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Monday, June 29


This is no way to spend a vacation but I've realized that unless I make some effort to keep up I'll face a huge pile of reports when I return on July 7.  Okay, the real story is that I've been up all night thinking about what might be inevitable.        

Bloomberg Business presented data on June 24 showing an overwhelmingly certain correlation between the warming global temperature and manmade greenhouse gas emissions, then concluded by asking what we're going to do about it.

Well, what I'm going to do about it is take Bloomberg Business financial analyses with a large grain of salt going forward. I figure if they're that credulous about climate data they can easily be duped by fast talking Wall Street wizards.

Here is Robert Zimmerman's latest discussion of climate science: More evidence NOAA has tampered with climate data (March 10, 2015). He's not credulous; he can't afford to be.  He's had to spend many years analyzing American and Russian discussions of their government space exploration programs. Unfortunately he doesn't give financial advice. 

The terror is that hyperfocus on reducing greenhouse gases has diverted attention and vast amounts of money from crises that have relatively simple fixes --ony it takes more time than we might have to implement them.

How A Historical Blunder Helped Create The Water Crisis In The [American] West - 6/25; WCAI
Environmental reporter Abrahm Lustgarten began investigating the water crisis a year and a half ago for the ProPublica series Killing the Colorado. He tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies that he initially thought the water crisis was the result of climate change or drought.
Instead, Lustgarten says, "It's the policy and the management that seem to be having a greater effect than the climate."
How federal dollars are financing the water crisis in the West (Part of ProPublica's series Killing the Colorado:  The Truth Behind the Water Crisis in the West)

California’s Drought Is Part of a Much Bigger Water Crisis. Here’s What You Need to Know - 6/25; latest in ProPublica's Killing the Colorado series. 

The Golden State needs 150% of average rain and snowpack to beat drought ... If El Niño continues to gather momentum, California may get what it wished for -- lots of rain. But if it turns out to be weaker than expected, as was the case in 2014, California’s drought is likely to extend into a fifth year. 
“I’m not counting on anything as El Niño has no guarantees. We have had dry as well as wet El Niño years. The odds of a wet year increases with a stronger El Niño but again no guarantees,” said Jan Null, certified consulting meteorologist at Golden Gate Weather Services. ...
California’s drought is breaking all records since the state began monitoring rainfalls and temperatures in 1895. 2013 was the driest on record for the state and 2014 was the warmest, while snowpacks, an important source of water as they melt, were the lowest on record at only 5% of the 28-inch average this year, Anderson said.
Odd comment on the report in the Market Watch comment section:  
Daniel A. Prohonic:  "If you want to refill the lakes, rivers and aquifers in California and western ends of Utah and Nevada, try turning off or covering the solor [sic] panels in those states 6 months before expected arrival of El Nino.  Also shut off wind farms; they're heating the air too much, causing the rain clouds to rise and hold their water until they're passing the Rocky Mtns."
Your guess is as good as mine about whether there's anything more than hot air to his observation about solar panels.  But his comment about wind farms might have been inspired at least in part by a February 2014 Scientific American article Wind Power Found to Affect Local Climate: "Wind farms can alter the nearby rainfall and temperature, suggesting a need for more comprehensive studies of future energy systems."

This wind farm is in Palm Springs. I thought windmills were supposed to be placed in coastal areas

The  money quote in the Scientific American article (which features the above photo):
The disadvantage is that the model of climate behavior may not correspond exactly to what happens in reality.
The observation holds true across the entire of climate research and indeed all modern science, which relies increasingly on modeling.  But pile up many small inexactitudes in your models of reality and you can end up with hopelessly skewed conclusions.

Moving along --   

Drones Flying Over Huge California Fire Hindered Firefighters: Officials - 6/26; NBC News
All fire-fighting planes had to be grounded (temporarily) because a couple drone hobbyists wanted a lookee-see at the fire. 

800 Overnight Lightning Strikes Spark 3 Dozen New Wildfires In Northern California - 6/28, 2:08 PM EDT; CBS San Francisco/Associated Press
Provides update on firefighting efforts against wildfires started earlier in the state.  The lightning seems to be "dry." See Freedman's discussion below.  

Cool weather, rain aid fight against Interior Alaska wildfires; burn ban still in place - 6/27 last updated 11:56 AM ;Newsminer, The Voice of Interior Alaska

Alaska is burning as wildfires multiply by the hundred - 6/25; Mashable (by Andrew Freedman, whose reporting on drought-related issues I praised earlier this year; his report on wildfires in Alaska is a 'don't miss.' )  A few passages (emphasis mine):
... instead of sunny skies lasting late into the night, like June usually brings, the air over much of the state has been filled with eye-burning smoke, with more than 300 individual fires burning as of Thursday ...  More than 428,000 acres have gone up in smoke so far this season, according to a report from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, which is an area larger than the city of Los Angeles.  ...
The fires are connected to weather conditions dating back to the winter, when much of the state saw a profound lack of snow and unusually mild temperatures. The absence of snow cover starved the lands of much-needed moisture to fend off fires ignited by human activities, such as building campfires, and natural sources, like lightning. ... 
Following the anemic snow covering large swaths of the state came a warm spring, with May setting a record for the warmest such month the state has seen since records began there 91 years ago.  ...
The wildfires are burning across central and southern portions of the state, and have been increasing over time as summer thunderstorm season gets underway, touching off storms that deliver little rain but lots of lightning.
These storms are known as dry thunderstorms, and they're a major cause of fires from Alaska to Canada and across the parched Western U.S.  
The fires are far above average for this time of year, and are in keeping with a long-term trend toward more frequent fires and larger fires in the "Frontier State."
... Temperatures have hit 45 degrees Celsius in recent days, prompting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to declare a national emergency this week. The blistering heat is exacerbated by chronic electricity shortages, forcing water pumping stations - the chief source of potable water - to come to a standstill, with residents also unable to seek relief from fans or air-conditioners. ...  
This shortfall is the result of the failure, over successive governments' tenures, to invest enough to expand power system capacity," said a new report by the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), an independent and nonpartisan group. ...
I'd say the heat has exposed the power issues even more; they've been famously known for many years.  The issues boil down to the fact that Pakistan is a military with a civilian society tacked on as an afterthought. That concept of a country made for huge problems going in all directions when the population skyrocketed and many were crammed into one city -- Karachi.        

Death toll tops 1,150 in Pakistan's deadliest heat wave on record - 6/26; USA Today
The official death toll has gone up since then to a little over 1,200; even though the temperature has eased since last week those in critical condition from heatstroke, etc., have been dying.       

Korean Peninsula Faces Worst Drought in More Than a Century - 6/26' VOA News
... North Korean news reports on Tuesday said more than 20,000 hectares of cropland have been destroyed in Hwanghae province alone, and said regional water reservoirs are empty. ... 80 percent of [South Korea] is facing extreme drought. ... In Seoul, South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik warned of looming price hikes for produce and cuts in water supplies. ...
Is Pyongyang just dialing for dollars and euros again?  Well, if the governments starts to panic:

North Korea's historic drought expected to cause famine, U.N. says - 6/25; CNN
... "Over the last two years," he explains, "the North Korean government has been implementing a new and remarkably efficient policy which is based on the household responsibilities. So farmers' households are given 30% of the harvest instead of the fixed rations they used to receive in the past. And as a result, they work much better, and over the last two years North Korea had really good harvests. Essentially they produced enough food to feed themselves."
Lankov worries if the drought is as bad as some are predicting, the government will once again force farmers to hand over all of their food, in the name of the greater good. ...
Brian Davis, chief of the Freeport Fire and EMS Department, said extensive flooding earlier this month caused the overflow of septic tanks and waste treatment plants.
"The simple truth is that all of that is running down the river," said Davis, who said the bacteria can turn Gulf water into almost toilet water. ... The Freeport Fire Department sent out an advisory warning of "medium" bacterial levels at Bryan Beach. In Galveston, levels tested even higher. The Galveston County Health District is now advising people to avoid swimming in some beaches altogether because of what's in the water.
In the Small Planet category of news reports, here's one I missed a couple months ago:

Hazy Western Washington skies caused by Siberia wildfires - 4/19 - King 5 News and Associated Press
Not just Washington state, the entire American northwest got hit with a haze from the Siberian fires mixed with some "Asian dust" -- toxic yellow or red dust to be specific, blowing off the Gobi and mixing with China's infamous industrial pollution. 

Just a timely reminder for those cute people in Washington, DC's defense establishment who've forgotten that fallout from a nuclear weapon explosion travels fast and far.

Go figure:  

Irrigation most likely to blame for Central California warming (2007)
Last paragraph:
Computer models used to forecast climate change also typically predict that in California the effects of global warming due to increased carbon dioxide levels should warm temperatures in the Sierra Nevada mountains faster than in the nearby valleys. The UAH study, however, found that from 1910 to 2003 night and daytime temperatures in the nearby mountains did not climb.
Does irrigation in the desert, on the massive scale it's been done in the California's Central Valley, significantly influence the weather?  It must have some effect, as the earlier study (above) shows, but how much and in the way the lead researcher on the second study (Famiglietti) believes -- I don't understand the arguments well enough to take a guess.

Anthony Watts, who runs WUWT --"The most viewed site on global warming and climate change" -- discusses both studies (see links above) and presents data he collected, which supports the conclusion in the first study.  

See also the page listing all WUWT articles on drought. The titles of several entries look interesting although I haven't made time to read them yet. This one from May 22, 2014 is an eyebrow raiser:

Interesting graph – Fraction of the Globe in Drought: 1982-2012
Unless my eyes deceive me, it looks like there is no net change in global drought area for 30 years. The graph shows the proportion of the planet in drought, by intensity, 1982-2012. The graph comes from a paper in a new Nature publication called Scientific Data and is open access.
The finding if correct wouldn't surprise me; what we're really seeing with all the horror tales of drought across the globe is a runaway increase in the number and intensity of hydrological droughts. That is, droughts caused by decades of bad water management that are now catching up with societies as megapopulations and water-intensive industries and agribusiness draw down water tables faster and faster. 

Add a period of sparse rainfall and that's a recipe for catastrophe -- cascading catastrophes, as populations fleeing water scarcity move into regions that have very limited and fast diminishing water supplies.   Just last week it was reported that the Dominican Republic came within a month of its entire water supply collapsing.  

Did the dwindling water resources in the country have anything to do with the government's decision to deport (over time) more than 200,000 Haitians?  From this 6/25 VOA report it seems the issue has been brewing for years: 
 A 2013 Dominican citizenship law aims to cut off more than 200,000 Haitians who were born in the country to undocumented Haitians.  
Many of these could be children of parents who fled Haiti after the country's catastrophic earthquake in 2010.  But the question would be how many Haitians fled to the Dominican Republic during Haiti's droughts in 2013 and in the country's northeast in 2014. Haiti has suffered one natural disaster after another since the earthquake; add to this the country's water infrastructure is a disaster.

One could ask the same question about the "anti-foreigner" riots in South Africa.  That country is when last I checked facing drought -- and bad water management.  May 2015:

Mozambicans protested outside the South African embassy in Maputo against xenophobic attacks

Water shortages loom for SA: worst drought in two decades
(Bloomberg) — South Africa is facing water shortages after the worst drought since 1992 cut dam levels by 12 percent from a year earlier as most of the country enters its four-month dry season.
Drought in eastern and central South Africa around the turn of the year has slashed corn and sugar output and may trigger water shortages for homes and businesses. Weaker river flow also threatens water quality. South Africa is the 30th-driest nation on Earth, according to the government, which expects water demand to outstrip supply as early as 2025.
“Water will definitely be at a premium over the next few months,” said Sputnik Ratau, a spokesman for the Department of Water Affairs. Toward the end of the dry season “we will be in an even more dire situation in terms of available water.” ...
The May 2015 Beeb report on the riots focuses on the jobs issue for South Africans:
South Africa has deported more than 400 Mozambicans, weeks after anti-foreigner violence in Durban and Johannesburg left several people dead.
The move follows a police operation that uncovered hundreds of undocumented migrants.
Many unemployed South Africans accuse foreigners of taking their jobs in a country where the unemployment rate is 24%. ...

Mobs targeted workers from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Mozambique and other African countries.
Correspondents say that although South African authorities condemned the violence, they have also sought to address complaints about foreigners working illegally in the country. ...
The government will have more than illegal job-takers to worry about when Mozambique is hit even harder than it was last year by its boom and bust cycle of drought and floods. 300.000 Mozambicans faced famine in 2014

Meanwhile, Mexico's government has finally grown a brain: 

Mexico takes lead to stem migrant wave, deports more Central Americans than the United States - June 5, Associated Press

Human rights activists are upset, but they need to stop thinking as if the year is 1982.  Today the huge migrant waves descend on cities that have stressed water supplies not to mention stressed power and sanitation infrastructures. 

There is a kind of sugar cube syndrome generated by the mega-cities that's accelerating.  Put a cube of sugar on a desert floor and first hundreds then thousands of ants emerge from the ground and descend on the cube. Within moments it's gone. 

The syndrome isn't limited to urban areas.  Building rural roads, as the Brazilian government learned the hard way decades ago, doesn't only facilitate transporting produce to urban centers.  The roads also facilitate fast migration.

One day the government turned around and saw huge areas of the Amazon rainforest had gone up in flames. Farmers had used the roads to quickly migrate deep into the Amazon to create new farmland by the traditional slash and burn method. 

Which is to say that many of the best development ideas, implemented in the 1980s, are now turning on us.  What happened with the rainforest was the harbinger and now the leitmotif of the present era.


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