Erratic inquiries of Stowe Boyd, who means well, despite everything.
Also writing stoweboyd.com and beaconstreets.com.

Posts tagged with ‘drought’


CLIMATE CHANGE COULD CUT WESTERN WATER RUNOFF BY 10%
LOS ANGELES TIMES, Bettina Boxall:
Another climate change study is projecting declines in runoff in many parts of the West, a scenario that would put more pressure on the region’s water supplies.
Using new model simulations, scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory expanded on 2007 research that predicted a drier future for the Southwest.
The reasons involve more than a drop in precipitation — which is actually expected to increase in some areas that are critical to Western water supplies. Rather, rising temperatures will cause greater evaporation from plants and the ground, reducing soil moisture and water runoff into rivers and streams.
Researchers concluded that average annual runoff will fall by about 10% in the three regions examined in the study: California-Nevada, the Colorado River headwaters and Texas. 
The 10% drop in Colorado River flows would be on a par with the worst droughts recorded on the river in the last century, though it is less severe than the 12th century megadrought revealed by tree-ring studies. 
“It may not sound like a phenomenally large amount, except the water and the river is already over-allocated,” said climate scientist Richard Seager, the paper’s lead author. The Colorado’s flows have proven to be less than thought when the river’s supplies were divvied up among California and the other six basin states in 1922.
In the Colorado headwaters region, average precipitation is expected to increase in all seasons, but greater evaporation will reduce soil moisture in the spring, summer and fall.
Central and Northern California and Nevada should get more precipitation in the winter but both states will get less the rest of the year. Coupled with more evaporation, that will result in an overall drop in runoff and soil moisture. 
Winters will be drier in Southern California, southern and central Arizona and New Mexico, according to the model runs. 
Though climate change simulations have grown more sophisticated, the authors noted that global models still can’t fully account for the West’s complex topography — and how it influences regional climate patterns. 

The Water Wars are coming, and we will start with fighting among ourselves.

CLIMATE CHANGE COULD CUT WESTERN WATER RUNOFF BY 10%

LOS ANGELES TIMES, Bettina Boxall:

Another climate change study is projecting declines in runoff in many parts of the West, a scenario that would put more pressure on the region’s water supplies.

Using new model simulations, scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory expanded on 2007 research that predicted a drier future for the Southwest.

The reasons involve more than a drop in precipitation — which is actually expected to increase in some areas that are critical to Western water supplies. Rather, rising temperatures will cause greater evaporation from plants and the ground, reducing soil moisture and water runoff into rivers and streams.

Researchers concluded that average annual runoff will fall by about 10% in the three regions examined in the study: California-Nevada, the Colorado River headwaters and Texas. 

The 10% drop in Colorado River flows would be on a par with the worst droughts recorded on the river in the last century, though it is less severe than the 12th century megadrought revealed by tree-ring studies. 

“It may not sound like a phenomenally large amount, except the water and the river is already over-allocated,” said climate scientist Richard Seager, the paper’s lead author. The Colorado’s flows have proven to be less than thought when the river’s supplies were divvied up among California and the other six basin states in 1922.

In the Colorado headwaters region, average precipitation is expected to increase in all seasons, but greater evaporation will reduce soil moisture in the spring, summer and fall.

Central and Northern California and Nevada should get more precipitation in the winter but both states will get less the rest of the year. Coupled with more evaporation, that will result in an overall drop in runoff and soil moisture. 

Winters will be drier in Southern California, southern and central Arizona and New Mexico, according to the model runs. 

Though climate change simulations have grown more sophisticated, the authors noted that global models still can’t fully account for the West’s complex topography — and how it influences regional climate patterns. 

The Water Wars are coming, and we will start with fighting among ourselves.

(Source: theapothecarysrose, via utnereader)

Texas Legislature Prepares to Take On Water Projects - NYTimes.com →

Planning to spend $1B-$2B on water projects is all well and good, but building reservoirs and pipelines won’t help if you don’t have any water.

The obvious reality is this: Texas is not going to see an 80% rise in population over th next 50 years. Not if the drought continues a decade or more, as meteorologists suggest. Instead, the population will fall. And fast. No one will be raising cotton — one of the most water intensive crops — in a state without water. Likewise, cattle grazing will become uneconomic. And any manufacturing that requires cheap and abundant water will move elsewhere.

I am predicting a 5% decrease in Texas population for every year of drought conditions, so that in 10 years, around half of Texans will have moved.

climateadaptation:

“A WWII minesweeper exposed by the low waters of he Mississippi River near St. Louis, Mo. The vessel, swept away during the flood of 1993, was a museum ship in St. Louis and is normally underwater year-round. The Mississippi, after months of drought, is approaching the point where it may become to shallow for barges that navigate the river. (AP Photo/United States Coast Guard, Colby Buchanan)”
Via the supreme article: Drought threatens to close Mississippi to barges

climateadaptation:

“A WWII minesweeper exposed by the low waters of he Mississippi River near St. Louis, Mo. The vessel, swept away during the flood of 1993, was a museum ship in St. Louis and is normally underwater year-round. The Mississippi, after months of drought, is approaching the point where it may become to shallow for barges that navigate the river. (AP Photo/United States Coast Guard, Colby Buchanan)”

Via the supreme article: Drought threatens to close Mississippi to barges

The Farmland Bubble

Farmers and agribusiness companies are driving up the price of farmland, heading toward what looks suspiciously like a bubble:

Across Corn Belt, Farmland Prices Keep Soaring - Ron Nixon and John Eligon via NYTimes.com

Almost every year since 2005, except during the start of the recession in 2008, agriculture land prices have posted double-digit gains. In the same period, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index has had double-digit gains in only three of those years.

An August survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago showed a 15 percent increase in farmland prices since last year across a region that covers Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. Another survey released at the same time from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City showed even higher growth in the Great Plains states, where farmland prices have increased 26 percent since last year.

The two Fed surveys and sales data have raised concerns from bank regulators about a potential farmland bubble, similar to the housing frenzy that helped set off the financial crisis. A year ago, rising farmland prices prompted regulators to warn banks not to relax lending standards. In July, the Kansas City Fed held a symposium to discuss concerns about a bubble.

“Any time you have an asset that doubles in value over a decade, there is cause for concern about how sustainable that growth is,” said Richard A. Brown, chief economist at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

For farmers in the land hunt, a potential bubble was barely a concern. Many said they needed to buy more land to expand their businesses so they can generate more income. And in this wobbly economy, they found safety in stashing their money in farmland.

Once again, low interest rates inexorably lead to a strong upward pressure on prices. The question is: who will be left holding the bag when prices fall off a cliff when rates go up, and there aren’t buyers? Or we have an even worse stretch of drought, so these buyers can’t grow enough to pay the notes?

The buyers are betting on increased food prices and enough rain to grown enough corn and soybeans to pay the bills and the bank. And of course, for Uncle Sam to step in if there’s a disaster.

U.S. runs out of funds to battle wildfires - Darryl Fears via The Washington Post →

U.S. runs out of funds to battle wildfires - Darryl Fears via The Washington Post

In the worst wildfire season on record, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service ran out of money to pay for firefighters, fire trucks and aircraft that dump retardant on monstrous flames. So officials did about the only thing they could: take money from other forest management programs. But many of the programs were aimed at preventing giant fires in the first place, and raiding their budgets meant putting off the removal of dried brush and dead wood over vast stretches of land — the things that fuel eye-popping blazes, threatening property and lives.

Recently, Congress stepped in and reimbursed the Forest Service and the Interior Department, which plays a far lesser role in fighting fires, with $400 million from the 2013 Continuing Resolution, allowing fire prevention work to continue. Forestry experts at state agencies and environmental groups greeted it as good news.

But they also faulted Congress for providing at the start of the fiscal year only about half of the $1 billion dollars it actually cost to fight this year’s fires. They argued that the traditional method that members of an appropriations conference committee use to fund wildfire suppression — averaging the cost of fighting wildfires over the previous 10 years — is inadequate at a time when climate change is causing longer periods of dryness and drought, giving fires more fuel to burn and resulting in longer wildfire seasons.

Once running from June to September, the season has expanded over the past 10 years to include May and October. It was once rare to see 5 million cumulative acres burn, agriculture officials said. But some recent seasons have recorded millions more than that.

This year’s wildfire burn was nearly 8 million acres at the end of August, about the time that the budget allocated to fight them ran dry.

“They knew they were running out of money early on, in May,” said Chris Topik, director of North American Forest Restoration for the Nature Conservancy. “They were telling people in May, ‘Be careful, don’t spend too much [on prevention].’ ”

A great example of where Congress is failing. The GOP doesn’t want to cut the military, but we are going to let the country burn down. The drought will continue, the forests are a tinder box, the borer beetles are spreading,the heat is rising. Prevention would be really smart, and we are showing how dumb we are at husbanding our earth.

Texas Drought: No One Wants To Connect The Dots

A recent period of rainfall has minimized the acute threat of running out of water for many Texas cities and towns, but the drought goes on. As a result, Texas can be characterized as being confronted with dilemmas, not clearcut problems that can be ‘solved’. The alternatives are all bad: it just a question of how bad.

Time for West Texas to Face Long-Term Water Needs - Kate Galbraith via NYTimes.com

This drought has forced local officials in West Texas to make agonizing decisions. At San Angelo’s City Council meeting on Sept. 27, before all the rain, officials voted to continue to allow carwashes to operate and swimming pools to be filled despite the looming shortages.

“We’re dealing with people’s jobs,” said Paul Alexander, a councilman, amid a debate about when to enact tighter restrictions. Another Council member, Charlotte Farmer, argued that the city should not cut off water for fountains at the San Angelo Visitor Center and an internationally known water lily display.

“We’re experiencing a drought, but I don’t want to experience people stopping to come to San Angelo,” Ms. Farmer said. (The Council voted to maintain water for those purposes, as she had urged.)

Throughout West Texas, a consensus has emerged that cities need new water sources to prepare for a dry future. Traditionally, West Texas cities have relied heavily on huge surface reservoirs, many built in the wake of earlier droughts. But the hot, dry air generally means that more water evaporates from the reservoirs in a given year than people use.

“Our biggest enemy is actually evaporation,” said Mayor Alvin New of San Angelo.

The city is building a $120 million pipeline project southeast of town that will tap an aquifer called the Hickory. It should be operational next summer, officials say, and will initially be able to carry two-thirds of the city’s basic wintertime needs, with deliveries increasing over time. The catch is that the aquifer water contains higher levels of radium than federal standards allow, so it must be diluted with reservoir water until a treatment plant can be built.

Another major new West Texas pipeline, costing $135 million and running 42 miles from the Odessa area to water well fields to the west, is also moving along. Next week workers should finish laying the main pipeline, according to Mr. Grant of the Colorado River Municipal Water District, which is overseeing the project. The water should be available in December, he said.

Some cities close to salty aquifers are looking toward desalination; Odessa is aggressively pursuing this, although the process is expensive. The concept of water reuse is also catching on quickly in West Texas, including the prospect of turning human sewage into drinking water. A $12 million water reuse plant is scheduled to begin operating in February in Big Spring, pumping well-scrubbed sewage into the drinking-water systems of Midland, Odessa and Big Spring.

Brownwood, about 130 miles southwest of Fort Worth, is also beginning to pursue a similar reuse plant, with help from a state grant. And San Angelo is in the early stages of contemplating such a plant, according to Will Wilde, the city’s water utilities director.

All of those options are expensive, and water rates around the region have soared. But if the state is to solve its long-term water woes, the costs will be high. The state water plan, finalized in January, contains a $53 billion wish list of projects to meet the needs of the growing state.

Next year Texas lawmakers will decide whether to support financing for the plan, and they could also consider a range of water-infrastructure and conservation questions. Speaker Joe Straus of the House, Republican of San Antonio, told a cattle raisers’ group last month in Austin that water would be a key part of his agenda.

“I don’t want to reach a day where a Texas company announces it’s moving to Florida or Ohio because of water issues,” Mr. Straus said.

Diluting radium-saturated water to meet restrictions on radiation limits? Desalinating water, which is hugely expensive? These may not lead people to move their businesses out of Texas, but they sure would stop any sensible person from moving into Texas, which is the beginning of the end.

I’m all for reusing wastewater, and processing human waste for that, but continuing to allow car washes and swimming pools to continue is madness.

Obviously, those living in drought-stricken areas will want people living elsewhere to pay billions to construct financially irresponsible water infrastructure. $50B sounds like a lot of money to me.

And if they get it and spend it, they will be back asking for another check in a year or so, because the drought is not going away. Endemic drought is projected through the next year, and many believe — like Rup and Mote , Did Human Influence On Climate Make The 2011 Texas Drought More Probable? — that drought like this is increasingly probable.

The real answer is to start to spend money to move people to wetter parts of the country, like the Ohio River valley, Pennsylvania, and the Northwest. But people will fight to stay in Texas and the other blighted areas in the plains, even as they turn to dust.

The Story Behind Spanish Turmoil: Drought

I have become so used to the disconnect between reportage on the political economy and the ecology that I always look for ecological problems where the worst economic and political disruptions are taking place. Case in point? Spain. Behind the austerity theater going on in Europe are some bewildering disconnects.

Spain at risk of becoming like Sahara

Green groups slam Madrid for refusing to blame construction as 17 tonnes of fertile land are lost a year to the advancing desert

OVER a third of Spain is in danger of “turning into the Sahara”.

As it launched a 26-billion-euro action plan to battle desertification, the government has highlighted 37 per cent of the total surface area of the country considered to be at high risk of Saharization.

In particular it highlighted five areas – Almeria, the Canary Islands, Murcia, Alicante and parts of Castilla y Leon – as being in particular danger.

The study, which has taken 12 years to produce, blames the overuse of aquifers as one of the main culprits of land erosion.

It also cites the loss of woodland, decreasing rainfall and increasing temperatures as Spain loses an average of 17 tonnes of fertile land a year to desertification.

To combat the threat, the government aims to improve the country’s irrigation network.

It will also be setting aside money to restore aquifers and re-forest certain key areas.

The government is also setting up a Desertification Observatory, a quango to study ways to halt erosion.

But the action plan has already been criticised for not blaming the construction industry in the widespread destruction of the country.

“Despite Spain being one of the countries most affected by desertification, it does not deal with the loss of fertile land to widespread construction projects.” said a spokesman for Ecologistas en Accion. “It is insufficient but better than nothing,”

The significant drop of rainfall has made August the hottest on record, according to statistics. Like July, August was also two degrees above average temperatures.

The three warmest years in the region have all been in the last decade.

The continuing drought is now causing the threat of rationing early next year for Malaga city and most towns in the Guadalhorce valley.

It is the first time the threat has been made in the area.

With reservoirs currently at just 20 per cent, the Junta has made further pleas to residents to use water carefully.

In Cartama meanwhile, mayor Jose Garrido issued an edict to conserve water. He said: “Our reserves are on the limit and to ensure the town does not lose its supply it is crucial that we don’t waste water.”

Worst drought in 70 years, hottest August ever, the olive oil crop destroyed (and probably everything else too), but meanwhile Europe is pushing for more austerity in a country where the young have a 50% unemployment rate.

The region is headed toward ecological shift into a north African ‘Saharization’, having lost more than 90% of its glaciers by 2009, and now confronted with the loss of major aquifers and decreasing rainfall.

We may be headed for a Mediterranean Spring, where Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece see populist uprisings and widespread rejection of the Austerians. And behind it, just as in North Africa, is drought.

Many parts of the world have passed peak water, but it hasn’t sunk in.

Postmodern thinking has a difficult time making the connection between ‘weather’ — considered as unstable in the short term and stable in the long term —  and what is happening in economic and politics. 

Go search for ‘spanish drought’ or the like. The only stories are about olive oil, or written last spring after the barley crops died. 

But here in the Postnormal era, a growing number of us know that climate is the foundation of wellbeing, economics, and politics. Without sustainable agriculture we will starve, and so climate policy should dominate economic discourse. But it doesn’t: it is last, and globalist dogma about unfettered growth dominates.

So you will continue to read about riots and demonstrations in mediterranean countries, but any discussion about the drought will be buried in the food section in some fluff piece about the rising price of olive oil. The postmodernists are living in an era that is passed, and they don’t even know it.

California Debt Higher Than Earlier Estimates - Mary Williams Walsh via NYTimes.com →

One of the many reasons that I am glad to have left California behind: the state has an intractable debt problem, and it will only get worse in the coming few years. Gov. Brown announced $28B in debt last year that had to be handled by cutting spending and raising taxes. Now it seems the debt might be as high as ten times larger.

California Debt Higher Than Earlier Estimates - Mary Williams Walsh via NYTimes.com

Directors of the State Budget Crisis Task Force said their researchers had found a lot of other debts that did not turn up in California’s official tally. Much of it involved irrevocable promises to provide pensions to public workers, health care for retirees, the cost of delayed highway maintenance and an estimated $40 billion bill to bring drinking water up to federal standards.

They also pointed out many of the same unpaid bills from previous years that the governor had brought to light, like $8 billion in delayed payments to schools and community colleges, and $250 million that was raided from a fund dedicated to transportation and treated as revenue.

The task force estimated that the burden of debt totaled at least $167 billion and as much as $335 billion. Its members warned that the off-the-books debts tended to grow over time, so that even if Mr. Brown should succeed in pushing through his tax increase, gaining an additional $50 billion over the next seven years, the wall of debt would still be there, casting its shadow over the state.

California is the world ninth largest economy, and has a number of cities — like Stockton — proposing to completely default on some municipal bonds. Note that while officials are scrambling to prop up what is a failing state, where taxes cannot be raised without a full plebiscite, California public services — schools, health care, infrastructure, public safety — are rapidly degrading.

[Take a look at my speculative scenario My California Dream: The California Territory.]

Above you see the changing fortunes of Phoenix in the migration sweepstakes. Counties that sent more migrants to Phoenix than they took are blue; counties that got more migrants from Phoenix are in red. In 2005, net migration inward, in 2009 net migration outward. A series of relatively unenlightening posts at Forbes shed little light on what’s happening in American internal migration, or what we can expect in the future, although the interactive representation of the data is fun to play with.

To begin with, it looks like a lot of Phoenix departures head to other drought areas, which suggests to me people aren’t moving explicitly because of drought awareness.

I’ll suggest that Phoenix and other drought-ravaged sections of the country will see a general decline in population over the next few years with a precipitous cliff in any region that has hit the ‘water wall’ — the point at which agriculture becomes impractical, water ways and lakes dry up, and the hard costs associated with water management for people grow too high. 

I’d like to see the correlation of this data with rainfall.

Why We Will Be Blindsided In Asia

Minxin Pei says that the prevailing discourse about China — it’s growth prospects, its economy and strength — is wrong. 

Everything You Think You Know About China Is Wrong - By Minxin Pei via Foreign Policy

The United States should reassess the basic premises of its China policy and seriously consider an alternative strategy, one based on the assumption of declining Chinese strength and rising probability of an unexpected democratic transition in the coming two decades. Should such a change come, the geopolitical landscape of Asia would transform beyond recognition. The North Korean regime would collapse almost overnight, and the Korean Peninsula would be reunified. A regional wave of democratic transitions would topple the communist regimes in Vietnam and Laos. The biggest and most important unknown, however, is about China itself: Can a weak or weakening country of 1.3 billion manage a peaceful transition to democracy?

And when lined up with other likely elements of 21st century Asia, like declining water resources in exactly those countries, the collapse of ‘communism’ (state capitalism, really) won’t lead to Western-style 20th century democracy. It’s headed for a post-normal decline, and fast.