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Extent of Ocean Surface Above 86 Degrees (F) Hits New Record During May of 2016

Not only is a human-forced warming of the globe expected to increase average surface ocean and land temperatures, it is also expected to generate higher peak readings over larger and larger regions. Such was the case during May of 2016 as a massive expanse of the world ocean saw temperatures rocket to above 30 degrees Celsius (or 86 degrees Fahrenheit).

Area of World Ocean Above 30 C

(A record hot global ocean has brewed up yet one more new extreme in the form of a 32.7 million square kilometer expanse of steaming hot waters above 86 degrees Fahrenheit or 30 degrees Celsius. Image source: Brian Brettschneider.)

According to climatologist Brian Brettschneider, 32.7 million square kilometers of the world ocean saw temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius during May of 2016. A new record for the largest sea surface area above a high temperature threshold that typically sets off a range of harmful ocean conditions — including coral bleaching, lower levels of seawater oxygen, and increased rates of algae growth — even as it dumps copious volumes of high latent heat water vapor into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The new record belittled 2015’s May 30 C + extent of about 28.5 million square kilometers — beating it by over 4 million square kilometers. For reference, the new 32.7 million square kilometer record extent of such steamy ocean waters is about equal in area to the size of Africa and Greenland combined.

image

(A huge expanse of Equatorial waters saw sea surface temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit during May. A record expanse of hot water that is also now in the process of dumping a record amount of high latent heat moisture into the Earth’s atmosphere. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

High water temperatures in the range of 30 C greatly increase the latent heat energy of the Earth system. Such warm waters pump out an extraordinary volume of high heat content water vapor into the atmosphere. And May’s record 30 C extent has almost certainly contributed to numerous extreme rainfall events occurring around the globe during late May and extending into early June.

Rising Sea and Land Surface Temperatures as Global Health Risk

Record extents of 30+ C waters also increase the potential for combinations of high heat and humidity over the Earth’s surface that result in a rising risk of human heat injuries or even death. In India this year nearly 400 people are thought to have died directly due to excessive heat. Thousands more are reported injured in what is now a record heatwave and drought affecting the highly populated country.

Field workers are also suffering from increasing instances of chronic kidney failure — a condition that health professionals are starting to link to the extreme heat, humidity and other conditions related to climate change. Though highest instances of kidney disease show up among those working outside during the heat of the day, 1 in 13 people in India now suffer from it. Lack of available water due to drought, rising temperatures due to climate change, a lack of air conditioning in the increasingly sweltering country, and a dearth of breaks in which outdoor workers can retreat to the shade are all identified as  factors that have led to such amazingly high rates of kidney illness and kidney failure in India.

In the worst instances of the most dangerous periods of high heat, wet bulb readings — which are meant to simulate the lowest temperature evaporation can cool the human skin to — have approached 35 C. A combination of temperature and humidity that renders the human body unable to transport heat away from the skin and a reading that greatly increases the risk of heat injury and death. And since maximum ocean surface temperatures are a good proxy for peak potential wet bulb readings, a record extent of 30+ C sea surface temperatures is a context of rising risk for the new kinds of heatwave mass casualties associated with human-caused climate change.

Links:

Brian Brettschneider

Earth Nullschool

Thousands Injured by High Temperatures in India

The Mysterious Disease That’s Killing India’s Farmers

Climate Change Linked to Increased Risk of Chronic Kidney Disease

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Cate

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

 

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Wet Bulb Near 35 C — Heatwave Mass Casualties Strike India Amidst Never-Before-Seen High Temperatures

Never-before-seen high temperatures and high humidity are resulting in thousands of heat injuries and hundreds of heat deaths across India. In some places, wet bulb readings appear to be approaching 35 C — a level of latent heat never endured by humans before fossil fuel burning forced global temperatures to rapidly warm. A reading widely-recognized as the limit of human physical endurance and one whose more frequent excession would commit the human race to enduring an increasing number of episodes of killing heat. A boundary that scientists like Dr. James Hansen warned would be exceeded if a human-forced warming of the world was not halted.

*****

And it is in this newly dangerous climate context that temperatures near 125 degrees Fahrenheit settled in over India’s border region with Pakistan yesterday. A blistering wave of crippling heat hitting never-before-seen readings over that highly-populated nation. In Phalodi, India, the mercury rocketed to 123.8 degrees Fahrenheit (51 degrees Celsius). This reading exceeded India’s previous all-time record high for any location which stood at 123.1 degrees Fahrenheit (50.6 degrees Celsius) set on May 25, 1886. Across the border in Pakistan, temperatures crossed “critical” thresholds this week, hitting 124.7 degrees Fahrenheit (51.5 degrees Celsius) Thursday in the city of Jacobabad as officials in that state issued health warnings to the public.

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(Temperatures rocketed to 123-125 F along India’s border with Pakistan on Thursday. These are the hottest temperatures ever recorded for this region of the world. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Closer to the coast, temperatures rose as high as 107 degrees Fahrenheit (42 C). In the city of Surat, hospitals were strained by an influx of people suffering from heat injuries. People afflicted with giddiness, unconsciousness, dehydration, a bloody nose, abdominal pain, chest pain, and other heat related injuries flooded local health care facilities with emergency calls. As of Thursday, SMIMER hospital had reported 1,226 calls related to heat casualties since the start of May.

Local Surat weather services reported periods when temperatures spiked to 38-42 C and humidity — supplied by moisture flooding off the heating Arabian Sea — remained near 65 percent. These are wet bulb readings in the range of 32 to 34.4 C — a combination of heat and humidity that is very dangerous to anyone exposed for even brief periods.

340 Heat Deaths in Dehli

Across India, the story of heat casualties was much the same. Though no official national estimate of heat related injuries or deaths has yet been given, the current heatwave and related drought is far worse than that experienced during 2015 when 2500 people lost their lives in the excessive heat. But it’s reasonable to assume that heat injuries across India now number in the tens of thousands with tragic heat deaths likely now numbering in the hundreds to thousands.

In the capital city of Delhi, reports were coming in that the homeless population — swelled by farmers who lost their livelihoods due to a crippling three-year-drought — was suffering hundreds of heat-related deaths. As of Thursday, official estimates identified 340 total heat deaths among this increasingly vulnerable population.

Severe Drought and Record Heat — Conditions Consistent with Human-Caused Climate Change

Heat building into extreme record ranges and mounting heat casualties come as India suffers what is likely its worst drought on record. Last month, international water monitors identified 330 million people suffering from water shortages across India. As a result, the government has been forced to resort to extreme measures — posting guards at dwindling reservoirs, sending water trains to provide people in hard-hit regions with a life-saving ration of water, and planning to divert water from the greatly shrunken Ganges to aid parched regions.

Extreme heat of this kind, wet bulb temperatures approaching 35 C, heatwave mass casualties, and a never-before-seen drought are all conditions related to a human-forced warming of the globe. Though El Nino, during the 20th Century, brought with it a cyclical heat, a potential monsoonal weakening, and an increased risk of drought, the severity of the crisis now afflicting India is too great to be pinned on El Nino alone. India has now suffered three years of delayed monsoons — delays which began before the current El Nino took hold. Water levels in the Himalayas are low due to a decadal warming that has forced snow packs to retreat which has, in its turn, left India’s rivers increasingly vulnerable to drying. And global temperatures hitting in the range of 1.3 C above 1880s levels are absolutely adding intensity to the current heatwave and dryness.

Links:

Wet Bulb at 35 C

Heatwave Mass Casualties Strike India in 2015

Heatwave Injuries Mount in Surat

Earth Nullschool

India Shatters All-Time Hottest Temperature Record on Thursday

India Temperature Records

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

 

 

 

 

 

100,000 Wells About to Go Dry? NASA Finds California Drought Removing 4 Trillion Gallons of Water Each Year

As of October 4, the State of California had entered its 4th year of a raging drought that shows no sign of abating. A drought that a growing number of studies are linking to human-caused climate change. A drought that appears to be readying to level a terrible blow at residents, communities and farmers living in the increasingly dessicated Central Valley region.

State reservoirs, despite ever-heightening restrictions on water use, were 43 percent lower than is typical for this time of year. And the state’s largest reservoir — Lake Oroville — had declined to 30% of capacity by early October (record lowest level is 27 percent capacity set in 1977).

All the while, NASA’s GRACE gravity sensor is providing a record of a historic drying that has been ongoing since at least 2002.

california-drying

(NASA/UC Urvine graphic showing California water loss through June of 2014.)

The above image is a visual representation of NASA gravity sensor measurements of California ground water losses over the past 12 years. What the sensors — a pair of minivan sized satellites that use microwave altimetry to measure changes in the planet’s gravity — have found is that California’s Central Valley has been losing 4 trillion gallons of water each year for the past three years running.

It is a massive loss of water with far-reaching impacts including greatly reducing the flows of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers.

The loss of ground water is primarily due to increasing rates at which both communities and farmers are tapping well water supplies to make up for the massive deficits of the ongoing drought. Overall, more than 600,000 wells feed individual homes, small communities and farms throughout the Central Valley. As wells dried up, residents and growers in the region turned to deeper and deeper drilling — tapping water further and further underground.

The result is a very rapid depletion of the aquifer water store. A depletion starkly visible to NASA satellite sensors. A race for the last remaining drops of an ever-shrinking pool of water.

Lake Oroville 2

(Lake Oroville at full in 2011 [top frame] and nearing bone dry during August of 2014 [bottom frame]. Image source: Paul Hames, California Department of Water Resources and Justin Sullican, Getty Images.)

100,000 Wells about To Go Dry

Such a massive and rapid depletion of the ground water supply can’t go on without having a severe impact. And it appears now that some communities, residents and growers with more tenuous links to California’s rapidly dwindling water are already starting to feel the effects. As of October, fruit and nut exports from California were down by 8% on the back of merciless drought conditions and dwindling ground water supplies.

More ominously, however, is the fact that many Central Valley residents are already at the point where wells won’t produce at all. By mid-September, towns like Porterville and Seville saw hundreds of residents without running water. In hardest hit Tulare County, 1,000 of the region’s 7,300 residents had lost access to running water due to well failure. In this most extreme of cases, victims of water shortage were forced to haul bottled water to homes from local stores or relief centers set up by firefighters and state emergency personnel.

Tulware may well be California’s canary in the drought coal mine as recent reports find that as many as 100,000 wells — about 1/6th of all the wells in the Central Valley — could go dry by mid October without a bout of well-replenishing rains. And with heatwaves rising under a powerful blocking high pressure system that has dominated the California climate for nearly two years now, the likelihood of such rains appears to be starkly low.

Blocking High California

(Blocking high keeping California dry is plainly visible in the October 12 European Model weather forecast. Image source: ECMWF.)

Weather forecasts continue to show the emergence of ridiculously resilient high pressure systems over California and the near shore Pacific. Rain-bearing low pressure systems continue to be deflected northward into Alaska and British Columbia. Such forecasts indicate that October may well be a very difficult month for the water-strapped State. And with ridging continuing to be the dominant influence, it appears California may be facing another water-poor late fall and early winter going forward.

Links:

Human Hothouse Found to Be California Drought Culprit

NASA Satellites Put California Drought into Shocking Perspective

NASA/UC Urvine

ECMWF

Crunch Time for California Drought

Drought Cuts California’s Food Exports Sharply

Not One Drop: How Long Will California Survive Without Water?

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.

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(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

 

 

Global Warming Induced Drought Set to Re-Expand, Could Cost $200 Billion

Drought May 21 2013

A major drought that began last year, ramped up through last summer and autumn, and lingered through winter and spring of 2013 continues to have major impacts. Western states remain severely impacted with fire risks flaring throughout California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico continue to battle over water rights as drought conditions persist.

That said, the drought appeared to be slowly, tortuously abating as rains and record floods swept into various areas and began to provide relief. Now, about 46 percent of the US is currently suffering from some stage of drought. Though still very widespread, area impacted by drought last year surged to over 60 percent.

Now, as it appeared abatement and a slow return to normal conditions would continue, new forecasts show drought re-expanding into the plains states in time to threaten summer corn crops.

A recent report issued by climate experts at Harris-Mann Climatology found that:

“The drought in the Southwest is expected to move and expand eastward over the central and southern Great Plains, as well as at least the western Midwest, by late June or July. Flooded areas near the Missouri River are likely to turn to the opposite extreme of dryness later this summer season.”

For a farming region hoping to recover from the worst drought since 1955, and for a global food system teetering at the edge of insecurity this is a terrible forecast. Further, such a return to drought conditions would have serious monetary impacts. According to reports from AG Professional, a continuance and expansion of this drought could result in as much as $200 billion dollars in damages making the current drought the most costly weather disaster for 2012-2013, beating out even the far-reaching impacts of Hurricane Sandy.

Driving this change is a sudden shift of eastern Pacific Ocean waters toward a cooling phase called La Nina. La Nina tends to result in a heating and drying of the central and western United States. This shift led Harris-Mann to issue its revised forecast. You can see the cooling eastern Pacific on the map provided by NOAA below:

sst.daily.anom

(Image source: NOAA)

Harris-Mann also seems to note the unprecedented nature of current human-induced weather extremes stating:

“We’re still in a pattern of wild weather ‘extremes,’ the worst in more than 1,000 years, since the days of Leif Ericsson. For example, 2012 was the warmest year ever for the U.S., but on January 22, 2013, there was a record for the most ice and snow across the Northern Hemisphere continent.”

It is also worth noting that the period during which these extreme events occurred was the 8th warmest on record globally.

Links:

Drought Damage Could Top $200 Billion

Drought Conditions Forecast to Return to Central US

NOAA

US Drought Monitor

Sandy Misses Areas of US Suffering From Drought, Over 60% of Land Still Affected, US Winter Wheat Conditions Worst in 27 Years

Despite receiving record precipitation over a broad swath of territory, more than 60% of the United States is still suffering from a historic and global warming-induced drought. Sandy provided some mitigation for drought conditions in the Eastern and Mid-Western sections of the US. However, drought conditions were largely unchanged over broad swaths of the Western US and Heartland.

As a result, the US is now suffering its worst winter wheat harvest conditions in at least 27 years. Monitoring began in 1985, so it is impossible to know how far back one would have to go to find conditions similar to what is being experienced now. Just 40 percent of the current wheat crop is rated good to excellent. Fully 15 percent is rated poor to very poor.

“The low crop ratings will increase concern about the yield potential of this year’s crop,”Shawn McCambridge, the senior grain analyst for Jefferies Bache LLC in Chicago, said in a telephone interview to Bloomberg. “The weather doesn’t look promising for much improvement and may increase overseas demand for supplies left from last year’s U.S. harvest.”

The US corn crop is down 13 percent from last year. The US soybean crop is also down, showing a 7 percent loss from the year prior. Some of the remaining crops may have been damaged by Sandy as it raged over a large section of the Eastern US earlier this week.

Wheat losses similar to those suffered by US corn and soybean crops pose a risk for pushing the world’s food situation into a state of crisis. Throughout October, the UN has been warning of the potential for a spreading food crisis should any more ‘unforeseen events’ materialize.

Links:

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-31/u-s-winter-wheat-condition-worst-in-27-years-as-drought-lingers.html

Drought Expands to Cover 65 Percent of US, Largest Drought Area in Monitor’s Record, At 77 Billion, Drought 3rd Most Costly Weather Disaster on Record

Drought conditions broadened to expand to cover much of the US this week even as monsoonal moisture lessened the severity of drought in some areas.

According to reports from the US Drought Monitor, drought expanded to cover more than 65% of the US, the largest area ever in the Monitor’s record. A broad, contiguous swath of land from the Tennessee and Mississippi river valleys to the Rio Grand in the south, the Canadian border in the north and the California coast in the south all continue to suffer from conditions of moderate to exceptional drought. In addition, a swath of abnormally dry to severe and extreme conditions concentrating in Georgia and eastern Alabama parched parts of the eastern US.

Though drought areas broadened, monsoonal moisture, usually a respite for this time of year, did cause some slight reductions in Severe to exceptional drought conditions. Overall, the areas covered by severe to exceptional drought dropped by slightly more than half a percent to reach 41.07% for this week.

Much of the US’s breadbasket remained under severe to exceptional drought conditions. Farmers’ fields lay over dessicated soil. Wilted corn ears produced tiny cobs or no cobs at all. The monsoonal rains coaxed up a fresh growth of green grass. But the very dry soils underneath do not bode well for next year’s growing season, unless a long period of rain rejuvenates the soil this winter.

According to reports from USA Today, this year’s drought is now expected to cost over $77 billion dollars, the third most costly weather disaster in US history after Hurricane Katrina and the 1988 drought. Areas hardest hit include Oklahoma, which just suffered from an extreme drought just last year. Texas, also hit by last year’s drought, is showing persistent or expanding drought as well.

In context, climate change has brought one year of record flooding to the US, followed by a year of record drought. These extreme swings from one condition to the next are not helpful to agriculture and crop viability. Overall, the trend toward drying and swings between more and more extreme conditions is likely to continue for much of the US over the coming decade and worsening into the the 2020s and 2030s.

This year’s drought also shows the potential to worsen into next year should a recovery not come this winter. Overall, this prospect is appearing more and more likely. According to the most recent drought forecast, much of the country is expected to show worsening drought. Only a small region is expected to show persistent or improving conditions and a very small region is expected to show improving conditions. Perhaps, more ominously, the northwest, so far spared the worse harms of the current drought, is expected to fall into drought conditions over the next few months.

Links:

http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/seasonal_drought.html

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/monitor.html

National Climate Data Center: “Drought Expands to Cover Nearly 63% of the Lower 48; Wildfires Consume 2 Million Acres”

Image

The hottest month in US history has brought with it a number of wide-ranging impacts, according to reports from the National Climate Data Center.

Wildfires

During the month of July over 2 million acres were consumed by forest fires across the country. In Oregon, the Long Draw fire consumed 560,000 acres in a single blaze. This was the largest fire ever to affect Oregon since record-keeping began in the 1840s. Other large fires affected the heartland which is currently sweltering under the most intense heatwave on record.

Severe Impacts to US Agriculture

According to the NCDC, the nation’s primary corn and soybean belt experienced its eighth driest July, its third driest June-July, and its sixth driest growing season (April-July) since records began in 1895. This drought has had severe impacts on US crops forcing many farmers to simply plough their ailing fields back into the soil, abandoning crops in hopes that next year will be better.

Fully half of the US corn crop is in poor to very poor condition with 37% of the US soybean crop also in the lowest rating assigned by the US Department of Agriculture. Due to these impacts, it is expected that US corn output will fall by 13% and US Soybean output will fall by 11%. These declines are expected in spite of the US having planted its largest corn crop in 75 years. The result is that corn prices are flirting with record high prices at over $8 per bushel.

Area of Severe Drought Doubles

The area of the Nation suffering from extreme to exceptional drought more than doubled from 10% at the end of June to 22% at the end of July. Areas hardest hit were the heartland of the United States: Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, Nebraska.

Hottest 12 Months in US History For the Past Four Months Running

Just last month, the hottest 12 month period in US history was recorded. Wait one month, and the previous record set in June has been broken again. So, as of this report, the US is currently experiencing ongoing increases on top of a long period of already record high temperatures. In fact, the same thing happened in April and May as well. We’ll have to see if August breaks the record 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit departure from average temperatures set in July.

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Global Warming Link Established

Earlier this month NASA scientists established a link between extreme summer heating events and human caused global warming. They did this by tracking temperatures since 1951 and showing that under the current regime of ever-increasing levels of CO2, extreme summer heating events like the one experienced this year are now 30 times more likely to occur than they were sixty years ago. Though a handful of oil company funded scientists have taken issue with this assessment, the data presented by NASA couldn’t be clearer as it tracks the increasing frequency of these extreme events.

“This is not some scientific theory. We are now experiencing scientific fact,” NASA scientist James Hansen told The Associated Press in an interview.

Please help support our continuing efforts.

Please help support our continuing efforts.

Links:

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

Half of Counties in US Declared Disaster Areas Due to Drought

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More than half of the United States has been declared a disaster area due to an ongoing record drought. Currently, 1584 counties, 50.3% of all counties in the US, are drought disaster areas.

Over much of July, record heat and dryness resulted in expanding and continuing drought conditions for much of the US. These record conditions are severely impacting the nation’s agricultural industry. According to the US drought monitor, 37% of the US soybean crop and 48% of the US corn crop were rated in poor to very poor condition. Livestock has also experienced severe impacts with 66% of the nation’s hay and 73% of the nation’s cattle acreage experiencing drought.

According to the US Drought Monitor, about 63% of the US landmass is currently undergoing drought conditions.

Image

For years, climate scientists have warned that human-caused global warming would result in intensified drought conditions for the US. With drought conditions occurring across wide swaths of the US for the past 7 years, it appears that this future is now. The current drought is one of the worst on record and threatens to intensify. It follows on the heels of a massive and debilitating drought in Texas last year. It is the second major drought to impact the southeast in five years. Unfortunately, weather forecasts show this drought is likely to continue through Halloween. If such an event materializes, the current severe impacts will grow far, far worse.

Though it is normal for extreme droughts to occur over long time-scales, it is not normal that they occur with such frequency and such recurring severity. Most climate scientists now agree the current drought was made worse by climate change. A more clear statement is that the current drought is a product of human-caused climate change. What would have likely been a hot, dry period, has become an extreme event due the effects of added atmospheric heating.

Stating this obvious fact should be something we encourage. It is impossible to deal with a problem unless it is first validated. But, considering our situation, it is only responsible to make a concerted call, not for panic, but for action.

Strong changes to energy policy, major support for alternative fuels for transportation and electricity (wind, solar, biofuels, plug in hybrid electric vehicles and pure electric vehicles), a dedicated program of cut-backs for fossil fuel use (coal, oil, natural gas, tar sands), and national funding for climate emergency mitigation will be necessary to deal with this crisis. The goal will be to prevent future, worse disasters while working to mitigate the disasters that are currently under way.

Given the current state of the world’s climate, without prevention and mitigation, we are likely to experience continued and worsening instances similar to this drought in the future. Regional and national droughts will continue to intensify, with more extreme events becoming more frequent and more intense. Even with prevention and mitigation, we can expect a period of difficulty, but with proper policy measures, these difficulties should be manageable.

It is worth noting the amazing degree of short-sightedness business and political leaders pushing for expanded fossil fuel use express. This complete lack of responsibility and leadership in pursuit of short-term profit and political gain, if continued, will result in nothing short of the United States losing its position as an agricultural superpower. It will also have severe and devastating impacts on both national and world-wide food security.

So let this be an appeal to these  leaders — the oil barons, the coal barons, the gas barons, and the politicians who support them — the time for change is well past. You may continue your attempts at dominance and short-sighted profit, but you do so by waging a campaign of devastation and degradation on the rest of us. This is unconscionable. It must stop now.

Please help support our continuing efforts.

Please help support our continuing efforts.

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