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’m 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.

Snow Drought in Interior Northwest - USA Today graphic

Snow Drought in Interior Northwest – USA Today graphic

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.

Resources:


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