Small Army Now Fighting Siberian Wildfires in April

Siberia. A land that, during the 20th Century, typically remained locked in ice well into early June. A land where a typical April was still more cold and harshly frozen than the rest of the world in winter.

But, over recent years, Siberia has been experiencing earlier and earlier thaws as average temperatures for the region jumped by about .4 degrees Celsius each decade. As the land’s permafrost began to draw back, it unlocked billions of tons of a peat-like under-layer. Organic material sequestered over hundreds of thousands of years of freezing conditions.

In moist areas, this carbon-rich layer produced methane gas as it thawed. In dry areas, its moisture steadily leeched out, creating a zone of highly combustible material beneath Siberia’s grasslands and forests.

By the mid-2000s enough of these flammable zones had been liberated to result in an increasingly severe fire hazard for much of Russian Siberia. At that time, a series of rather dangerous and intense fire seasons began to set up from late May to early June. Seasons that raged throughout summer and, in some years, produced clouds of smoke that blanketed large sections of the Northern Hemisphere.

2014 Fire Season Starts Far Too Soon

This year, the situation is markedly worse. A persistent high amplitude ridge in the Jet Stream has funneled heat up from China and Central Asia on into Siberia all throughout late winter and into early spring. The result was summer-like temperatures for a large section of Siberia during late March and into early April. This abnormal warmth set off an early thaw for large sections of Siberia and with that thaw has come an intense, far too soon, ignition to fire season.

To the west, Russia may well be embroiled by the conflict in the Ukraine. But the real battle is likely to be with heat and fire. And it is a battle already joined a month and a half earlier than expected. For by April 1, more than 2,000 hectares had erupted into wildfires. By April 9, more than 61 fires and 18,300 hectares were involved before firefighters contained them.

The blazes by April 15 had re-emerged in more violent form on the outer edges of Siberia — in the southern Yakutia region of Russia and in the Amur region, which experienced both epic floods and fires last year. The massive burn scars in these zones and huge plumes of smoke are now plainly visible in MODIS satellite imagery below.

Large burn scars Amur

(Large fires and burn scars in the Amur region of Russia on April 15 of 2014. In the above NASA satellite shot, we can see burn scars ranging from 5-15 miles in length just north and east of the Amur River. Image source: LANCE MODIS.)

These various fires are now quite extensive, a single region featuring burn zones that likely cover an area more widespread than all the fires of a week before. The blackened scar of the largest fire here appears to blanket a zone of about 55 square miles, a region the size of a large city, or a single fire that alone burned through another 14,000 hectares. Visible estimates of the size of fires in the region depicted above are around 20,000 hectares, enough to more than double the area burned last week, bringing the incomplete total to around 38,000 hectares.

Russian reports, so far, haven’t confirmed the extent of these blazes, but when combined with totals from last week’s outbreak, they appear to be about twice as widespread as fires during the early and epic season of 2012 which, by April 15 had seen about 19,000 hectares burn.

As of early April, the blazes were enough to have drawn the emergency response of a small army of fire fighters. And by April 9, about 500 firefighters, scores of vehicles and multiple aircraft were engaged. But this early firefighting force is likely to seem small compared to the numbers that will be needed to combat infernos as the already anomalously warm and dry season continues to progress.


March 2014 Third Hottest on Record as Siberian Heatwave Spurs Fire Season to Early Start

In Siberia, Forest Fires Come Early This Year

Siberia Experiencing Mid Summer Temperatures and Wildfires in April

Voice of Russia: 15,000 Hectares of Wildfires Contained by April 9

TASS: 19,000 Hectares Burning in Russia on April 15

Smoke From Massive Siberian Fires Seen in Canada



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  1. Reblogged this on abraveheart1.

  2. Gerald Spezio

     /  April 16, 2014

    If 50 thousand acres are burning now, we can expect hell fires in Siberia by August/September.

    • james cole

       /  April 16, 2014

      My thoughts exactly. When do localized fires become become firestorms. A point is reached, given the right weather and fire size, when fires grow big enough to create their own localized weather and winds that favor more intense and fast moving fires. I have only seen one firestorm in my life, on a single day in a week long forest fire, the winds and humidity combined for the perfect storm. In hours a wall of flames screamed across the lakes and rivers and roared into Ontario, it was epic to witness. I imagine this type of thing in Siberia, and I have seen Siberia, it makes my blood run cold. Forests that should be carbon sinks will turn into just another source. Not what we need by any measure.

  3. Andy

     /  April 16, 2014

    Another item of note here is low precipitation in the northern areas.

    I lived in the North West Territories ~30 yrs ago. You do not get rain worth much. In reality it is a form of a desert. Where I lived the annual precipitation is 38 centimeters/year. The bulk of that is in the form of light snow (more like frozen moisture in the air, not snow like we see down south).

    That accumulates gradually (in the case of Hay River NWT, ~130 cm which breaks down to not much water). In the spring, it gradually melts and seeps into the ground. In April / May you should still have snow on the ground releasing moisture slowly.

    Now the spring is earlier, and shorter. The snow melts quicker and can run off instead of soaking into the ground. Higher temperatures can evaporate it as well. It gets up to 20+C normally in July.

    Annual Rainfall is ~18 cm. <== that is not a typo.

    It is a desert with cold winters. The cold winter and gradual spring are what keeps it from drying out and burning up.

    In Hay River, this Saturday the High Temp will be 7C. The normal temp should be -3.5C. The issue is the early melt, it will be above freezing, all week. There is only 21cm of snow left on the ground.

    The gradual melt, with absorption in the ground becomes jeopardized resulting in a fire hazard, and it compromises the permafrost.

    In Siberia their precipitation was rain when it occurred in December. They didn't get that snow layer like they should. The rivers did not freeze up like they should (thus drying out the ground further).

    For those who like numbers, here's some handy data from Canada.

    • Extraordinary. Has anyone written an interpretation of this data?

      • Andy

         /  April 16, 2014

        I do not believe so. I think they have spotty readings and data going back to the mid/late 1800’s on there. Perhaps enough to plot a graph or 2.

        • I’m thinking someone could make a good scientific report out of it. Has to be some of the more extensive Arctic readings about.

    • And as for Hay River, how much snow is usually on the ground this time of year?

      Public MODIS Satellite records aren’t too far back. But the snow line in both Siberia and in western Canada are further north than this time in 2012 or 2013, as indicated there.

      • Andy

         /  April 16, 2014

        It varies, as one sees 1.3 meters generally for the winter. You should have 1/2 meter to 3/4 meters, but still under the freezing point with some sunshine causing a slow melt. It’s not a huge difference, but when it is all you will have for months it means a lot.

        I think the major point is the change in hydrology. Just a few degrees gets the air temp above melt. The slow melt speeds up and what water should have seeped into the ground runs off.

        They are pretty much done with accumulating precipitation until Fall.

        Another issue up there is that the run off hits Great Slave Lake / Mackenzie River early. The ice will break up early. The River is very shallow normally (tons of shipping on it, I worked the boats up there in the summer).

        The river systems up there operate differently in that they depend on the ground releasing water more than rain to feed the flow through the summer.

        I was there in 1981 when a monstrous forest fire hit south of Hay River. What slowed it down was running up against Hay River. The moisture in the ground kept it from exploding further. Dry it up, and you have a tremendous load of fuel. Reduce the rivers and your natural fire beaks are not as effective.

        • We have a high amplitude ridge building over the region according to GFS. I’m seeing 40F temp potentials along the Arctic Coast of Alaska and near the Mackenzie Delta at peak. The event is predicted for Thursday through Monday. This pattern appears to generally strengthen going into May.

  4. Robert, I hate to break this to you, but the TASS article you refer to is from 2012, and was posted on The Voice of Russia website. See below::

    15 April 2012, 10:13

    19,000 hectares of forest ablaze in Siberia

    About 70 wildfires have been registered in Siberia with a total 19,000 hectares of forest ablaze. So far only one-third of them have been localized. More than 2,000 men and hundreds of pieces of machinery are involved in the fire-fighting effort.
    Read more:



      • Working on this now…

        • Been looking at water headlines this morning :

          Brazil’s largest city may ration water this year, utility says
          (Reuters) – Sao Paulo may have to ration water this year if reservoir levels are not replenished, Brazil’s largest water and sewage utility said, an increasing possibility as the southeast region heads into its dry season.

          Worries of a water shortage in the metropolis of some 20 million that will host the soccer World Cup opening match on June 12 have increased amid dry weather this week, and the city’s main source of water, the Cantareira reservoir, was at just 12.7 percent of its capacity as of Wednesday.

          Brace yourself for ‘water-shedding’

          Johannesburg will soon be struggling to maintain a reliable water supply to its more than 4 million residents.

          Water in Tehran may be rationed, governor warns

          TEHRAN – The governor of Tehran announced on Tuesday that if water consumption in Tehran is not reduced by about 20 percent water will be rationed in the metropolis of Tehran.

          Rationing of water causing havoc for factories

          PETALING JAYA: The water rationing exercise where consumers receive water for two days followed by two days without water is causing havoc among factory operators.

          “When the factory operators receive water, the water pressure is often too low and dirty,” said Selangor MCA deputy chairman Datuk Donald Lim yesterday.

          Prices soar as drought stifles hay production

          The anticipated shortage already has hay prices pushing higher. Supreme alfalfa costs as much as $340 a ton in the central San Joaquin Valley, up from an average of $240 a ton just last fall, according to USDA hay reports.Hay of all types is in very short supply, said Marsha Campbell Mathews, a UCCE crop advisor in Modesto.”It’s all spoken for and you just can’t find it,” she said.

      • Actually, it’s worse than April of 2012. (Update above)

        By April 15 of that year about 19,000 ha were involved. By last week, we’d seen over 18,000 ha burned. Analysis of the MODIS shot for the Amur region on April 15 alone adds about 20,000 ha from these large fires. This would bring the total to 38,000 ha but does not include numerous smaller fires that are also burning.

        So the pace of burning is likely double that of 2012.

        The fact check by A4R was helpful both to correct the citation and due to the fact that these additions were discovered upon reanalysis. So thanks to you both.

    • Updated.

      Apparently about 18,000 ha were involved as of last week. The fires I found in the MODIS record on April 15, 2014 add about 20,000 ha to that number. So we are well more involved than in 2012.

  5. A new study in Geophysical Research Letters (subs. req’d) takes the warming link to the California drought to the next level of understanding. It concludes, “there is a traceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity.”

    The NASA-funded study is behind a pay wall, but the brief news release, offers a simple explanation of what is going on. The research provides “evidence connecting the amplified wind patterns, consisting of a strong high pressure in the West and a deep low pressure in the East [labeled a ‘dipole’], to global warming.” Researchers have “uncovered evidence that can trace the amplification of the dipole to human influences.”

    • It’s great to see this coming out of the research. From the point of view of an observer, the gears turn a bit slowly. But that’s the careful pace of scientific confirmation that is often needed for validation. One that is probably blindly fast from its own perspective considering this winter has just finished!

      So congrats to Wang for more fantastic work!

      To say it in the vernacular:

      “Damn right that immense and ongoing dipole was caused by global warming-based climate anomalies!!”

      And I see they found the dipole was the strongest since observations began…

      Now I need to figure out a way to appropriately frame this somehow…

    • Worth again noting that the dipole anomaly for winter 2013-2014 was the highest on record…

      Highest on record and we have drought in California, cold in the eastern US, and epic storms in the UK. All linked or teleconnected in the scientific parlance.

    • Oh, and this is more confirmation for Dr. Francis. Someone should probably mention that.

  6. RS –
    You’re being more widely read :
    According to environmental blogger Robertscribbler, citing NOAA’s climate prediction center, “We are observing an extraordinarily powerful Kelvin Wave, one that was likely intensified by factors related to human global warming, traveling across the Pacific. It appears to be an epic event in the making. One that may be hotter and stronger than even the record-shattering 1997-98 El Nino. What this means is that we may well be staring down the throat of a global warming riled monster.”

    • I’m a bit torn over this issue. If the wave emerges this year, it will be a very rough El Nino. But if the wave waits, Pacific Ocean heat builds and what emerges a year or two or three later is even worse.

      Forecasts now are showing a much higher likelihood of El Nino and the NOAA observation last Thursday confirmed that the January Kelvin Wave anomaly was the strongest on record.

      • Mark from New England

         /  April 16, 2014

        How long does it *usually* take for a Kelvin wave to fully emerge and shed most of its heat into the atmosphere? Does it need to hit shallower waters offshore of Peru / Chile to do so?

        • The process can take many months. It generally depends on upper level wind patterns. At the earliest, we’ll see El Nino by May. Most likely, if the current wave does emerge, it will be by or before this coming December.

          NOAA now shows a 50% chance of El Nino by this summer, 66% by end of November. BOM Australia puts those numbers at closer to 70%. And we have trade wind reversals and slowing at the moment which continue to facilitate this progression.

          High likelihood. But we shall have to keep our eyes peeled for this one.

  7. Drought Regions Show High Levels of ‘Water Stress’

    The World Resources Institute warns of economic, social and political consequences.

  8. Documenting the Disappearing Rio Grande

    From its headwaters amidst towering Colorado peaks to its mouth in a small delta along the Gulf of Mexico, the Rio Grande flows 1,896 miles — a ribbon of life-giving water through a parched land.

    And it is disappearing.

    As environmental journalist and adventurer Colin McDonald tells it:

    For more than 3,000 years it has supported civilizations and been the lifeblood of the valleys it passes through. Now cities and farms are sucking the ancient river dry, it is evaporating ever faster and being hidden by a growing border wall.
    Colin has spent the last eight months as a Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism, a program that I direct at the University of Colorado, preparing to head down the river to document the disappearing Rio Grande. In June, he will launch a seven-month journey along the river’s entire course — by kayak, canoe and foot.

    In partnership with The Texas Tribune, Colin intends to tell the story of the river in real time, “with photos, videos, blog posts and written stories uploaded from the banks of the river via satellite. The content will be free and available for anyone to see and share online.”

    It is an incredibly valuable project — and ambitious as well, requiring some investment up front to pay for equipment, evacuation insurance, a photographer to help document the journey, and other expenses. Colin has begun a Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary funds, and he’s off to a terrific start, with enough funding so far for the purchase of a bare minimum amount of equipment.


  9. Drought and fire in the Amazon lead to sharp increases in forest tree mortality

    UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ongoing deforestation and fragmentation of forests in the Amazon help create tinderbox conditions for wildfires in remnant forests, contributing to rapid and widespread forest loss during drought years, according to a team of researchers.

    The findings show that forests in the Amazon could reach a “tipping point” when severe droughts coupled with forest fires lead to large-scale loss of trees, making recovery more difficult, said Jennifer Balch, assistant professor of geography, Penn State.

    “We documented one of the highest tree mortality rates witnessed in Amazon forests,” Balch said. “Over the course of our experiment, 60 percent of the trees died with combined drought and repeated fire. Our results suggest that a perfect firestorm, caused by drought conditions and previous fire disturbance, crossed a threshold in forest resistance.”


    “None of the models used to evaluate future Amazon forest health include fire, so most predictions grossly underestimate the amount of tree death and overestimate overall forest health,” Woods Hole researcher Michael Coe told The Independent.

    Read more:

    • You have drying due to deforestation and climate change hampering the Amazon from the periphery and you have these peat fires smoldering all throughout the subsystem. Droughts since 2005 have been extraordinary and we have a potentially strong El Nino on the way.

      It could be a telling blow for the Amazon. I hope not. But things don’t look very promising.

      • Mark from New England

         /  April 16, 2014

        An immense tragedy when you consider the vast number of species that could be lost if the Amazon does collapse as an ecosystem. Hopefully enough remnant refugia patches of rainforest survive to allow some form of tropical forest to continue, but that looks increasingly unlikely in a world poised to warm by 4 C over the coming decades.

        • The forest is teetering now at .8 C warming. We could hit 2 C by 2036 per Mann (under BAU). Rapid collapse within that timeframe may well be possible.

  10. China on red alert for forest fires
    The two provinces have already seen several forest fires in recent days as they have experienced hotter weather and less rainfall, according to the statement.

    Precipitation levels in the two regions have dropped by more than 50 percent compared to historical averages, said the statement.

  11. Alaska has gotten off to its 3rd warmest start to the year and in Barrow it was the 3rd warmest March since records began there in 1921…………….. March was the warmest such on record for Germany and many other locations in Europe. In Germany the March average temperature was 7.0°C (12.6°F) above normal beating out the March’s of 2012 and 1989, the POR going back to 1881. The temperature peaked at 24.1°C (75.4°F) at Sachsenheim on March 20th and the coldest temperature observed in the country during the entire month was a relatively mild -8.6°C (16.5°F) at Oberstdorf on March 26th. Record March heat was observed at many locations across the continent including 19.8°C (67.6°F) in Moscow. For more details on the European March warmth see my blog of March 19th and also on March 12th..

  12. Palm Beach County approves climate change plan

    The county now joins Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties in signing onto the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Action Plan. The plan includes more than 100 recommended ways to spend the next five years getting ready for the prospect of rising seas, stronger storms and worsening flooding threats.

    The next step is for county officials to start factoring in climate change concerns to decisions about everything from where to allow new development to how high to build new bridges.

    The plan, unanimously approved by the County Commission Tuesday, “provides the foundation for providing community resilience … to a changing climate,” said Assistant County Administrator Jon Van Arnam, charged with overseeing the climate change effort.

    • Does the plan involve lobbying Congress to implement meaningful climate change mitigation and response legislation on a national and global scale? Because if it doesn’t all prep will only delay loss of these cities.

  13. Mark from New England

     /  April 16, 2014

    Just found this recently published article – but haven’t read it yet:
    “Probable causes of the abnormal ridge accompanying the 2013-14 California drought:
    2 ENSO precursor and anthropogenic warming footprint”

    • Bob above linked the same paper. This is an excellent contribution, in my view.

      For one it links the amplification of Rossby type wave patterns due to sea ice loss to a kind of atmospheric modulation in the year preceding an El Nino. What they found was that the strong dipole/blocking pattern which caused both the California drought and the various polar vortex collapse events this winter were both set off by atmospheric conditions preceding El Nino and by climate change related polar amplification and loss of sea ice.

      It’s a landmark study, in my opinion. I need to write a piece on it as soon as possible. But right now, the matter of sea ice is somewhat pressing as well.

      • Mark from New England

         /  April 16, 2014


        First, woops – didn’t see that Colorado Bob already linked it – and second, thanks for summarizing the study in a few easy to understand sentences!

    • Dipole anomaly for winter of 2013-14 also shown as most extreme in the record…

    • In any case, cheers for the back stage pass, Mark.

      If you get a chance, you should definitely read it. It scientifically validates a good deal that I’ve been writing about this winter based on observation and reading of past science (Francis/Wang/Trenberth etc).

      Anyone not sitting up and listening to this segment of the science at this point is flying blind.

      • Mark from New England

         /  April 16, 2014

        Yes, I plan to read it slowly this afternoon. I need to read more of the source material for my own education.

      • From Joe Romm’s thread –
        Nancy Neal · Top Commenter · Duquesne University

        You can ignore the paywall and read the report on one of the authors’ web pages.
        It is absolutely outrageous that this report is behind a pay wall, since ALL the funding and the employers of all the researchers are state or federally funded.
        The research authors are Simon Wang, Lawrence Hipps, Robert R Gillies, and Jin-Ho Yoon, from Utah State University in Logan, UT, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, of Richland, Washington.

        Checking out the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory at Wikipedia:

        Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is one of the United States Department of Energy National Laboratories, managed by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The main campus of the laboratory is in Richland, Washington. The study is further designated as “funded by NASA”.

      • 2 other examples come to mind , the extreme heat on the China coast into Japan last summer, and the Amur floods, and the 2010 Russian heat wave , and the great Indus River floods. All three were long lived events

        The highs are getting thicker & slower , and the lows are getting deeper & growing bigger muscles.

      • Mark from New England

         /  April 16, 2014


        I just read the pre-publication paper carefully, and want to clarify a few terms with you in order to make sure I understand this terminology going forward. Some of these may be ‘simple’ questions:

        Could “anomalous high-amplitude ridge system” also mean ‘persistent area of high pressure’? (the western pole of the dipole)

        By “synoptic disturbances” do they mean ‘storms’?

        The deepened trough / eastern pole of the dipole would be a persistent area of low pressure, correct?

        I’m still not 100% clear on what the ‘NDJ’ is (geopotential height anomaly at 250 hPA), but otherwise I understand the gist of the article, despite not being familiar with the various model terms. Thanks in advance for explaining to this layman!

        • The western side of the dipole is what I’ve been calling ‘the blocking pattern.’ That’s the persistent high pressure that’s prevented moisture from reaching California and the US southwest. So, yes, anomalous high amplitude ridge = big, tall high pressure system.

          At issue here is the fact that we have a very large south to north wave pattern in the Jet Stream and under that wave (also called a ridge) high pressure tends to form. So all these things are related.

          So the Pacific high pressure, ridge, high amplitude south to north Jet Stream wave pattern and warm, dry weather all represent features of the western side of the dipole.

          Now just imagine this ridge to also be the upthrust of a large wave pattern. What do you get in front of the wave? A negative wave or a trough. That’s what’s been flowing into the Eastern US all winter long. As the ridge pulled tropical air all the way north into the Gulf of Alaska, the front side trough sucked Arctic air south and over Hudson Bay, Eastern Canada and the US. Upslope = ridge. Downslope = trough.

          Now the eastern US was colder and stormier because troughs tend to be a trap for storms and low pressure systems in the same way that ridges are a trap for high pressure systems. And here we have the eastern side of the dipole which was the very cold, very stormy extreme.

          Now synoptic disturbances are modulations in upper air flows that tend to run in large scale. And these tend to form training storms or very large highs. So, yes, you’re right in that you can correlate synoptic disturbance with ‘storms’ because that’s typically the case with large scale storm patterns associated with Rossby Waves. Of course, you could probably ask anyone in the UK what synoptic disturbance meant after the most recent spate of extraordinarily severe weather this winter. Because they were hit with a barrage of very intense storms associated with a large-scale synoptic pattern as a result of how the record dipole transferred energy.

          I’ve gotten into the weeds a bit. But I think this should help with your understanding of the matter?

          Best to you!

          (updated to clarify ‘synoptic’)

      • Mark from New England

         /  April 16, 2014


        Thanks for the analogies and reply to my questions from the paper. It does help me to visualize what’s going on.

        • Just one more clarification on synoptic scale systems. These issues are often large-scale in scope, stretching for about a thousand miles or more and are generally in association with large atmospheric waves or Rossby wave patterns.

          It’s not necessarily true that they involve storms as mentioned above. You can have a strong synoptic scale high pressure system for example. The primary definition is that it includes a weather system stretching horizontally for 1,000 kilometers or more.

          The synoptic storm trough aimed at the UK, for example, was one such system. But the blocking high, itself was a synoptic scale system. The issue here is large form disturbances that emerge from the wave pattern.

  14. ENSENADA — On the days her taps run dry, Minerva Altamirano makes do with a collection of buckets and pots filled with water. Others on her quiet block of well-tended row houses have installed tinacos, rooftop water tanks, or dip into 50-gallon bins, known as tambos.

    Here in the sprawling hillside development of Villas del Prado and across Ensenada, residents have been learning to live with rationed water, as the port city of 400,000 residents confronts an unprecedented shortage.

    Something to remember , when rationing water starts , the days when one does get water , there is very little pressure , and the quality drops off just like the pressure.

  15. A World of Water Woes

    From the Middle East to the Caribbean to Australia, people around the world are dealing with water scarcity

    It’s easy to look at a portrait of Earth and think of our home as a water planet. After all, 75 percent of the surface is covered with water. But the thin skin of liquid that surrounds our rocky home is misleading—if you took all the water on the planet and bunched it into a ball, that ball would be less than half the diameter of the Moon. That’s not a huge amount of water.

    Plus, the proportion of water that humans can use for daily use is actually pretty small. Most of the world’s water is saltwater in the oceans. Only about three percent of the water is fresh. Half of that is locked in glaciers, the polar ice caps and snow.

    Almost all of the rest flows through the world’s lakes, streams, rivers, soils and groundwater. A tiny percentage is water vapor in the atmosphere, driving our weather and climate. That doesn’t leave much for the 7 billion people on the planet, and even less for some populations because all that water isn’t evenly distributed.


  16. An Unconventional Desalination Technology Could Solve California’s Water Shortage

    The first test

    The Panoche Water District in Central Valley is home to the first demonstration plant, a 6,500-square foot system that is capable of producing around 10 gallons of freshwater a minute, or roughly 14,000 of freshwater each day.

    When the demonstration plant is operating in commercial mode, running 24 hours a day, it can put out 25 to 30 gallons of freshwater a minute, says Mandell.

    The pilot project, funded by the California Department of Water Resources, will hopefully prove that the WaterFX system is more reliable (it doesn’t depend on the Sierra snowpack) and affordable than other freshwater sources.

    The water that’s being treated by the pilot plant streams in from a canal that collects salty drainage water from around 200 farms in the area and brings it to a single location. In the pilot phase, the clean water that’s produced is blended back in with the drainage water, but a commercial plant would send the water back to farmers through a series of canals that are already in place.

    Read more:Link

  17. California Drought/Polar Vortex Jet Stream Pattern Linked to Global Warming

    By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:56 PM GMT on April 16, 2014

    • A new study published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, led by Utah State scientist S.-Y. Simon Wang, found that this jet stream pattern was the most extreme on record, and likely could not have grown so extreme without the influence of human-caused global warming. The study concluded, “there is a traceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity.”

    • I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, I should ask for a hat tip in this paper 😉

      • You came out, and called it. This El Nino is gonna kick our ass.

        • I’m being a bit facetious. The scientists have provided ample material to work with. But I think we’ve all put in a good effort making weather/climate observations that validate that work. We’re like the climate version of the guys that sit in fire towers — looking for smoke. And I think it’s a worthwhile service.

          But yeah, if the El Niño is as strong as it looks at this point and with all the related Jet Stream and hydrological changes in tow, it looks like we are really going to take one on the chin.

          Did you notice the report stating a strong El Niño could reduce world GDP by 5 percent? I’m not sure how many of the climate related factors they’ve added.

      • a bit facetious ?
        That travels about 3 feet around the internet.
        Great explanation about why the jet stream is taking pills.

        It’s not just the loops , it’s how long we’ve been watching them. And how deep they are becoming, and how slow the procession is becoming.

        • It’s fascinating to look at, if rather scary at times. I think the synoptics seem to act like anchor points in the same manner the old north-south dipole acted to generate the Jet in the first place. With the new east-west dipole, you end up with a fast moving upper level wind pattern on the front face of the trough and on the back side of a blocking high (Pacific and Atlantic this year). And not only do these help to anchor the trough and keep it from moving, but they are major storm generators. You could also see them as the back-side edge to the blocking highs. But this is the breaking edge of the wave pattern that seems to be a new anchor and vicious danger zone when it comes to storms.

          I would use a surfer analogy and call it a break zone, but I don’t know if it’s entirely appropriate in atmospheric terms.

          Yeah. I think my sense of somewhat warped humor is a bit lost now and then. I tend to go back and edit after I realize I might have lost people.

  18. Phil S

     /  April 16, 2014

    Hi Robert,
    Can’t say how much I value your blog and the comments and insights of your readers.
    Just want to mention I find your use of the term hectacres confusing. After checking your sources I realize you mean hectares.
    It’s incredible how the Sydney bushfires last (southern) spring made world headlines yet the Siberian fires go unreported.
    For anyone interested in the droughts in eastern Oz, here in SE Queensland, after record low rainfall in Feb, followed by drought declaration in March, my rainfall gauge clocked 327mm in 3 days and then last week we got another 150mm in 48 hours. I think the term whiplash weather is going to become a lot more common.
    Keep up the great work.

    • Got it Phil. Thanks for the feedback.

    • One and a half feet in 10 days? Looks like you might have had some upslope effect off of Ita? I’m afraid we might see something similar in California if we end up with a strong El Nino this year.

    • Phil S –
      The day before “Black Saturday” north of Melbourne, The fruit bats were dropping dead from the trees, because it was 117F degrees . The heat wave that came before was nearly 10 days long. With winds at 35 MPH gusting to 50 MPH , and around 113F degrees. everyday.

      Then the fires really got burning.

      • Seems every few years Australia breaks another record for hottest summer. They’re sitting in between two very large warming pools of ocean one in the Pacific the other in the Indian Ocean. It’s spot where a big patch of land can soak up a ton of heat.

  19. Andy (in San Diego)

     /  April 17, 2014

    The ugly step sister of a drought and overuse. Aquifer depletion. When the population exceeds water supply, mine water. We’ve been in this mode for a long time, but the endgame is approaching rapidly all over the world. This is a social disaster that has been in the making for decades, and now it is hitting. With scrambled rainfall and droughts, we are in overdrive slurping out aquifers. But they are running out, then what?

    Pipes break, canals stop working and leak (flow wrong way), sewer lines break, buildings tilt, salt water creeps in….the list goes on.

    The ugly step sister of a drought, we are raiding the water piggy bank. Hard an faster than anyone imagined.

    West/Central Kansas has ~4 yrs of water left for agriculture. NW Kansas has ~11 yrs.

    Ogallala Aquifer in Texas Panhandle Suffers Big Drop

    Ogallala overall under stress

    California, massive areas sinking due to pumping out water
    (1200 sq miles sinking @ ~12 inches / year)

    And it’s speeding up.

    And there are no controls, it’s a race to suck the water out now

    All over the planet, a driver of destruction is aquifer subsidence

    Northern China

    Over 50 cities in China are sinking due to this, Shanghai is suffering from salt water creeping into their aquifer, as well as sinking

    And of course the poster child, Mexico City

    • Yeah. Depleting fossil water and draining aquifers faster than they can recharge is kicking into higher gear due to increasing weather extremes. I’m seeing a lot of talk about desalination these days…

      • Andy (in San Diego)

         /  April 17, 2014

        Desalination takes energy (gas fired plants), economic viability (profitability = expensive water) and time to construct.

        They put the plants near population centers (good decision), however the power comes from remote power plants cooled by…water! We’ve seen nuke, coal & gas plants having issues with low & hots rivers for cooling the past few years.

        I think the big danger is the aquifers used for agriculture (ie: Kansas, SE Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas). No ocean, no desalination in these areas.

        If one looks at central California, there is no amount of desalination we can build that can water450+ miles of agriculture.

        • Desalination run by nat gas is a losing proposition from the sustainability standpoint. You run them on renewables or you’re just making the larger problem worse.

          I’m seeing huge gains for renewables still ongoing. This gives me a bit of hope. But renewables need to start eating traditional power’s lunch very soon…

        • I think something like around 90% of water usage in NM is agricultural. There is some underground brine and there has been talk at times of desalinizing that, but it’s hard to imagine using it for agriculture being affordable. That kind of goes for anywhere though. Anyplace you have to mess around with the water a lot to use it is going to mean extremely expensive food. Maybe work for what will become luxury items.

        • Coastal desalination has become more affordable. I haven’t seen figures RE brine. I suppose it would depend on the size of the resource and how easy it was to access.

      • Andy (in San Diego)

         /  April 17, 2014

        We have a desalination plant going in up I-5 in Carlsbad. Not sure what the cost per acre foot will be but the plant is bloody expensive ( someone has to pay for it).

      • Making freshwater from sunshine

        In WaterFX’s system, a solar trough, which looks like a jumbo-sized curved mirror, collects energy from the sun’s rays and transfers that heat to a pipe filled with mineral oil. The mineral oil feeds the heat into a system that evaporates the salty water being treated. Steam is produced, which condenses into pure liquid water. The remaining salt solidifies and can be removed, says Mandell. That salts can be used in other industries as building materials, metals, or fertilizers.

        Read more:

        • There we go. A partial solution at least and one that might help fill the gap if major measures to conserve water are also involved. For desal, may want to think about how to place plants so as to make them less vulnerable to sea level rise.

      • By using sun as the fuel source, WaterFX uses roughly one-fifth of the electricity consumed by traditional desalination plants, according to Mandell. Less electricity means lower operating costs. With conventional desalination, electricity makes up 50-60% of the water costs, says Mandell. A typical desalination plant in San Diego operates at about $900 per acre-foot, while it costs around $450 to produce an acre-foot of water with WaterFX. (An acre-foot is 325,000 gallons, or the amount of water it takes to cover an acre at a depth of one foot).

        Read more:

        • Good to see someone working on the economics. I like solutions focused endeavors and this seems like a good one.

  20. If fire starts materializing around in places like Siberia or Greenland,
    I wonder what will happen in the tropics.

  1. Potential For El Nino Spikes As Record Pacific Ocean Heat Content Continues to Emerge | robertscribbler
  2. Another Week of Climate Disruption News, April 20, 2014 [A Few Things Ill Considered] | Gaia Gazette

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