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Climate Change Related Drought Bakes the Iberian Peninsula

“Suddenly what was once thought to be a problem confined to the third world has arrived in southern Europe.”Euronews.

*****

We’ve been taught that human-caused climate change through fossil fuel burning only affects poor people. That it only affects the third world. That if you’re rich, or if you live in places like the U.S. and Europe, you’re safe — or at least safer.

We’ve been misinformed.

Climate Change in Our Front Yard

Here, on this blog, again and again, we’ve been warning that climate change impacts EVERYONE. That no-one is really safe from either its direct or systemic impacts. From the subsistence farmer in Africa to the Wall Street hedge fund manager, the damage is ultimately equally bad.

The reason is that the worsening climate change related impacts of sea level rise, extreme weather, acidifying and anoxic oceans are ultimately so far reaching that you can’t call any place on Earth realistically safe from harm. And even if you do avoid the barrage of these varied impacts personally, the damage from rising levels of warming is eventually so deep and widespread that there is serious risk of collapse to the various systems civilization relies on to function — like water, power, transportation, and food supply.

(Despite popular misconception, the wealthier countries of the world are not immune to or even really very resilient to the impacts of climate change. We are seeing this start to bear out now in numerous places to include Southeastern Europe. Namely, the Iberian Peninsula where drought is severely impacting Portugal and Spain. Image source: Global Drought Monitor.)

Though the effects may well be milder at the present 1.2 C warming than they would be at 2 C, 3 C, 5 C or more, they are starting to hit now. And they are hitting indiscriminately across broad regions from Canada, to California, to New York City, to New Orleans, to Brazil, to Bangladesh, to Russia, to Puerto Rico, to India and China, and to more far-flung and wildly varied locations than we can list here. The systemic collapse of Puerto Rico due to a global warming amplified hurricane, can be seen as a relative microcosm to what’s in store for broader global civilization if we don’t get our act together in reducing carbon emissions zero and then net-negative , limiting future warming to more manageable levels, and hardening societies to warming related impacts as rapidly as possible.

Severe Drought in Spain and Portugal

This week, just one more story of catastrophic climate change related impacts focuses on the Iberian Peninsula in Europe. 2017 is presently Spain’s third driest year on record. Following an abnormally dry 4-year period, the situation is starting to get critical. The Douru River, which is basically the Spanish wine-growing region’s Mississippi, is 60 percent dry. Massive reservoirs like the Cuerda del pozo are empty. Hydroelectrical supplies have been cut by 58 percent. And wildfires and crop failures have run rampant with the worst grape harvest in decades leading to a global shortage of wine.

In Portugal, the driest October in 20 years has spurred a government campaign to conserve water — asking people to turn off the taps immediately rather than leave them running. In some places of the country, water is having to be shipped in by truck as local sources fail. The Prime Minister of the country is stating that a water miracle is needed to relieve drought conditions.

These impacts follow a deadly wildfire outbreak in October that killed 44 people and injured 71. One of the region’s worst on record that adds to the context of fires like the Fort McMurray Fire in Alberta and the recent Northern California wildfires that destroyed more than 10,000 buildings.

Rain in the Forecast, But Global Warming Will Bring Worsening Droughts to the Region

Human-caused global warming increases the likelihood of extreme drought by increasing the rate of both precipitation and evaporation. Because this effect is uneven, as the world warms, the prevalence tips toward the extremes. In other words, more of the rain we receive falls less frequently but in heavier events. In addition, rising temperatures enhance the onset and intensity of drought.

For Spain and Portugal, climate zones are moving north. This means that desert-like temperatures and conditions from across the Med in the Sahara are more frequently invading. A reality that most of Southern Europe will eventually face if the Earth continues to warm. That said, forecasts for this winter call for some relief in the form of increased precipitation. For Spain and Portugal, it couldn’t come too soon. But with conditions having been consistently drier than normal over recent years, it will take a very significant pattern change to alleviate presently severe conditions.

Hat tip to BobinSpain

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55 Comments

  1. Paul

     /  November 10, 2017

    I read once somewhere that the Earth’s Hadley cells will expand with a warming world and that the beginning of this trend has already been documented. That is, the current atmospheric circulation pattern that generally results in warm, dry descending air around 30 degrees N. and S. latitude (with many desert regions resulting at these latitudes around the globe) will move further north and south, putting more of the world’s breadbaskets under it’s influence. This will greatly increase the frequency of drought in those regions.

    Here’s an excerpt from “The Next Dust Bowl” by Joe Romm: “Recent studies have projected ‘extreme drought’ conditions by mid-century over some of the most populated areas on Earth — southern Europe, south-east Asia, Brazil, the US Southwest, and large parts of Australia and Africa. These dust-bowl conditions are projected to worsen for many decades and be “largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stopped”.

    http://re.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/drought.pdf

    We could be living in a radically different world by mid century, only 30 years away.

    Reply
    • John McCormick

       /  November 10, 2017

      Paul, expansion of the sub-tropical zone is the road we are traveling. No exit ramps. The road ends at the cliff edge.

      Reply
      • Language…

        So I’m asking people to stop using figurative language RE climate change related harm.

        To be clear, as the world warms, various climate zones change. Research indicates that the tropics are expanding northward as the tropical circulation (Hadley Cell) bulges. This is an indication that the climate is changing now.

        This is a bad climate outcome with difficult to deal with consequences. What it means is that we are losing stable climates to which many regions are adapted. In Spain, this means more drought, more water insecurity, more systemic stress and risk.

        At 1-2 C the impacts are becoming more obvious. And what’s even clearer is that we want to limit warming as much as possible.

        To suggest that we cannot respond is highly inaccurate, as your use of language implies. However, what is clear is that harmful change is happening now. A call to action for all rational people.

        Reply
  2. Vic

     /  November 10, 2017

    With a mass coral spawning event currently underway across the Great Barrier Reef, scientists are predicting a rare “split spawning” this year, with a second spawning event expected to follow December’s full moon. Just what the doctor ordered.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-10/researchers-race-to-capture-coral-spawn-to-boost-reef-resilience/9135164

    Reply
    • Well, that’s good news. Not so clear on how well the reef overall will cope with warming conditions. There is some concern that another mass coral bleaching event will hit the reef this year.

      At this time, the reef is getting thrust into a marginal zone during which it’s likely that major bleaching events will occur at least once every five years. Unless the corals, somehow, become more adapted to warmer and then more acidic ocean conditions, it doesn’t look good for the reef.

      Large scale spawning is a silver lining. But we shouldn’t ignore underlying conditions. If we keep burning fossil fuels and the world keeps warming and the oceans continue to acidify, the reef doesn’t have very good chances at all.

      But if we are both fortunate and forceful in our actions to address climate change, it’s possible that the reef might have a chance. I hope that is the case. And in this, as in so many other things, both hope and action are essential objects.

      Reply
  3. Vic

     /  November 10, 2017

    In other news from Queensland, the upcoming state election on Nov25 has become the focal point of anti-Adani coal mine protestors. The incumbent Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has been repeatedly dogged by protestors for her pro-Adani stance, so much so she has since executed a mid-campaign partial backflip, promising to veto the proposed Federal government’s one billion dollar loan to the cash strapped corporation.

    Activism works.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/nov/10/adani-is-a-vote-changer-greens-muscle-in-on-queenslands-marginal-seats

    Reply
    • Now this is really, really good news.

      Thanks for sharing this, Vic, and thanks to all the activists who went to work on creating the political force to sway this candidate. We should understand what politicians face in the form of influence campaigns by special interest industry. Adani and other fossil fuel based interest groups, create constituencies in government through influence campaigns. But these campaigns can be countered if people show that they have enough political will to drown out the deleterious effect of fossil fuel money.

      Reply
  4. Sheri

     /  November 10, 2017

    I am 66 with a life expectancy of 80 to 85. I used to be sure I would miss the noticeable effects but after the last 3 yrs I say I won’t miss it at all but will see it get awful before I die. Certainly “noticeably ” effects have ramped waaaaay up in the last 3-5 yrs

    Sheri

    Reply
      • Kassy

         /  November 10, 2017

        I never liked Twitter. Lots of nonsense among the comments – short nonsense but still. I much preferred the old VBulletin forums where there is a bit more space for making actual arguments and linking it up more neatly with (partial) quotes of comments.

        Anyway in the early nineties the arctic ice was expected to hold out well into this century (think 2050 for serious melt to set in…was to be my retirement pass time but i guess i need to find another one). Of course events have shown that that was way wrong…

        Reply
        • It’s a useful space for collecting and sharing news. The new 280 pt chararcter count allows for more in depth communication. Overall, I’m not a big fan of social media in general. However, it’s the major medium in which news is exchanged these days. If you don’t engage in social media, you limit your reach considerably.

          You can click through directly to the Economist article. Twitter itself doesn’t change the basic fact that extreme weather events have increased by x4 since the 1970s. That’s the point here.

        • One more bit about Twitter that I do enjoy and that I do think is helpful is that it gives me the opportunity to share information with more people. Here, I can link to new sources and add new voices to the conversation. There, I can talk directly to a broad range of people on the issue of climate change. If I use it effectively, it helps me to broaden the climate interest community and to elevate leadership voices. This is a very effective means of waging a communications campaign on the critical issue of climate change and renewable energy.

        • With regards to the recent influence campaigns by Russia targeting both Facebook and Twitter…

          I think we should be clear why Russia tried to use Twitter and Facebook as outlets for its misinformation during the 2016 campaign. It’s basically due to the effect that communication through these outlets is so effective at reaching so many people.

          I absolutely think we should be concerned in that it shows that a poorly regulated social media industry can be used by bad actors to inflict harm on the American people. As with Finance, we need regulation to prevent multiplication of misinformation by bad actor entities through these media.

          Facebook and Twitter are powerful agencies. And their controlling boards have likely been influenced by bad actor capital flows. How do we respond to this fact? Do we disengage from the most powerful media platforms that have ever existed? I think if we do that, then we cede the media higher ground to the bad actors. The only rational way forward is through engagement in social media and through holding both the controlling interests of social media and the various bad actor agencies accountable.

        • Of course, I can already see that the Animal Farm -esque shrinking of minds as in ‘all social media = bad’ is already underway. This campaign is aimed directly at attempting to drive positive actors off social media by creating a cloud of negative impression overall. As with finance, we shouldn’t fall prey to such simplistic and inaccurate worldviews.

    • John McCormick

       /  November 10, 2017

      Sheri, I am a bit older and came to the same realization. That places you and I in a heart sickening front row as we watch earth systems collapse around our children. The change is upon us and racing past us.

      Governments can negotiate pledges, design goals and leave it to all of us to fix the problem. China will eventually hold the key to reducing global climate-forcing gases but its cleaner air will reduce atmospheric dimming and raise global temperatures .5 degrees C.

      Reply
      • Loni

         /  November 10, 2017

        At 64, I’ve been interested in the climate from early on, living right at sea level at a beach town in northern California, and having an appetite for historic polar exploration.

        Now I’m telling my 30 year old daughter to ‘eat desert first,’ and to bring the family to my humble farm so that her daughter, my granddaughter can grow up with those memories.

        The task of planting trees in light of the future borders on a denial all my own. But minus the funds to fulfill the desires of a bucket list, I’m not sure what else to do.

        Reply
        • Planting trees helps.

          But the most effective thing we can do is completely transform global energy and then agriculture. To do that we need to work hard on a political level. Individual effort helps. Group effort to change our politics has mass effect.

        • In any case, I would not at all buy in to the negative attitude that some on this forum still appear bound and determined to afflict us with. It may be that they are depressed or deluded. But, as I’ve said before, this kind of myopic nihilism and doomerism is as inaccurate and harmful as climate change denial itself.

      • Splitting hairs here.

        0.3 to 0.5 C from aerosol loss is considerably less than 5-10 C + from continued fossil fuel burning. Responses to climate change are necessary to save all the things we hold so dear. The world can handle the warming that comes from aerosol loss. The world cannot handle the warming and toxic biochemical changes that come from 1,000 ppm CO2+.

        In addition, the net loss of methane in the atmosphere due to cutting oil and gas mining, coal mining, and removing massive methane leaks significantly counters the net RF gain from aerosol loss. If China closes its mines, if the world does the same and caps its wells, atmospheric methane will receive a powerful negative feedback. Add in land management change and it is very likely that we can remove 0.2 to 0.5 C net warming from that response alone.

        Unfortunately, John, the view you’ve expressed above is both a bit too negative and a bit too simplistic. If we are to focus on solutions rather than wallow in problems, we must have more accurate views.

        Reply
  5. Well said. We are all in this together.

    Reply
  6. Shawn Redmond

     /  November 10, 2017

    Interesting study paper.
    https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol19/iss4/art50/
    “Many separate studies have estimated the year of peak, or maximum, rate of using an individual resource such as oil. However, no study has estimated the year of peak rate for multiple resources and investigated the relationships among them. We exploit time series on the appropriation of 27 global renewable and nonrenewable resources. We found 21 resources experienced a peak-rate year, and for 20 resources the peak-rate years occurred between 1960-2010, a narrow time window in the long human history. Whereas 4 of 7 nonrenewable resources show no peak-rate year, conversion to cropland and 18 of the 20 renewable resources have passed their peak rate of appropriation. To test the hypothesis that peak-rate years are synchronized, i.e., occur at approximately the same time, we analyzed 20 statistically independent time series of resources, of which 16 presented a peak-rate year centered on 2006 (1989-2008). We discuss potential causal mechanisms including change in demand, innovation and adaptation, interdependent use of resources, physical limitation, and simultaneous scarcity. The synchrony of peak-rate years of multiple resources poses a greater adaptation challenge for society than previously recognized, suggesting the need for a paradigm shift in resource use toward a sustainable path in the Anthropocene.”

    Reply
    • Kassy

       /  November 10, 2017

      Interesting but there is one resource missing. It would love to see (fossil) ground water in there too but that data is probably not readily available. In many places we are exhausting aquifers and the water available to pump up will put constraints on the resources produced with it.

      Reply
      • Boundary limits defined by water use can be address by increasing efficiencies if a major shift to both renewable power sources (far less water use) and indoor vertical farming methods are universally adopted. Additional traditional water shed protection and related planting and forest management and conservation is helpful. Of course, these processes need to get ahead of the various harmful externalities we face from climate change. At lower rates of warming and smaller peak temperature rises, this is probably manageable.

        To understand this, you have to understand that both the impacts of sustainability and the impacts of harmful externality have various tipping points and snowballing-type features. The shift to more positive action can thus be as positively transformative as the continuance on the business as usual path is harmful. This is a key to understanding the climate crisis.

        Reply
    • Rapid shift to renewables greatly enhances sustainability by removing harmful externalities, by increasing efficiency, by removing hoarding and peaking risks, and by greatly reducing the global water footprint of human civilization.

      Reply
  7. Spike

     /  November 10, 2017

    Southern France, NW Italy, Albania and Greece appear to be impacted by severe drought too.

    http://edo.jrc.ec.europa.eu/edov2/php/index.php?id=1000

    Reply
  8. Greg

     /  November 10, 2017

    Nothing to add on the documenting disaster theme today. Is it just me or is this what beautiful elegant engineering can do, what a future looks like– Electric Vespa–for a Roman holiday and beyond. Billions do and will buy these kinds of vehicles instead of cars.

    Details:
    https://insideevs.com/2018-vespa-electricca-electric-goes-62-miles-per-charge-or-124-with-gas-range-extender/

    Reply
    • Greg

       /  November 10, 2017

      2100 is now.

      Reply
    • Hey, you know, every time I look at the tough stuff happening in the world it’s an opportunity to make the call for action that much louder. To identify the causes of the problem and to look more urgently for solutions.

      To use a metaphor, we are Britain and the forces of fascism are marching across Europe. Each new victory by the enemy must further embolden our response.

      As for Vespa, Bravo! 62 miles of all-electric, no-emissions range on a scooter is a fantastic thing to see. This kind of action is being multiplied time and time again around the world. And though the effects of human-caused climate change are rising, the responses are rising as well.

      People generally don’t really seem to understand the word crisis. So I’ll take this opportunity to explain it a bit more.

      In medicine crisis is the turning point at which a condition becomes better or worse. The next three to four decades or so are the crisis point for climate change and human civilization sustainability. Our actions as a global society determine the outcome. They directly determine whether the effects we see keep getting worse and worse or if they start to get better. In this crisis period, impacts will generally tend to ramp for a time. But past it, we have the capacity to either see improvement or an ever worsening age of disasters.

      This is the crisis we face. And we all need to be resolved to fight as soldiers for our climate, for life on Earth, and for the future of human civilization itself. If we can resolve ourselves to be the soldiers of sustainability, then we can ensure that the crisis point turns away from ultimate catastrophe.

      Reply
  9. coloradobob

     /  November 10, 2017

    THE IMPROBABLE NEW WINE COUNTRIES THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS CREATING

    The map of the wine world is undergoing a dramatic change. World wine production is set to fall to its lowest levels in decades, largely due to the weather, according to estimates from the International Organization of Vine and Wine. Meanwhile, wine production in the UK has reached record highs, with sparkling wines leading the way.

    Though experts remain divided on which areas of the world will lose and which will win, they all agree that the world’s most famous wine regions are not going to remain the same. As global average temperatures rise, the best lands to plant a vineyard are moving away from the equator, creeping up into the northern hemisphere and down into the southern hemisphere.

    https://quartzy.qz.com/1108814/the-improbable-new-wine-countries-that-climate-change-is-creating/

    Reply
    • Thanks for this, Bob.

      Reply
    • Bill H

       /  November 10, 2017

      Bob, a word of caution: the UK remains a VERY small wine producer. I think it unlikely that we’ll do much to compensate for big falls in production in the traditional wine growing regions.

      Reply
      • Mblanc

         /  November 11, 2017

        It’s true that we cannot compensate for losses nearer the equator by moving production north, we simply don’t have land area nearer to the poles.

        I’ve seen a lot of fuss about UK wines recently, awards being won for quality etc. Given our current trajectory, we are going to need all the alchohol we can make, to blot out the consequences of Brexit!

        Reply
  10. Kassy

     /  November 10, 2017

    Not directly climate change but the nitrate overuse comes from the same mind set (overuse for short term gains, ignoring the long term damages). I guess we have to tackle it along with the other challenges discussed above:

    Huge quantities of nitrate chemicals from farm fertilisers are polluting the rocks beneath our feet, a study says.

    Researchers at the British Geological Survey say it could have severe global-scale consequences for rivers, water supplies, human health and the economy.

    They say the nitrate will be released from the rocks into rivers via springs.

    That will cause toxic algal blooms and fish deaths, and will cost industry and consumers billions of pounds a year in extra water treatment.

    In a paper in Nature Communications, the scientists from BGS and Lancaster University estimate that up to 180 million tonnes of nitrate are stored in rocks worldwide – perhaps twice the amount stored in soils.

    They say this is the first global estimate of the amount of nitrate trapped between the soil layer and the water-bearing aquifers below. They warn that over time the nitrate will inevitably slowly seep into the aquifers.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-41945650

    Reply
    • The nitrate crisis is linked to fossil fuels in that many of these compounds are synthetically produced from fossil fuel feedstock. Sustainable farming practices remove the need for nitrates or recirculate them in enclosed environments without bleeding them out into waterways etc.

      Reply
  11. bobinspain

     /  November 10, 2017

    Thanks for the hat tip, Robert and for the excellent articles. Here’s a horror story in progress just up the road from where I live. Four million fruit trees about to be trashed as a consequence of climate change and gross mismanagement of resources. I’ll stop myself from ranting on too much, but there is a glimmer of hope in that more and more people seem to be becoming aware of what’s going on and when these things are mentioned there’s no awkward ‘elephant in the room’ – style silence, rather some realisation and acceptance of the situation, even if there don’t appear to be any immediate solutions. I view that as a positive development.
    https://www.euroweeklynews.com/3.0.15/news/on-euro-weekly-news/costa-de-almeria/145745-almeria-province-on-verge-of-major-catastrophe

    Reply
    • Thanks again Bob.

      Crisis is the point of duality. If we are to face it, we need to be able to hold two opposites in our minds. We are living at the point of tragedy and hope. Two futures exist at this time. The terrible and the virtuous. We get to participate in choosing which one happens. But the crisis is definitely here.

      Reply
      • wili

         /  November 10, 2017

        “Crisis is the point of duality. If we are to face it, we need to be able to hold two opposites in our minds”

        Nicely put. On other forums, I find people going from basically denial straight to “nothing we can do will make any difference.” I think it’s hard for many to live inside the real uncertainty we actually are facing. It just implies more responsibility than they want to or perhaps can handle, I guess. And of course it is hard for most people to ‘hold two opposites in our minds’ for very long. I’m not sure how to help people do this.

        Reply
        • We need to teach people how to surf. Surfing is crisis management. At any point on the wave you’re either there or a wipe out. The two realities exist simultaneously and you have to continuously act to prevent loss of control due to mistake or nearly overwhelming natural conditions. We are there. Right there on the wave. It’s a huge one. And it’s critical that we maintain an alert, fresh state of mind that is rapidly capable of accepting the various and swiftly changing circumstances of an evolving and dangerous situation.

        • bobinspain

           /  November 10, 2017

          For me, at least and at last, there is dialogue. More and more people are talking about this. The emergency is finally beginning to dawn on people, I think. My only concern is how people will respond. Will we see some new epiphany, a massive cohesive effort, or rebellion, social collapse and possibly war?

        • bobinspain

           /  November 10, 2017

          Insect populations are in rapid decline. This is such an emergency that I can’t even begin to express. How are we going to pollinate our food crops, let alone the loss of biodiversity that will have a knock on effect in other ecosystems. What are insectivorous bird species going to eat?
          https://e360.yale.edu/features/insect_numbers_declining_why_it_matters

    • miles h

       /  November 10, 2017

      i just got back from Murcia in S. Spain. The “river” there is barely a trickle and the whole area is looking at serious impending water shortages both for agricultural use and for humans. Summer was unusually hot and dry, people saying that it was almost unbearable in the daytimes in the city…. 45C+.
      Desertification is a real prospect.

      Reply
      • bobinspain

         /  November 10, 2017

        Murcia’s the next province up from here in Almería, Miles. The trend is the same – increasing drought, diversion of water resources to the tourist industry, ridiculous squabbles over water rights, no development of water infrastructure, small scale farming in severe decline and overtaken by the ‘salad barons’ squaring off large sections of the countryside and covering it with plastic, producing rapidly-grown monoculture-style exports, further draining the area’s water table. Chronic drought followed by very severe storms which do nothing but wipe out natural vegetation which hasn’t already been burnt. Sometimes these cycles are natural, of course, but lately the cycle has been accelerated by sharp and prolonged increases in temperature. Add in mismanagement of forestry, a growing population of mentally ill pyromaniacs, a rapidly declining pollinating insect population and a political zeitgeist of ridiculous nationalism. Bah! I could go on… and on. We have wine, though, for the moment 🙂

        Reply
    • Bill H

       /  November 10, 2017

      Bob, Let’s hope that people will unite in the face of the crisis. Unfortunately, in Spain at the moment there’s a lot of division over “sovereignty”: Catalonia, etc. Meanwhile in Britain we have a govt totally obsessed with Brexit to the exclusion of all else apart from when various sex scandals and other malfeasance by senior politicians temporarily shift it from centre stage. All this national pride stuff must take second place in the face of a crisis that knows no borders.

      Reply
      • bobinspain

         /  November 11, 2017

        Hey Bill, Totally on board with what you’re saying. I was going to say that we should all be sticking together, but given the current climate, I wouldn’t want that to be misinterpreted in any way, shape or form 😀

        Reply
  12. bobinspain

     /  November 10, 2017

    We’ve got the power to be loving each other no matter what happens:

    Reply
  13. bobinspain

     /  November 11, 2017

    Reply
  1. Climate Change Related Drought Bakes the Iberian Peninsula « Antinuclear
  2. To 11 November – the week in nuclear/climate news | Nuclear Australia
  3. This week: nuclear and climate news « nuclear-news
  4. Climate-related drought is starting to affect wealthy countries like Spain | The Big Raise

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