Human-Caused Climate Change and Desperately Drilling For Water: The Deepening Dust Bowlification of California

There is no relief for poor California.

To the west, a heat dome high pressure system sits its dry and desiccating watch, deflecting storm systems northward toward Canada, Alaska, and, recently, even the Arctic Ocean. It is a weather system that drinks deep of Northwestern Pacific waters heated to 2-4+ C above average by humankind’s extraordinary greenhouse gas overburden. A mountain of dense and far hotter than normal air that is shoving the storm-laden Jet Stream at a right angle away from the US west coast and on up into an Arctic Ocean unprepared for the delivery of such a high intensity heat and moisture flow.

image

(Not one, not two, but three high pressure centers stacking up on June 24, 2014 off the North American West Coast. The highs are indicated by the white, clockwise swirls on this GFS surface graphic. This triple barrel high pressure heat dome represents an impenetrable barrier to storms moving across the Pacific Ocean. You can see one of these storms, represented by the purple, counter-clockwise swirl approaching Alaska and the Aleutians. A second Pacific-originating storm is visible north of Barrow in the Beaufort Sea. Under a typical pattern, these storms would have funneled into the US west coast or skirted the Alaskan Coast before riding into Canada. Storms taking a sharp left turn through Alaska and the Bering Sea into the Arctic is an unprecedented and highly atypical weather pattern. Image source: Earth Nullschool. Data Source: NOAA/GFS.)

In the far north, today, at noon local time, in the Mackenzie Delta region of the extreme northwest section of Canada on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, temperatures rose to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, 2-3 degrees hotter than areas of South Dakota and Iowa hundreds of miles to the south. It is a temperature departure 20-25 degrees F above average for this time of year. Far to the south and east, yesterday saw a garden variety pop up thunderstorm turn into a record-shattering rain event for Savannah Georgia, one that dumped 4-10 inches of rain over the region, over-topped ponds, flooded streets, knocked out power and washed out rail lines. In some sections of the city, hourly rates of rainfall were on the order of 4-5 inches. One might expect such a rainfall rate from the most moisture dense and intense tropical storms or hurricanes. The Savannah event was a summer shower driven into a haywire extreme by a heat-facilitated over-loading of the atmosphere with moisture.

What do the west coast blocking pattern, the California Drought, the Mackenzie Delta Arctic heatwave and the Savannah summer shower turned monster storm have in common? Twelve words: hydrological cycle and jet stream patterns wrecked by human caused atmospheric warming.

Three Year Long Drought Intensifies

Californians, at this time, may well be hoping hard for a mutant summer shower like the one that hit Savannah yesterday. But they won’t be getting it anytime soon. The triple barrel high off the US west coast won’t move or let the rains in until something more powerful comes along to knock it out of the way. And the only hope for such an event might come in the form of a monster El Nino this winter. Then, Californians may beg for the rain to stop. But, for now, they’re digging in their heels to fight the most intense drought in at least a hundred years.

California Drought Map

(This week’s California Drought Map provided by the US Drought Monitor. Orange indicates severe drought, red indicates extreme drought, and that brick color spreading from the coast and into California’s Central Valley is what they call exceptional drought. Not a corner of the state is spared severe or higher drought levels, with fully 77% of the state suffering from extreme or exceptional drought.)

With no rain in sight, with the snows all gone from the Sierra Nevada mountains to the east, and with both federal and state reservoirs under increasingly more stringent water restrictions, what it means for Californians is incessant drilling. So far this year an estimated 450 million dollars has been spent statewide to plunge ever-deeper wells into the state’s rapidly-dwindling underground aquifers. In regions where a 200 foot well was once considered deep, 600, 800 or even 1000 foot wells are now common.

In total, about 75% of California’s lost water supply has been replaced by what essentially amounts to mining ground water. But the drought mitigating flow can only last for so long. And if the rains don’t come, those sources will first dwindle and then dry up. So California’s agriculture and a decent chunk of its other industry may well be living on borrowed time facilitated by unsustainable drilling for water.

Communities local to the Central Valley region are already facing imminent loss of water supplies. Tom Vanhoff a Chowchilla local noted to CBS in a recent interview:

“I’m in a community out there with about 20 homes. We’re on one deep well ourselves and we lost it two years ago. We were at 200 feet and now we are down to 400 but all these new guys are going down to six, 800 and 1000 feet; it’s going to suck us dry here again pretty soon.”

So for Central Valley residents it’s literally a race to the bottom in the form of who can dig the deepest well the fastest.

Above ground, a once lush landscape is now parched and brittle. Most natives, even the octogenarians, have never seen it this dry. More and more, the productive Central Valley is being described as a dust bowl. In this case, Dust-Bowlification, a term Joe Romm of Climate Progress coined to describe the likely desertification of many regions as a result of human-caused warming, is hitting a tragically high gear for California.

Sierra Nevada No Snow

(Sierra Nevada Mountains in right center frame shows near zero snow cover on June 24 of 2014. Typically, California relies on snow melt to stave off water shortages through dry summers. This year, with drought conditions extending into a third year, snow melt had dwindled to a trickle by mid June. Sattelite Imagery provided by NASA LANCE MODIS.)

Global Warming to Raise Food Prices

For years, scientific models had shown that the US Southwest was vulnerable to increased drought under human-caused warming. Scientists warned that increased community resiliency combined with rapid reductions in global carbon emissions would be necessary to preserve the productiveness of regions vital to the nation.

California is one such region. Its economy, even outside the greater US, is the 8th richest in the world. It is also the US’s largest producer of vegetables, most fruits, and nuts. Other major agricultural production for the state includes meat, fish, and dairy.

Though much of the current drought’s impacts have been mitigated through unsustainable drilling for ground water, US meat and produce prices are expected to rise by another 3-6% due to impacts from the ongoing and intensifying California drought. But so far, major impacts due to large-scale reductions in total acres planted have been avoided. Without the drilling, overall repercussions would have been devastating, as planted areas rapidly dwindled in size. But with wells running dry, time appears to be running out.

Links:

California Drought: Snowmelt’s Path Shows Impacts From Sierra to Pacific

California Drought Poised to Drive up Food Prices as It Worsens

California Drought Turning Central Valley into Dust Bowl

All-Time 24 Hour June Precipitation Record Broken in Savannah Georgia

NOAA/GFS

US Drought Monitor

NASA LANCE MODIS/

Earth Nullschool

Dust-Bowlification

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

 

 

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100 Comments

  1. Typo – Sierras are to the East, not West.

    Bloody scary scenario though.

    Reply
  2. Pensacola at the end of April, now Savannah. One of these days Charleston, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Mobile and Néw Orleans are going to get clobbered.

    And a thinderstorm with a wicked lightning show is moving on even as I’m typing this in New Orleans!

    Reply
    • What kills me is that these were yesterday’s summer rain showers with possibly a rumble of thunder and a flash of lightning mixed in. Now they put on a good show pretending to be tropical storms and hurricanes. And, considering the rainfall totals, they do it convincingly.

      Reply
  3. …I meant to say moving in, not moving on. Damn these microscopic iPhone keyboards!

    Reply
    • Oh, they kill me constantly. I’m always having to go back and edit my own comments due to the auto-correct monster combined with fingers that had trouble with traditional telephone key pads.

      Reply
    • I can see you have a decent sized cell off Lake Pontchartrain. Further to the north and west, though, there’s a real mess. Huge storm moving in. Looks like very intense rainfall in that area.

      Reply
      • Yes, the front line of the cell over New Orleans just passed through a few minutes ago. There was another cell over Covington and Mandeville. Gotta get back home before the gnarly cell hits!🙂

        Reply
  4. Jacob

     /  June 24, 2014

    Thanks for yet another excellent article, Robert. The Sacramento valley is home sweet home for me and I’m feeling a little parched. We live in “interesting” times.

    Reply
  5. Bernard

     /  June 24, 2014

    Been following the Cal. situation since last autumn (I’m in Europe) and noticed about a month ago that the comments sections on various sites start to get dominated by calls for desalination plants. Mind is boggled.

    Reply
    • They want to shore up what they have. Desalination is an expensive and energy intensive way to do it. But do you blame them for wanting to keep their civilization?

      Renewables-based desalination may have some promise for certain regions, but they’re going to have to look for a very broad policy to cover what are some very tough water issues. And any new desalination plants will need to take into account the growing issue of sea level rise.

      Reply
      • Apneaman

         /  June 25, 2014

        Trying to maintain their living arrangements is a huge waste of remaining resources. I understand wanting it, but the era of abundance is over and fighting it only makes it worse.

        Here is a new water project that Ugo Bardi worked on.

        Photovoltaic Water
        http://cassandralegacy.blogspot.ca/2014/06/photovoltaic-water.html

        Reply
        • It’s clear the region will be water constrained from this point forward. Moving to new systems like more efficient capture, underground storage and renewable based desalination (and as you note, evaporator production) will help gap fill and ease impacts.

          It’s not an issue of valid warnings being dismissed, but rather an issue of action to mitigate harm and adapt to new realities. In the most extreme cases, it’s well obvious that adaptation is not going to work. However, even with full scale mitigation, we will still need adaptation.

          RE the article, it’s good to see innovation effort going into novel solutions that are small scale and easy to plug in to local needs. And using solar energy excess capacity to evaporate drinking water or water for other uses is what I would call forward-looking.

          As an aside, the World Bank’s report shows a number of promising findings RE renewable desalination as well:

          http://water.worldbank.org/node/84110

          The issue of a high bar for challenges, however, is one that should not be dismissed off-hand.

  6. Griffin

     /  June 24, 2014

    I used to live in Northern California. I think it really changed the way I look at water resources. I was there during the epic winter floods of 1997-98 when the reservoirs were full. Now those same lakes are a shadow of their former selves. This article is very good at communicating some of the lesser known impacts of a low water table. When we deplete the aquifer, the aquifer will never recover to be quite the same. The long term impacts to the economic prosperity of the region are immense.
    http://www.sacbee.com/2014/04/07/6302979/californias-san-joaquin-valley.html

    Reply
    • Colorado Bob

       /  June 25, 2014

      G –
      I read a report a few weeks back , that said some places around Fresno have sunk 20 feet in the last 40 years.

      Reply
  7. Gerald Spezio

     /  June 24, 2014

    Robert, your words are ominously predictive.
    This mud horror could very well happen, just as you say.

    “Californians, at this time, may well be hoping hard for a mutant summer shower like the one that hit Savannah yesterday. But they won’t be getting it anytime soon. The triple barrel high off the US west coast won’t move or let the rains in until something more powerful comes along to knock it out of the way. And the only hope for such an event might come in the form of a monster El Nino this winter. Then, Californians may beg for the rain to stop. But, for now, they’re digging in their heels to fight the most intense drought in at least a hundred years.”

    What an ugly mess!

    Reply
  8. Note from Southern Cali Here: There will be no deluge, no saving storm. We may see rain this winter (runs late Dec to Feb/Early March normally), that is without the blocking highs.

    I am curious to see if we do see an El Nino how the rain trough will react to this new phenomenon (the blocking highs). We didn’t have that in the past, and received rain (in abundance at times). But these are new anomalies, and they may steer storms elsewhere as they did this past winter. This past winter we had some pretty good storms, pretty strong ones simply getting shoved up north. An El Nino may not provide the relief that is expected, or it may. This has become an unknown due to this rather large new variable.

    This past weekend folks I knew were in Vegas, 114F at night. It normally sits at 105F at night in August ( I lived there 7 yrs, until 2 yrs ago). In 24 months they didn’t add that much concrete to cause that kind of departure in the form of heat island.

    My guesstimates for Greenland Melt are doing quite poorly so far…. ( 1 out of 4 so far) … glad I am not a gambler!

    My guess is the range, observed is in parentheses.

    20th 20-25%. (28%)

    21st 20-25%. (22%) <== only correct one

    22nd 20-25%. (19%)

    23rd 30-40% (22%)

    24th 35-40%

    25th 45 – 55%

    26th 45-55%

    27th 30-35%

    28th 25-30%

    29th 20-30%

    Reply
    • The Weather Channel data for Las Vegas this past weekend note highs 106-107, lows around 80.

      Reply
    • Predicting melt is hard. Predicting weather is easy😉

      If there is a strong El Niño, that blocking pattern will probably collapse in the face of a very strong storm track. The moisture squeezed out would be enormous. Think of all that atmospheric moisture loading over that period. No strong El Niño and there’s very little to stop the pattern keeping those blocking highs in place.

      Reply
      • Griffin

         /  June 25, 2014

        ARk (Atmospheric River 1-1000 yr) storm! It is known to be a plausible scenario for California, but certainly no happy way to end a drought. The most fascinating thing to me is that we simply don’t know. We are truly in uncharted territory. We can read and learn of events of the past, but they really have little to say about our future given that the events of the past took place within a different set of atmospheric circumstances. Without a well-functioning jet stream, and with sky high ocean temps, what is one to do but sit back and keep clicking on the blog to see what incredible things Robert can bring to light on a given day! Speculation keeps the time moving but Nature holds the cards in regards to her surprises.

        Reply
        • I lived near the coast in Los Angeles until 20 years ago, and one of the things that bothered me most was how difficult it would be to evacuate the place, since it takes hours to drive out of the urban area and surrounding urban areas even without a disaster. A couple feet of rain over the course of a few days and your best bet is going to be to get out of the way until it’s over…all umpteen million of you..

      • Along with hot weather on land, and the shrinking reservoirs, I wonder how much the water evaporation adds to an already super-moist atmosphere. Many billions of cubits of H2O did evaporate. (Yes, cubits… or whatever volume comes to mind.)🙂
        I think also of the plant leaf, foliage etc, that perspires much of its moisture in the severe heat.
        Adios

        Reply
  9. Paul from NSW

     /  June 25, 2014

    I believe there is a way to fix this mess. Not in time for huge distress, but maybe in time to avert extinction. I would like a scientific opinion on the following please
    http://preppingforexile.blogspot.com.au/2014/06/to-fix-it.html
    Be gentle, it’s simply an idea.

    Reply
    • Generally, most geo-engineering notions fail to physically function as intended or worse, result in serious negative consequences not originally considered.

      My overall opinion is that if large amounts of capital are to be expended, then it is better invested in alternative energy systems, means to eliminate carbon emissions, land use practices that promote biosphere carbon capture and atmospheric capture by other means. Since the technologies and methods are available now, it’s a matter of summoning the political will of multiple nations to act positively in concert. In addition to the other hurdles mentioned above, which are by themselves severely limiting, geo-engineering would require multinational cooperation as well as the development of new tech not already available.

      Reply
      • Paul from NSW

         /  June 25, 2014

        True, I agree totally. Everything you said should be done now.
        Though, I am pessimistic that that will happen. We have all read about the horse wrangling that has gone on in the IPCC, the silencing of scientists, the lack of political will, the misinformed democratic public and the aggressive, well funded oil and gas faction. It is left me of the opinion that the changes required will not occur in time to mitigate the methane effects in the Arctic. If we have reached the tipping point, then the positive feedbacks would well and truly overwhelm whatever changes we make by the time the international will was found.
        I guess I should have made it clearer that I consider this to be a line of last defense, and I would dearly hope that it would never be required. That said if it were needed I would like to know that it had been very carefully thought through, and that is why I have posted it now.
        This would be a solution that would require no new technologies, just the slowing down of water flows.

        Reply
        • It’s a good notion, in my view, to start developing a climate emergency protocol to include a number of last-ditch options should the worst come to pass. It would be helpful to assemble a group or think tank to explore, discuss, and select potential actions.

          I’ m somewhat reticent due to the fact that fossil fuel promoters tend to jump on radical geo engineering schemes as viable solutions and a blanket reason for continued emissions.

        • Paul from NSW

           /  June 25, 2014

          That’s an interesting notion. I would hate to think that the very people who are profiting from this mess would then continue business as usual. I do hope that by the time we have to resort to something like this there have been structural reforms such that we could collectively limp forward at least more enlightened from the experience.

        • Looking at history, it seems rather clear to me that we are very slow learners. It would help if the most successful among us were not so selfish.

      • Iron filings accelerate ocean anoxia and dead zone formation, getting us to stratified/Canfield ocean states faster. Stratospheric sulfate injection trades temporary cooling for long term loss of ozone. Blasting a 1,000 foot deep trench through Panama with nukes? What could possibly go wrong with that? Blotting out the sun with Mylar in space…

        It’s like chemotherapy for global warming. What kills the patient faster? Disease or so-called cures?

        Clearly we can come up with better solutions than these.

        And you wonder why I keep pushing rapid mitigation as a best and likely only option?

        Reply
  10. Colorado Bob

     /  June 25, 2014

    OTTAWA—Canadians can expect more floods, storms and other damaging extreme weather events as global warming inevitably gets worse, says a federal government report that also says governments are lagging in efforts to adapt to this climate change shift…………………………… The report, “Canada in a Changing Climate,” is an update of a 2008 examination of Canada’s efforts to recognize and cope with global warming.
    “Over the last six decades, Canada has become warmer, with average temperatures over land increasing by 1.5 degrees Celsius between 1950 and 2010,” it says.
    The rate of warming in Canada is double the global average, the study says.
    “Further changes in climate are inevitable,” the study says. “On average, warmer temperatures and more rainfall are expected for the country as a whole, with increases in extreme heat and heavy rainfall events, and declines in snow and ice cover. Sea levels along many of our coastlines will continue to rise, and warmer waters and ocean acidification are expected to become increasingly evident in most Canadian ocean waters over the next century.”

    Link

    Reply
    • Phil

       /  June 25, 2014

      Surprised the current Government in Canada let that report see the light of day. Would be interesting to see how the media there reacts. Is it controlled by the usual far right denier camp that largely own the media in Australia and the UK? Would not surprise me if the Government attempted to shut down the agency responsible for that report – was it a state or federal Government report?

      Reply
      • The report was put out by Natural Resources Canada, an energy and environment wing of the Canadian government. They produce a broad range of research on various topics including energy and the environment. It’s pretty clear this paper is not in line with the thinking of the current ruling party, to say the least.

        Reply
    • Acidification is most intense in the polar zones, then spreads southward. Canadian waters are in for quite a shock.

      The Arctic Ocean shores are among the most vulnerable to sea level rise and erosion. Canadian coasts are in for quite a retreat.

      With Greenland’s melting ice sheets so close, Canadian weather is bound to be extraordinarily extreme. Not to mention the far-reaching glacial outburst flood vulnerability.

      Canada would do far better without a government that continues to promote the wide scale burning of fossil fuels. Such activity radically worsens the forecast for Canada.

      Reply
    • Phil

       /  June 25, 2014

      I had a quick look at the link. It seems the Canadian Government has the same illusions of grandeur that the current Federal Government of Australia has – pays (mild) lip service to the notion of climate change and reducing emissions while probably implementing policies that do the opposite and also trying to stall global actions as well.

      I am not a legal expert but I wish/hope that these characters, their financial backers and think tanks are open to legal redress in the future for their actions now.

      Reply
      • I think the time to start pursuing legal redress is now.

        Reply
      • Phil

         /  June 25, 2014

        There is some action (not legal) beginning to emerge in relation to international banks financing cola related projects – a number have pulled out of a large project to build port facilities to ship coal to India in Queensland. Also, some analysts have also now called into question the viability of the coal projects underpinning the proposed port developments.

        In some press I have seen, speculation is that some of the major banks in Australia might like to divest at least some of their fossil fuel interests/exposures but at this stage do not want to upset the current convervative Governments in control of some states as well as federally.

        Apart from the major fossil fuel and their lobbyists, the rest of the business sectors has been very quiet. It is not as though they can travel to the moon and set up shop there if things go as the scientists say.

        Is there any news on how James Hansen’s court case went – I think he and other bought this forward on behalf of children and future generations who do not have a voice currently but stand to be very adversely affected by lack of action on adressing climate change?

        Reply
        • It’s good to see the world bank pulling out of coal projects. I wonder if other businesses could form a coalition powerful enough to counter fossil fuel interests in Australia? The insurance industry has had some limited success here.

          As for the children’s lawsuit for a survivable atmosphere, you can find updates here :

          http://ourchildrenstrust.org/US/Federal-Lawsuit

          They lost the recent court of appeals case. I suppose they’re bringing it to the next highest court in due order.

      • Phil

         /  June 25, 2014

        The fossil fuel lobby is very powerful because of the revenue they provide in royalties to the State Governments and also because many coal fired generation plants have been owned by State governments can also provide revenue as well.

        In addition, for conservatives of the neo-liberal variety, of course, renewables are also a part of the nasty ‘socialist’ conspiracy to cut incomes, wealth and ability to exploitation of precious fossil fuels.

        The fossil fuel indiustry has also been very good donars to the major political parties and especially to the conservatives.

        The other industry groups do not have this clout and the main business lobby’s also seem to push the interests of fossil fuel companies more than interests of other groups. For example, many companies have raised concerns about the marked increase in domestic gas prices – unlike USA, the Governments here in Australia have done nothing to keep a cap on domestic gas prices. Alot of businesses who use gas might go bankrupt if domestic gas prices rise to equal the international traded price. However, Government have done little to protect these businesses – some estimates say in excess of 100 000 jobs could be at risk in manufacturing alone. I am not sure whether this lack of action is because they do not care, or do not believe the impact that might emerge.

        Reply
        • Very interesting insights. Many of the driving forces in the US are the same, although lately the low price of solar and wind — competitive to NWT gas and even coal in many places — has recently created quite a ripple.

          The royalties arrangement does create quite a bit of inertia. Long term, though, and as solar and wind prices continue to fall, more opportunities for government revenue open up. Of course, the carbon tax is a bit of a windfall, though dwindling over time, depending on how it’s implemented.

          Depletion will continue to put pressure on gas prices. Fracking in some regions provides a temporary but non-lasting reprieve at the cost, very severe now, of much longer term emissions. My bet is that Australia is very competitive on the solar front due to its location near the equator and vast expanses of typically dry regions.

          It’s not surprising that the internationally focused conservative/neo lib interests now dominating in Australia care very little for jobs. Their eyes are fixed on driving wages down worldwide in order to maximize profits. That push, throughout the so-called developed world, is practically unchanged regardless of nation. At some point, you’d think the governing bodies would grow wise to it as they’re all slowly losing their lunches as the countries are essentially hollowed out.

          Any chance of a regime change next election? The current doesn’t seem very popular.

    • Apneaman

       /  June 25, 2014

      I live in Vancouver and I can tell you it does not matter if there is regime change. When you hear that Canadians want action on climate change it means they want someone to “fix” things. Most do not want to give anything up. I took my mom to Home Depot last weekend. It was packed. A orgy of consumerism. This is their priority. Status seeking via materialism. Dopamine hits via shopping. This is why I have no hope for our tragic species.

      Reply
      • Policy can directly impact consumption and it absolutely matters who’s in office. In the US, we’d be far worse off with a republican in office. No new CAFE standards, no EPA regs, no repeated push for renewables supports. The Keystone Pipeline would have been approved by now. Coal plants wouldn’t be prepping to shut down.

        Yes, there’s been a lot of delay and backsliding as well. But the full bore rush to Armaggedon stopped when the conservative presence in government dwindled.

        It’s the same for Canada as anywhere else.

        As for consumerism, there’s a number of destructive kinds, but consumption of apathy and non-action is among the worst.

        Reply
  11. Colorado Bob

     /  June 25, 2014

    Archaeologists have asked hikers to help them in recovering potential ancient remains and artifacts as the ice on the Swiss Alps starts and continues to melt. The archaeologists stressed that time is running out to recover these artifacts.
    According to Delhi Daily News, “The project is being headed by a Swiss cultural institute. The hikers moving towards the eastern mountains of the European country has been asked by the institute to search for ancient artifacts and return with them if they find any in the melting ice of the Swiss National Park.”

    “There have been extremely warm summers in the last 10 to 20 years, and this has led in consequence to the glaciers and ice patches melting extremely quickly,” Martin Grosjean, executive director of the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Bern, said.
    The hunt for artifacts in the Swiss Alps picked up steam when hikers in northern Chile found a 7,000 year-old Chinchorro mummy this past weekend

    Link

    Reply
  12. Colorado Bob

     /  June 25, 2014

    RS –
    I am waiting for the extreme rain to reach the tar sands nines,

    Reply
    • Fires popping up all around them now. Heat dome in the region at this moment. Pacific storm track bending into the far north.

      Fire and then flood doesn’t seem a too far fetched scenario.

      Reply
      • It would be just as bad if the tar sands and the VOC vapors from the tailing ponds were to ignite because of the wildfires.😮

        Reply
    • If they get massive rain at the tar pits, that may spawn an epic disaster if the tailing ponds spill over or become structurally deficient. Those things are so big they are easily visible on Google earth. Hopefully they don’t get into the rain band, it would affect Lake Athabaska, upstream & downstream.

      Mildred Lake Settling Basin (MLSB) is the largest earth based structure in the world. 209 million cubic meters of liquid badness.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syncrude_Tailings_Dam

      Reply
  13. Colorado Bob

     /  June 25, 2014

    Reply
  14. I’ve always been fascinated with barometric pressure maps, and have been reading them since the 1960’s. Growing up on the west coast, I’m pretty familiar with the seasonal isobaric patterns typical for the eastern pacific in the northern hemisphere. However, I don’t ever recall seeing three high pressure systems concentrated in that region before. A single big blocking high was common in late summer-early fall which we Californians referred to as “Indian summer,” and our worst smog days usually occurred during that time of year. But, the current pattern looks peculiar to me. If I remember correctly, early summer in the Bay Area was generally mild. We would occasionally get the tail-end of weak low pressure systems headed into the pacific northwest which would give us cooler breezy conditions.

    Reply
    • Haven’t ever seen such a collection of highs off the US west coast myself. That’s a very dense proliferation.

      I’d say the warm water anomalies in the Northeastern Pacific are also at record or near record levels as well.

      The very northwestern tip of California is getting a little drizzle today. Otherwise, the state is entirely dry. Sacramento is expected to hit 104 F in a few days. Even northern Cal is predicted to see mid to upper 90s.

      So, yeah, as we tend to say a lot around here. Things are about to get interesting.

      Reply
  15. Re Phil’s comment: “I am not a legal expert but I wish/hope that these characters, their financial backers and think tanks are open to legal redress in the future for their actions now.”
    And Robert’s response: “I think the time to start pursuing legal redress is now.”
    I add that here in Oregon, two teenagers have filed suit against their State Sovereign, i.e. Governor Kitzhaber, for failure to safeguard the “public trust” in regards to climate change.
    I wonder if a “class action” suit would be in order as well. And in other, or all, states too.
    ‘Climate-change suit to proceed’
    “The decision was a victory for Olivia Chernaik and Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana, who with their guardians filed the suit asserting that the state has violated the public trust in failing to protect the atmosphere from gases such as carbon dioxide.
    The suit and others like it are being filed in several states under a “public trust” doctrine that children should hold adults responsible for climate change.”
    http://portlandtribune.com/sl/224107-85930-climate-change-suit-to-proceed

    Reply
    • Phil

       /  June 25, 2014

      Interesting, not sure if we have similar laws in Australia that could be utilised in that way. I have seen some papers on notion of inter-generational obligations but my understanding was that this was not firm in law but an area of legal theory.

      I wander if any legal experts follow the blog and could comment. I am sure that if the deniers are charged, they were say they were just exercising their freedom of speech rites. The other aspect is whether they would be charged according to civil or criminal law.

      If things go bad however, legal positions like all other socio-economic positions/institutions would become very fluid – inter-generation genocide might become an offense under law.

      Reply
      • ‘Inter-generational genocide’ as an offense under the law.

        This.

        Law is an extension of human morality. And it is the very basis of morality to protect civilization.

        Reply
    • The public trust suits are a fantastic precedent and may well open the way for class action suits. I am surprised that businesses in regions already impacted by climate change — such as farms in the southwest, haven’t already sought such action.

      But the real mess will come once sea level rise starts to result in more damages. Large losses of seaside property, and clearly linked to climate change, will bring a wave of such actions. If the action is aimed at government, one can see fossil fuel assets being held for compensation of losses over time as there is no possible way an already eroded public trust can bear the burden.

      Reply
  16. Heated debate on cold weather

    Arctic warming has reduced cold-season temperature variability in the northern mid- to high-latitudes. Thus, the coldest autumn and winter days have warmed more than the warmest days, contrary to recent speculations.

    http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v4/n7/full/nclimate2286.html

    Reply
  17. bassman

     /  June 25, 2014

    In addition to the nature study above, here is a somewhat new study (now with a video abstract) doing a great job of explaining natural variability and climate models. It shows that deep ocean heat content is by far the best way to measure energy gain on a timescale of a decade. It implies that surface temperatures are very unreliable for measuring forcing values on a timescale of a decade. This isn’t really news but its an incredibly informative paper worth reading to completion. If you don’t have time at least watch the 4 minute video. I know this issue of deep ocean heat content has been discussed quite a bit. The first link shows the current deep ocean heat content values (click on the 2nd page in the image part to see 0-2000 meter values which are most important). The second link is the study with the video abstract.

    http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/

    “Internal variability of Earth’s energy budget simulated by CMIP5 climate models”

    http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/3/034016

    Reply
  18. bassman

     /  June 25, 2014

    Adding to my comment above, the paper talks about measuring the energy balance on short time scales. Deep ocean heat content gains show a really high correlation to energy imbalance at just 12 months for most models! Other models that emphasize heat gain more for other effects such as (ice melting) take longer to show significant correlation. I really encourage readers on here to read “Internal variability of Earth’s energy budget simulated by CMIP5 climate models” now that it is freely available on pdf. It is one of the most informative papers on global warming I have read in a really long time.

    This paper makes me think that surface temps are far more “noisy” than most realize and that it may have been an honest mistake to have put so much emphasis on them for so long (I’m as guilty as anyone else). I’m sure it will continue among deniers into the foreseeable future. We should really focus more on the quarterly data for 0-2000m from NOAA as way to gauge if global warming is accelerating in the future. Its not as exciting or immediately relevant as surface temps but it would have prevented much of the phony “pause” in warming garbage.

    Reply
  19. On climate reanalyzer it looks like the water temp anomaly blobs off of Peru & Baja Mexico are starting to become one large blob.

    Reply
    • Huge triangle of ocean heat in that region. Niño 1 above +2 C now. Sizable pools at 4 C +.

      Equatorial Pacific at +0.8 C anomaly or higher for more than 3 days running.

      Reply
    • Greenland is having a very warm day today. Thinking the melt values will show increases tomorrow.

      Reply
  20. It appears that there is a bulge of moderate high pressure over the Eastern GOM with anticyclonic winds round-about. It may be a bad portent for hurricane season — the Gulf heats up and then the high moves on, permitting late-season hurricanes to tear up the US Gulf Coast.

    Reply
    • El Niño years typically generate less storms for the North Atlantic basin. However, those storms generally take tracks that are a higher risk for landfall. It’s worth noting that GOM SSTs are a bit below average at the moment. But temps have risen quite a bit over the past few days.

      Reply
  21. Greenbelt

     /  June 25, 2014

    An ordinary pop-up thundershower in College Park MD earlier this month dropped 4-5 inches of rain within 2 hours in a localized area. Extensive erosion, trail damage, road flooding; some rescues from cars, evac of homes. New normal, I guess.

    This was just an ordinary shower, no storm watches or warnings issues, no flood warnings until flooding was already widespread. Coverage from the Washington Post weather blog here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2014/06/11/the-june-10-college-park-flash-flood-how-did-it-happen-and-why-wasnt-it-forecast/

    Reply
    • Greetings and welcome, Greenbelt. I live in Gaithersburg and remember that storm. Even got a call from my dad in Va Beach due to news reports of this garden variety shower turned monster T Storm hitting even the news media there.

      Reply
  22. Excellent writing and summarizing as always, Robert. Profuse gratitude to you, Colorado Bob and all the others who post with links and updates from around the globe. This blog is one of my favorite oases of sanity.

    You asked above about a possible ‘regime change’ in Australia. Since Phil from Oz didn’t answer I thought I would. Yesterday I skyped (from Moderate Drought, Oregon) with one of my close friends in Queensland and learned that not only is the Abbott government the least popular one in the last 40 years, Australians are increasingly concerned about global warming as the last 2 years have been the warmest in its Europeanized history.

    Reply
    • Paul from NSW

       /  June 25, 2014

      I am living in Australia, and I can confirm nobody that I know of is happy with Abbott. It leaves you speechless that someone can attempt so many detrimental policies, on so many different fronts, all at the same time.
      It is scary that the people in power can be so ignorant of what is really really going on in the world.

      Reply
      • Phil

         /  June 26, 2014

        There has been a fair bit of investment in wind farms – especially in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, with some new wind farms being currently developed in New South Wales. Investment has stopped somewhat because of uncertainity over the renewable energy target – if it remains in its current form, significant new investment will be needed in wind and probably solar PV/thermal farms – e.g. 30 to 50MW’s or greater. For wind generation, South Australia has around 20%, Victoria, 2%, and Tasmania 4% to 5%. Tasmania also has alot of hydro.

        Alot of potential investment in New South Wales is expected if the renewable enrgy target remains in place in areas with no or little generation currently – Yass-Wellington, Canberra-Goulbourn, Glen Innes areas.

        Politically, the opposition (Labour) and the Greens have supported the renewable energy target and until a couple of years ago, the conservatives as well. That changed with Abbott who became more extreme and manage to take the conservative parties with him.

        There has been alot of investment in roof-top solar especially in Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales on the back of feed-in-tariffs that have largely been withdrawn now. In Queensland, they can take as much as 700MW of peak summer loads apparently. The existing generators and conservatives tend to dislike this even more than larger renewable systems becaause the former depended upon peak load events to make money to cover their long run costs.

        They also do not like wind turbines – enormous number of repeated calls to stop wind farm developments to examine the health impacts of wind turbines even when the health authorities have said repeatedly there is no discernible health impacts. Note, no similar calls by these groups for health impact of coal fired power generation.

        Reply
        • Renewables decentralize generation and increase competition. The conservatives don’t like this. Who’d a thunk it?

          The hypocrisy is amazing.

          It’s good to see so much in the way of renewables already installed throughout Australia. Looks like the renewable targets will remain and there will be continued progress for some of these generators. Is rooftop solar still expanding even due to loss of FITs? Prices are quite low now. Possibly even low enough to make up for the loss of feed ins.

        • Paul from NSW

           /  June 26, 2014

          Thanks for the indepth reply.
          I live in the Goulburn area (Southern Highlands actually). Seems like this area would be great for renewables particularly solar.
          I am surprised given the number diary farms on the South Coast that there isn’t more interest in Biogas. I know there can be issues with gas leaks, but it seems a pretty cheap investment for a lot of natural gas. I must be missing something because they are doing great things in Northern Europe with it. China has been using it heavily since the cultural revolution.
          Are you aware of anything that makes it either inherently unpopular or inappropriate for the Australian circumstance?

      • Phil

         /  June 26, 2014

        Roof top solar installation still increasing but at a much lower rate since feed-in tariffs have been dropped for newly installed systems although apparently increases is still subtantial in South Australia and Western Australia. I think the next thing needed to kick on further significant growth will be economic storage with roof-top PV. I think then people will install more capacity and try to take themselves off the grid.

        It is possible given how high gas prices are going that solar pv could become a more viable option for remote areas and even remote mining ventures.

        Many studies done for the current review of the renewable energy target (initiated by the Abbott Government to justify the removal or watering-down of the target) have shown the merit order effect associated with renewables. For example, wind generation is bid very low, comes in at the bottom of the merit order of dispatch, drives existing thermal generation up the stack and displaces the most costly forms of generation at the top of the stack – often peak load gas or diesel generation. This produces lower wholesale prices and reductions in system-wiide variable costs. This effect is even enhanced in an environment where gas prices are increasing. Not the message the Government wanted to get out.

        Reply
    • One can hope that the mark Abbott leaves will be something people remember for a long time to come and that future elections will ever-after turn away from that particularly obnoxious and caustic brand of conservatism that now appears so widespread and pervasive.

      For my own part, I’ll never vote conservative again. They’ll say anything to be elected but when they get into the power it’s always the same regressive and destructive policies.

      Welcome to you Gordon, and thanks for an excellent opening contribution. I’d be very happy to hear what your friend in Australia is thinking. Phil, here, also hails from there and has provided some great insights too.

      Best,

      — R

      Reply
    • Phil

       /  June 25, 2014

      Yep, the Federal Government is well behind in the polls at the moment – around 47% to 53% in favour of the opposition. This is primarily on the basis of a very unfair budget that slugged the poor and disadvantaged while leaving the well off and big business largely untouched or even better off. As part of this, they also broke alot of election promises in the budget and had over the last couple of years campaigned heavily on honesty in politics. The broken promises made them look me like a bunch of mean-spirited liars.

      Since there re-election, they have also been attacking renewable energy – trying to close down Government support for renewable energy. Yesterday, the party with the balance of power in the senate said that they would block those main attempts – importantly, will vote against any proposed changes to Renewable Energy Target that is main mechanism supporting investment in large-scale renewables.

      This is interesting because most banked renewable energy certificates have been now exhausted and significant investment (up to 9 TWh of wind generation) would be needed between now and 2020 to meet the current existing target.

      The carbon price however will be repealed but an ETS will instead be put in place however with a price of $0/tC02 until our major trading partners implement a similar scheme – these countries are USA, China, Japan, South Korea and EU. If action by these countries towards ETS’s arise after 2015 Paris meeting, for example, then Australia would likely follow perhaps after a 2016 election.

      With gas prices increasing by a factor of three, the carbon price as a mechanism to promote fuel-switching from coal to gas would require a carbon price greater than $80/tC02, much larger than the current $24/tC02 so renewable enrgy support in short run will have a much larger impact and squeeze the margins of fossil fuel generators than the current carbon price level, also with an accompanying reduction in demand due to efficiencies, role out of small-scale roof-top solar. If cheap storage becomes available, then a bigger impact will occur as people move to take themselves off the grid.

      My feeling is that the high gas prices are a hedge by conservatives against carbon pricing – carbon prices will need to be much higher than usual to compensate for the large rises in gas prices relative to coal to promote fuel-switching which was the short-term goal of carbon pricing scheme. Of course, large increases in gas prices opens the door to renewables but coal is still very cheap, although most coal generation plant will reach end of effective life span within a decade and would need replacement or refurbishing then.

      There is a move by some State Governments to sell off the state owned generation assets – mainly coal generation. I am not sure who would buy these given their age and future outlook for action of climate change. If someone does buy them, it is probably in the expectation that they will then recieve money from Government to close them down within the next decade.

      Reply
      • Apneaman

         /  June 25, 2014

        Natural gas to coal is like going from heroin to methadone. Your still a junkie with no future, but everyone else feels like they did something to help.

        Reply
      • Does Australia have any kind of large scale renewable projects under development? Any party support for it? And how widespread is rooftop? Though nat gas has less power plant emissions than coal, it does get you to the same place in the end.

        Reply
    • Phil

       /  June 26, 2014

      To Paul from NSW. I do not know too much about Biogas. Not sure if the capital costs are high compared with other types of generation/extraction on a $/kW basis. Perhaps the farmers do not know about this possibility while most of new second generation renewables investment have been led by companies with interests in wind gneration and more recently solar PV. The companies interested in gas typically focus on Coal Seam Gas – perhaps there are much larger volumes involved that drive down unit costs when compared with Biogas which might be more geographically spread for similar volumes.

      I know there has been considerable interest in your area and that bordering Yass for wind generation – alot of proposed projects and a few now under development – Gullen Range and Taralga and Boco Rock further away near Cooma.

      The situation with generation scale solar has surprised me – we have a very good resource for solar but relatively little development of larger solar PV farms. Solar thermal is more expensive than solar PV and also has not really got a footing in the Australia landscape. I would expect alot more investment in solar to emerge when we are forced to shift to a much more agressive carbon abatement environment. Like wind and unlike wave, geo-thermal and CCS, wind and solar PV/thermal can be rolled out relatively quickly and at scale and some solar thermal systems have significant storage potential as well.

      Reply
  23. Here’s some follow up on Tuesdays’ earthquake in the Aleutians re: Arctic ice. The graphics are good and they are something to keep in mind in this “ring of fire” zone.

    “A cluster of earthquakes that recently hit the Aleutian Islands shows up in green in the top right corner op above map. Also note the red dot on the right, respresenting a M 4.1 earthquake that hit the Sea of Okhotsk on June 22, 2014 (at 09:47:47 UTC, location 51.843°N 151.310°E), at a depth of 527.66 km (327.87 mi).
    Earthquakes are a major threat for the Arctyic as they can destabilize methane hydrates contained in sediments under the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.
    The situation is the more dangerous given the warm sea water that threatens to enter the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated by the image below.”

    http://arctic-news.blogspot.co.nz/2014/06/earthquakes-and-warm-water-threaten-arctic.html

    Reply
  24. Paul from NSW

     /  June 26, 2014

    I know this is an ignorant question, but I learn by asking them.
    When the Californian farmers drill down is it predominantly cracked rock aquifers, as against gravel, that they are hitting? A cracked rock aquifer would probably fill very quickly if there was a water source higher than its static water level.
    Would it be possible to drill massive 1000ft holes in the bottom of any dams that exists higher than the static water level of the aquifer. That way when the deluge does come the dams the water would go straight down the holes to replenish the aquifers. Obviously it wouldn’t do for any but the closest aquifers, but you would think there would be a percolation effect.
    I know it is silly, but I am just curious why it doesn’t work. I guess it would probably would fill up with silt.

    Reply
    • I’m honestly not too familiar with the finer details of optimizing for more rapid water capture and underground storage. I understand a number of southwestern states have come up with pretty novel methods. Might be worth taking a look.

      Reply
  25. Spike

     /  June 26, 2014

    Reports in the press of 25 per cent of India’s total land undergoing desertification, and of a major drought that may induce famine again in North Korea.

    Looking at global drought maps there are significant areas across southern Russia, western Europe, the middle East, SE Asia and the northern parts of South America shown as being in drought conditions.

    Reply
  1. Weather-Curious? I Recommend RobertScribbler.worpress.com | Aviation Impact Reform

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