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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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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

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