Sunday, March 01, 2015

Not much winter, definite sign of spring, and trouble ahead

In this strange winter without winter weather (and rain), I see this has pushed its head up in the front yard.

Scientists are suggesting we haven't seen anything yet, that there is an 85 percent chance of a drought lasting as long as 35 years in the Southwest by the end of this century. That will make for some mighty dry soil. Obviously, parched soil means parched crops and parched people.

About a millennium ago, drought is thought to have done in Pueblo cultures. What's facing us is different because, in addition to cyclical lower rain fall, higher temperatures in the context of global warming will cause what water remains to evaporate more rapidly.

The coming megadroughts will have profound effects on water resources and agricultural productivity. Water rights in the West were carved up during the 1920s, one of the wettest periods in the past 500 years. "It's kind of bad luck that we based our water accounting on those really wet decades," [Benjamin] Cook, [a climate scientist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies,] said. And the West's population explosion between 1980 through 2000 also coincided with wetter than normal decades. Now, with nearly every drop of surface water legally claimed, cities and famers make up any deficit by tapping nonrenewable underground aquifers, which are already straining to meet current demands.

"The future of the United States west of the Mississippi is hot and it is dry," said Kevin Anchukaitis, a paleoclimatologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who was not involved in the study.

I almost feel guilty, enjoying this strange season in-between, before parts of California become unlivable.

H/t A Change in the Wind for pointing to the drought article.

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