California Looking at Drought Declaration

Well, it’s been nice to have clear, dry weather in November and December in the Bay Area but another name for clear and dry is drought, which we are on the verge of.

After an unusually dry start to the rainy season, two California lawmakers are urging Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a drought emergency.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, sent a letter to the governor’s office this week, saying the state is facing a third consecutive year of scant rainfall that could deplete reservoirs and leave farmers without enough water to grow their crops.

Climate forecasters have said the chances of a wet winter in California are slim. The Department of Water Resources released a winter forecast last month that called for “mostly dry conditions.”

Since the start of the rain year July 1, San Francisco has received 2.09 inches, barely one-third of the average to date.

SF Gate

Sea Ice Loss Drives Jet Stream South, Increasing Rain in the North, Drought in the South

A new study offers an explanation for the extraordinary run of wet summers experienced by Britain and northwest Europe between 2007 and 2012. The study found that loss of Arctic sea ice shifts the jet stream further south than normal resulting in increased rain during the summer in northwest Europe.

Climate Progress

Jet Stream Shift

And also Science, here.

California Drought Warnings

January through May 2013 were California’s driest in about 90 years of record keeping.

Currently the San Luis Reservoir, which gets water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, is only 22 percent of its historical average for this time of year.


California’s other main source of water comes via the Colorado River Basin, originating in the Rocky Mountains. More than a decade of drought has left both Lake Powell and Lake Mead less than half full. About a quarter of urban Southern California depends on these reservoirs for supply.

Climate Progress

Drought, Rivers Down, Over Fishing: Big Trouble in Florida

It’s hard getting our empathy worked up for people who are heavily involved in causing their own troubles, or at least not minding the signs and signals that troubles are coming and continuing as though it will be just another year.  Nevertheless, the conditions described by Lizette Alvarez in Sunday’s New York Times in Florida’s northwest Apalachicola Bay make us pay attention.

Oyster Seeding Oyster Seeding

In a budding ecological crisis, the oyster population has drastically declined in Apalachicola Bay, one of the country’s major estuaries and the cradle of Florida’s prized oyster industry.

The fishery’s collapse, which began last summer and has stretched into this year, is the most blatant sign yet of the bay’s vulnerability in the face of decades of dwindling flow from two rivers originating in Georgia. For 23 years now, Georgia, Alabama and Florida have waged a classic upstream-downstream water war, with Alabama and Florida coming out on the losing end of a long court battle in 2011.

Oyster overharvesting in the bay after the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which largely missed this area, worsened the situation, as did persistent drought.

Though the fight over river water between three states is described as the leading cause that of course has the cart before the horse, or horses — of drought, extravagant water use (lawns and golf courses!), poor planning, over population and anti-scientism.

And of course, those who cry loudest about big government have got few other ideas but to ask big government for help when they, themselves, need it.  So different than when the unworthy and sinfully lazy poor ask.

Economically, the situation has become so desperate that Gov. Rick Scott, a conservative Republican who is not inclined to ask for federal help, wrote to the United States Commerce Department last year and asked it to declare the oyster harvesting areas a fishing disaster.

The Biggest Climate Crisis of the Year?

What is the biggest climate whuping in North America?  If you’re thinking hurricane Sandy you’d be wrong, and at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Nope, it’s drought.  Never ending drought. The Midwest is desiccating; the Mississippi River may soon be too shallow to float the big grain and coal barges. The care takers of the Missouri River are contemplating cutting back its flows into the Mississippi because (the authority is divided, not unified)   low water upstream is threatening its own surrounds. [Note, the article linked to makes this sound like an unreasonable bureaucratic decision rather than a save-ourselves-first move.]

The colossal devastation and loss of life wrought by Hurricane Sandy makes the storm one of the greatest disasters in U.S. history. The storm and its aftermath have rightfully dominated the weather headlines this year, and Sandy will undoubtedly be remembered as the most notable global weather event of 2012. But shockingly, Sandy is probably not even the deadliest or most expensive weather disaster this year in the United States–Sandy’s damages of perhaps $50 billion will likely be overshadowed by the huge costs of the great drought of 2012. While it will be several months before the costs of America’s worst drought since 1954 are known, the 2012 drought is expected to cut America’s GDP by 0.5 – 1 percentage points…

Drought: civilization’s greatest natural enemy
People fear storms, and spectacular and devastating storms like Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina have stirred more debate in the U.S. about taking action against climate change than any other weather event. But I argue that this attention is misplaced. Drought is our greatest enemy. Drought impacts the two things we need to live–food and water. The history of civilization is filled with tales of great storms that have killed thousands and caused untold suffering and destruction. But cities impacted by great storms inevitably recover and rebuild, often stronger than before. I expect that New York City, the coast of New Jersey, and other areas battered by Sandy will do likewise. But drought can crash civilizations. Drought experts Justin Sheffield and Eric Wood of Princeton, in their 2011 book, Drought, list more than ten civilizations and cultures that probably collapsed because of drought. Among them: The Mayans of 800 – 1000 AD. The Anasazi culture in the Southwest U.S. in the 11th – 12th centuries. The ancient Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia. The Chinese Ming Dynasty of 1500 – 1730. When the rains stop and the soil dries up, cities die and civilizations collapse, as people abandon lands no longer able to supply them with the food and water they need to live.

Read all at Jeff Masters Wunderground

I don’t know if Ken Burns newest offering, The Dust Bowl, [November 18 and 19, 2012 8:00–10:00 p.m. ET on PBS] will resonate anymore than the plain facts on the ground, from Texas to North Dakota, but one way or the other intelligence is over due from taking hold.

[And an interesting conversation with Burns, here.]

Weather Extremes Leave Parts of U.S. Grid Buckling

Maybe, but just maybe, this will get the attention of the congressional climate change know-nothings:

On a single day this month here, a US Airways regional jet became stuck in asphalt that had softened in 100-degree temperatures, and a subway train derailed after the heat stretched the track so far that it kinked — inserting a sharp angle into a stretch that was supposed to be straight. In East Texas, heat and drought have had a startling effect on the clay-rich soils under highways, which “just shrink like crazy,” leading to “horrendous cracking,” said Tom Scullion, senior research engineer with the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University. In Northeastern and Midwestern states, he said, unusually high heat is causing highway sections to expand beyond their design limits, press against each other and “pop up,” creating jarring and even hazardous speed bumps.

And that is just the beginning — nuclear power plants which have had to throttle back or shutdown because the cooling water is too hot.  Fabulous.

NY Times

Or if bucking of the infrastructure doesn’t do it, how about rising food prices?

Severe Drought Seen as Driving Cost of Food Up

The drought is now affecting 88 percent of the corn crop, a staple of processed foods and animal feed as well as the nation’s leading farm export.

So far, 2012 is the hottest year ever recorded in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose records date to 1895. That has sapped the production of corn, soybeans and other crops, afflicting poultry and livestock in turn.

This is What Global Warming Looks Like

Climate Progress has a mini celebration that major media outlets are finally beginning to connect the wildfire-windstorm-drought dots and call it climate change. Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, talks with Judy Woodruff on The News Hour.

Even the Drudge Report featured this AP article by Seth Borenstein:

So far this year, more than 2.1 million acres have burned in wildfires, more than 113 million people in the U.S. were in areas under extreme heat advisories last Friday, two-thirds of the country is experiencing drought, and earlier in June, deluges flooded Minnesota and Florida.

This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level,” said Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona. “The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.”

“What we’re seeing really is a window into what global warming really looks like,” said Princeton University geosciences and international affairs professor Michael Oppenheimer. “It looks like heat. It looks like fires. It looks like this kind of environmental disasters.”

Oppenheimer said that on Thursday. That was before the East Coast was hit with triple-digit temperatures and before a derecho — an unusually strong, long-lived and large straight-line wind storm — blew through Chicago to Washington. The storm and its aftermath killed more than 20 people and left millions without electricity. Experts say it had energy readings five times that of normal thunderstorms.

Then there’s this:


AND, Colorado has been burning up, which we have all been watching with suspended breath,  while Russia, terrorized in 2010 by raging fires, is battling some 600 fires this month, which have already burned more acres in the east than those in the west two years ago.

Dought In Texas — $280 Million a Year from Lost Shade Trees

Texas is heading the way of the Sahara.  Even with recent rains, the drought has been so long and so fierce that the shape of life is in full shift.  This from StateImpact, a project of Texas NPR

A new study from the Texas Forest Service has bad news about the trees in your neighborhood. They estimate that 5.6 million trees in the urban areas of Texas –  those leafy providers of shade around your home and dotting your parks – are now dead. This number could be up to ten percent of the urban trees in Texas. (A separate study late last year of forest trees in non-urban areas said that 500 million of those could be dead due to the drought.)

… removing the dead trees (a safety hazard) will be costly, with an estimate of $560 million. The Forest Service also says the lost economic benefit of the trees (in the form of energy lost because the trees are no longer cooling homes, cleaning air and water, and keeping property values higher) is $280 million a year.


Food, Floods and Drought

Krugman looks at Egypt, food prices and the fast changing world climate:

We’re in the midst of a global food crisis — the second in three years. World food prices hit a record in January, driven by huge increases in the prices of wheat, corn, sugar and oils. These soaring prices have had only a modest effect on U.S. inflation, which is still low by historical standards, but they’re having a brutal impact on the world’s poor, who spend much if not most of their income on basic foodstuffs…

While several factors have contributed to soaring food prices, what really stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted agricultural production. And these severe weather events are exactly the kind of thing we’d expect to see as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases change our climate — which means that the current food price surge may be just the beginning.

The question then becomes, what’s behind all this extreme weather?

To some extent we’re seeing the results of a natural phenomenon, La Niña — a periodic event in which water in the equatorial Pacific becomes cooler than normal. And La Niña events have historically been associated with global food crises, including the crisis of 2007-8.

But that’s not the whole story. Don’t let the snow fool you: globally, 2010 was tied with 2005 for warmest year on record, even though we were at a solar minimum and La Niña was a cooling factor in the second half of the year. Temperature records were set not just in Russia but in no fewer than 19 countries, covering a fifth of the world’s land area. And both droughts and floods are natural consequences of a warming world: droughts because it’s hotter, floods because warm oceans release more water vapor.

Read all

Another Day Another Record


California’s blistering fall heat wave sent temperatures to an all-time record high of 113 degrees Monday in downtown Los Angeles … breaking the old all-time record of 112 degrees set on June 26, 1990, said Stuart Seto, a weather specialist at the National Weather Service office in Oxnard. Temperature records for downtown date to 1877.

The historic mark was part of an onslaught of temperatures well over 100 degrees in many cities ranging from Anaheim, home of Disneyland, to San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz and Salinas on the usually balmy Central Coast. Many records were set or tied.
Heat Records

* * *

And surely, you haven’t forgotten this:

Scientists track sharp drop in oldest, thickest Arctic sea ice

* * *

While the drought in the American Southwest isn’t news exactly being reminded of something so long known it’s been forgotten can be the biggest news of all.

Barring a sudden end to the Southwest’s 11-year drought, the distribution of the[Colorado]  river’s dwindling bounty is likely to be reordered as early as next year because the flow of water cannot keep pace with the region’s demands.

For the first time, federal estimates issued in August indicate that Lake Mead, the heart of the lower Colorado basin’s water system — irrigating lettuce, onions and wheat in reclaimed corners of the Sonoran Desert, and lawns and golf courses from Las Vegas to Los Angeles — could drop below a crucial demarcation line of 1,075 feet.

… Adding to water managers’ unease, scientists predict that prolonged droughts will be more frequent in decades to come as the Southwest’s climate warms. As Lake Mead’s level drops, Hoover Dam’s capacity to generate electricity, which, like the Colorado River water, is sent around the Southwest, diminishes with it. If Lake Mead levels fall to 1,050 feet, it may be impossible to use the dam’s turbines, and the flow of electricity could cease.

“if the river flow continues downward and we can’t build back up supply, Las Vegas is in big trouble,” …

NY Times: Southwest Water