plus Alaska and Hawaii, over the past 12 weeks:

Drought in the U.S., 12 weeks ending May 17, 2011, National Drought Mitigation Center, U of Nebraska-Lincoln

Drought in the U.S., 12 weeks ending May 17, 2011, National Drought Mitigation Center, U of Nebraska-Lincoln - click on map for a larger version at the Drought Monitor site.

Here’s the drought outlook map from the Climate Prediction Center at NOAA:

U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook Map, released May 19, 2011, NOAA and the Climate Prediction Center

U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook Map, released May 19, 2011, NOAA and the Climate Prediction Center - click image for a larger version at NOAA's site.

It would be wonderful were these droughts to break soon.  But that is very unlikely.

So, why would anyone deny it?

Then, just to indicate the bait-and-switch logic these guys use, Goddard came back with a claim that the 1956 drought in Texas was worse, as if that means the current drought doesn’t exist.  Fore reasons apparent only to those whose heads get pinched by tinfoil hats, he also notes the CO2 levels for 1956.  I think I know what point he’s trying to make, but someone should tell him that apples are not oranges, and comparing apples and oranges to pomegranates doesn’t increase the supply of tennis balls.

Let’s just stick to the facts.  The experts who must operate the dams and lakes and get water to Mexico on schedule say the drought along the Colorado persists.  Who are we to gainsay them?

Resources:  

GEOSat photos of Lake Powell and drought, 2000 to 2004 - Dr. Paul R. Baumann, SUNY - Oneonta College

GEOSat photos of Lake Powell and drought, 2000 to 2004 - Dr. Paul R. Baumann, SUNY - Oneonta College


DDT-style problems remain

June 2, 2010

As evidenced by this announcement of newly-proposed regulations on pesticides in water.

From the EPA, pure and unedited:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 2, 2010

EPA Proposes New Permit Requirements for Pesticide Discharges

Action would reduce amount of pesticides discharged and protect America ’s waters

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a new permit requirement that would decrease the amount of pesticides discharged to our nation’s waters and protect human health and the environment. This action is in response to an April 9, 2009 court decision that found that pesticide discharges to U.S. waters were pollutants, thus requiring a permit.

The proposed permit, released for public comment and developed in collaboration with states, would require all operators to reduce pesticide discharges by using the lowest effective amount of pesticide, prevent leaks and spills, calibrate equipment and monitor for and report adverse incidents. Additional controls, such as integrated pest management practices, are built into the permit for operators who exceed an annual treatment area threshold.

“EPA believes this draft permit strikes a balance between using pesticides to control pests and protecting human health and water quality,” said Peter S. Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water.

EPA estimates that the pesticide general permit will affect approximately 35,000 pesticide applicators nationally that perform approximately half a million pesticide applications annually. The agency’s draft permit covers the following pesticide uses:  (1) mosquito and other flying insect pest control; (2) aquatic weed and algae control; (3) aquatic nuisance animal control; and (4) forest canopy pest control. It does not cover terrestrial applications to control pests on agricultural crops or forest floors.  EPA is soliciting public comment on whether additional use patterns should be covered by this general permit.

The agency plans to finalize the permit in December 2010.  It will take effect April 9, 2011. Once finalized, the pesticide general permit will be used in states, territories, tribal lands, and federal facilities where EPA is the authorized permitting authority.  In the remaining 44 states, states will issue the pesticide general permits. EPA has been working closely with these states to concurrently develop their permits.

EPA will hold three public meetings, a public hearing and a webcast on the draft general permit to present the proposed requirements of the permit, the basis for those requirements and to answer questions. EPA will accept written comments on the draft permit for 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.

More information on the draft permit: http://www.epa.gov/npdes

R197

Note: If a link above doesn’t work, please copy and paste the URL into a browser.

View all news releases related to water

Let me repeat for emphasis, from the press release:  “EPA will accept written comments on the draft permit for 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.”


While thieves and COP15 fiddled, the world’s burning continued . . .

March 18, 2010

A friend wrote me the other day wondering what I thought about the global warming hoax.  I told him I thought denialists and contrarians have acted shamefully claiming that warming is not occurring.

My friend wrote back puzzled.  He had meant, what did I think about the collapse of the false claims of warming?  He said he had understood that almost all the claims of warming were hoaxes cast by a cabal of conspiratorialist scientists who had gotten fat government contracts only on the condition that they claimed there is warming.

It’s actually been about two weeks since I got that message, but it’s a common thought around the world.  The thieves who stole e-mails from scientists did what Shakespeare termed worse:  They stole the good names of scientists.  The thieves’ accomplices, especially in blogs but also in brazen journals of bias like The Australian and The Daily Mail, successfully transplanted a stick they claimed was the end of warming science, and they’ve managed to keep it spray-painted green to convince careless observers that it’s alive.

That tree won’t flower.  God’s earth doesn’t care about such falsehoods, but goes on cycling as Darwin noted.  In that cycling, warming continues faster than apace, burning our future and our children’s futures in bits noted only by careful scientists.

While Anthony Watts and other denialists gloated about heavy snows — we’re still cleaning up broken trees and destroyed groves and forests here in Dallas — fact is the North American west suffered from a snow drought.  You may have seen part of it if you watched the Olympics from Vancouver.  It was unseasonably warm, and until the second week there was a great shortage of natural snow for snow events.

We may forget about the ecological chains that weather actually push.  Over at Ralph Maughan’s Wildlife News I found a story about the annual count of elk in Wyoming/Montana/Idaho.  Ralph tracks all sorts of wildlife news, but especially news about wolves and wolf reintroductions.  Wolf packs prey on elk when they can.  The health of elk herds affects the health of wolf packs.

In January I heard there would be no elk count this year because the lack of snow made counting pretty much impossible. I’d glad the amount of snow increased because these numbers are important. Gaps in the data are harmful.

How much have you heard about snowfall shortages in the west, other than the Olympics?  The drought is pretty bad up there.  Much of the Mountain west, on both sides of the Rockies, gets water from the melting snows.  It doesn’t rain much in the spring and summer, but melting snows supply rivers throughout the year.  One reader commented at Maughan’s blog:

I have been in the back country of Montana, Idaho and Washington in the last 3 months and I can tell you, there is no snow to really speak of, the place I stay in Montana normally has about 5-6 feet of snow on the ground in January and when I returned around the first part of January, it had about a foot, Bozeman was very low snow as was Great Falls and Billings, Sandpoint has flowers blooming already, the Columbia River Gorge area up in the Mountains above the Gorge is greening up real well, no snow and Mount Hood has not had much snow either.

Right now, it looks very bleak for river levels this year, My wife was on the phone with her cousin in Florence, MT and Her Uncle in Lincoln, MT this week and they are saying the snow is just not there this year and expects that fishing this year will be very poor due to low water levels and higher river temps, one lives on the Blackfoot and the other on the Bitterroot..

Looks like unless we have a strong spring rain season, things could get dicey this year..

Anecdotal news, just one spot of rather amorphous data, right?

No.  It’s widespread.

Surely not all the droughts nor drought effects can be blamed on warming — but the rolling disasters of dead forests, especially from pine borers and pine bark beetles, across North America, can be fairly attributed to global warming.  Average winters would kill the insects — where average winters now are a rarity, forests that have stood at least since Columbus are dying out.  Many of the dying forests predate the coming of all humans to the Americas, 37,000 years ago or so.

Housing prices will rise.  Wildfires will increase.  Water emergencies will be declared, and restrictions on development in water-strapped counties and states will be enacted.

Humans can deny warming and human causation.  But even the Rockies cry out.

Who will listen?

US Drought Monitor, March 16, 2010

US Drought Monitor, March 16, 2010 - Click image for updated maps


Drought: Heckuva way to run the end to global warming

July 30, 2009

“This is a hell of a way to run a desert.”
Utah Gov. Scott Matheson, during floods in 1983

A new Dust Bowl?

A new Dust Bowl? (Image updated January 2013; old links dead)

No, I’m not repeating the error of many who take every snowflake as bizarre evidence that global warming has ended.

I think we need to stick to the facts.

2009 may be cooler than 1998, one of the hottest years on record, but that in no way suggests an end to the climate crisis scientists have been tracking for the past couple of decades.

Cooler weather in New York does not offset the rest of reality.

Reality is we have crushing droughts in California and Texas.

California drought explained by USA Today:

FIREBAUGH, Calif. — The road to Todd Allen’s farm wends past irrigation canals filled with the water that California‘s hot Central Valley depends on to produce vegetables and fruit for the nation. Yet not a drop will make it to his barren fields.

Three years into a drought that evokes fears of a modern-day dust bowl, Allen and others here say the culprit now isn’t Mother Nature so much as the federal government. Court and regulatory rulings protecting endangered fish have choked the annual flow of water from California’s Sierra mountains down to its people and irrigated fields, compounding a natural dry spell.

“This is a regulatory drought, is what it is,” Allen says. “It just doesn’t seem fair.”

For those like Allen at the end of the water-rights line, the flow has slowed to a trickle: His water district is receiving just 10% of the normal allocation of water from federal Bureau of Reclamation reservoirs. He says he’s been forced to lay off all his workers and watch the crops die on his 300 acres while bills for an irrigation system he put in are due.

“My payments don’t stop when they cut my water off,” Allen says.

Although some farmers with more senior water rights are able to keep going, local officials say 250,000 acres has gone fallow for lack of water in Fresno County, the nation’s most productive agriculture county. Statewide, the unplanted acreage is almost twice that.

Unemployment has soared into Depression-era range; it is 40% in this western Fresno County area where most everyone’s job is dependent on farming. Resident laborers who for years sweated in fields to fill the nation’s food baskets find themselves waiting for food handouts.

“The water’s cut off,” complains Robert Silva, 68, mayor of the farm community of Mendota. “Mendota is known as the cantaloupe capital of the world. Now we’re the food-line capital.”

Three years of dry conditions is being felt across much of the nation’s most populous state.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a water emergency in February and asked for 20% voluntary cuts in water use. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Drought Monitor lists 44% of the state as in a “severe” drought.

In arid Southern California, cities and water districts have raised rates to encourage conservation and imposed limits on use

Texas drought, detailed in the Dallas Morning News:

AUSTIN – The drought that has gripped Central Texas is approaching the severity of Texas’ most famous drought, the 1950s dry spell that lasted several years, Lower Colorado River Authority officials say.

But the current drought, which began in the fall of 2007, has seen more intense concentrations of high temperatures and less rainfall than the majority of the earlier drought.

“It was hot, yes, it was dry” in the 1950s, said LCRA meteorologist Bob Rose, “but it wasn’t crazy hot like this year.” Soil moisture is negligible now. And with spotty precipitation, “we haven’t been able to generate any runoff” to replenish reservoirs, he said.

“What makes our current drought unique is not the duration but the severity,” Rose said this week at a drought briefing for meteorologists and reporters.

With state officials warning of wildfire dangers, and water restrictions spreading rapidly across the state, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) issued disaster declarations for 167 of the states 254 counties.

Texas suffers more than California, across a broader area with deeper drought, according to the Associated Press:

According to drought statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 77 of Texas’ 254 counties are in extreme or exceptional drought, the most severe categories. No other state in the continental U.S. has even one area in those categories.

John Nielsen-Gammon, the Texas state climatologist at Texas A&M University, said he expects harsh drought conditions to last at least another month.

In the bone-dry San Antonio-Austin area, the conditions that started in 2007 are being compared to the devastating drought of the 1950s. There have been 36 days of 100 degrees or more this year in an area where the total usually is closer to 12.

Among the most obvious problems are the lack of water in Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan near Austin, two massive reservoirs along the Colorado River that provide drinking water for more than 1 million people and also are popular boating and swimming spots. Streams and tributaries that feed the lakes have “all but dried up,” according to the Lower Colorado River Authority.

San Antonio, which relies on the Edwards Aquifer for its water, is enduring its driest 23-month period since the start of recorded weather data in 1885, according to the National Weather Service. The aquifer’s been hovering just above 640 feet deep, and if it dips below that, the city will issue its harshest watering restrictions yet.

Self-professed climate skeptics will argue that everything is hunky-dory and we can continue blundering along pollutiong willy-nilly because droughts alone are not evidence of warming, and so cannot rebut spot evidence of increased rainfall or local cooling.  Notice how they try to have the argument both ways?  Local weather counts for their side, but can’t count against it.

It’s more complex than that.  Much of the damage from climate change occurs in the upset of a balance in local ecosystems.  The Green Blog at the Boston Globe site discusses the subtle, ecosystem distorting effects and how easy they are to miss in the grand schemes of things.

A lot of the problem has to do with timing. About half of the water that recharges the [Northeast] region’s aquifer is from spring snowmelt, said [USGS hydrologist Thomas] Mack, allowing it to be plentiful to residents for summer lawn watering and other uses.

But global warming is causing the snow to melt earlier by around two to four weeks. At the same time, more rain, instead of snow, is expected to fall in the winter. That means the aquifer is filling up earlier in the spring.

The problem is the region’s bedrock aquifer can’t hold water for a long time – filling it up when it is needed the least and draining before the busy summer.

All environmental problems are complex, and global “warming” is massively more complex than any other environmental issue humans have recognized and dealt with.  Climate change deals with the entire Earth, and with the two great pools of fluids on the Earth, the oceans and the atmosphere, where the sheer physics of change are nearly impossible to understand, let alone predict.

Perhaps, as local conditions in more and more places demonstrate damages from climate change, skeptics can be brought around to understand that action is required even when we don’t have all the possible data points we’d like.

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