We now find that under the current amount of warming, the probability of a severe drought year has approximately doubled. — Park Williams, assistant research professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute
There is no California Drought. — Donald Trump
The drought is not over. — Association of California Water Agencies
An understanding of basic reality. Accepting that reality as true. And responding to that reality in a mature, adult manner. One would think that these qualities would serve as the given assumed prerequisites necessary for someone to serve as President of the United States. But in these most basic of qualifications for sanity, honesty and much less for serving as any kind of leader of worth and effectiveness, Donald Trump has demonstrated that he is both sorely and entirely lacking.
For contrary to the lack-reality talk-talk of the republican party’s most recent great embarrassment, an estimated 34 million of California’s 38.8 million population still suffered under drought conditions as of Thursday last week. This figure, provided by the US Drought Monitor, marked the most recent extension of a drought that has lasted since 2013 in a state that in the entire period of 2007 through 2016 has only experienced two drought-free years. One year of which — 2015 — was the driest in all of the state’s long history. A set of facts that anyone concerned with the health of this country, much less someone running for the position of the highest office in the land, should be intimately familiar with.
(According to the US Drought Monitor, 86 percent of California is now suffering under drought conditions. Conditions that have dominated the state since 2013 and that during 2015 inflicted the most intensely dry conditions California has ever experienced. Image source: US Drought Monitor.)
Climate change is the primary driver of the extreme southwestern drying which has had such a severe impact on California. As the Arctic has warmed, the Jet Stream has shifted northward taking with it a procession of moisture-bearing weather systems. The result is that the probability of extreme drought in the region has at least doubled when compared to the middle 20th Century.
Though strong El Ninos typically bring increased levels of rainfall to California, this year’s powerful event failed to provide even normal rainfall over more than half of the state. This failure of rains during a year when above average precipitation would be expected is but one more blow in a long, long series. But worse is likely still to come as a La Nina — a condition traditionally associated with dry weather in California — is on the way. And further on down the pipe, more warming due to the human burning of fossil fuels that Trump supports means that drought conditions will only continue to intensify unless a miraculous effort is somehow undertaken. Under these stark conditions, many observers are now wondering if the California drought will ever come to an end.
Lake Mead Hits New Record Low
Upstream along the Colorado River, there’s still more to be concerned about. For a waterway that 25 million people depend upon is now entering its 16th year of drought. The river feeds one of the US’s largest reservoirs — Lake Mead. But the giant, man-made lake keeps hitting record low levels year after year. A great white ring shows the previous high water mark from decades past over the now greatly shrunken reserve. Water officials are today relegated to making increasingly dubious assurances that the reservoir will be able to meet needs next year (2017) or maybe the following. But the future on into the early 2020s is ever less certain.
(NASA Earth Observatory shows the extraordinary shrinkage of Lake Mead from 2000 through 2015. Also note the very rapid growth of water-hungry Las Vegas directly to the west of the imperiled reservoir. Image source: Earth Observatory.)
As of last week, Lake Mead’s water levels had fallen below 1074 feet above sea level. This represents just 37 percent of the reservoir’s capacity. If levels remain below 1075 feet through to January 1, a number of required water restrictions will ripple through the Colorado River system forcing states like Arizona, Nevada and California to endure cutbacks. It’s a situation that may not happen this year, but one that grows more and more likely each following year as the Colorado River continues to dry out.
In total, more than 25 million people depend upon Lake Mead’s water. And the drought along the Colorado River that is shrinking the lake combines with endemic drying in California to create a context of ongoing and worsening water resource stress over the US Southwest. A drying driven on by the human-forced warming of our world and by the very fossil fuel burning that Trump is preparing to double down on should he be elected President.
It’s a worsening reality that will call for hard choices and bold efforts if the communities of this threatened US region are to survive and prosper. A set of choices requiring a firm grasp of the tough new realities now settling in and a willingness to chose renewable energy systems that will not worsen water stress and that will not continue to enflame an already tough climate situation.
But the presumptive leader of the republican party brazenly spouts ignorance of even a simpleton’s understanding of the powerful and dangerous climate forces now at work. A bald lack of basic knowledge that would put tens of millions throughout the US Southwest at risk due to what is sure to be a devastating resource mismanagement, an ill-timed return to dangerous fuels, and an utter lack of climate disaster preparedness should Trump be elected. A serious deficiency in the kinds of urgently needed national leadership skills in the current day coupled with a denial of simple realities that should cause pretty much everyone to question whether the man possesses even the most rudimentary qualifications for serving as President of the United States.
Hat Tip to Genomik
Hat Tip to DT Lange