THE DRIEST & HOTTEST YEAR IN 500 YEARS ! THE RELENTLESS SOUTHWESTERN DROUGHT: EXPERTS SAY ‘GET USED TO IT’…WILL ARIZONANS BE THE NEXT ‘CLIMATE REFUGEES’ ?
The odds of a 10-year drought afflicting the southwestern U.S. have increased to 80%, and the chance of a “megadrought” gripping the Southwest for more than 30 years has increased to 50%, scientists now say in a new study by Cornell University, the University of Arizona and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Lake Mead has dropped below 1,082 feet above sea level — 7 feet above the level at which the federal government would declare its first shortage on the Colorado River, the lake is 39 percent full.
“How urgent it is depends on what you think the risk is,” said attorney Wade Noble, who has represented Yuma-area (above) irrigation districts for 30 years. “If the risk is high that the water is not going to be there … then something needs to be done in the immediate future, not next year.”
ALL EYES ON LAKE MEAD AS SHORTAGES GROW…..
Since December 2004, the basin of the Colorado River lost nearly 53 million acre feet (65 cubic kilometers) of freshwater, almost double the volume of the region’s largest reservoir, Nevada’s Lake Mead, the researchers reported. About 75 percent of the total — about 41 million acre feet (50 cubic km) — came from groundwater, the new study found.
“We don’t know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don’t know when we’re going to run out,” Stephanie Castle said. “This is a lot of water to lose.” Castle and her co-authors tracked groundwater loss in the basin with NASA’s twin GRACE satellites (for Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment). The satellites circle the Earth, monitoring the slight changes in Earth’s gravity from increases or decreases in ice and water.
In the Spring of 2014 the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has reached the highest level in human history, exceeding 400 parts per million in April. Ice cores taken from Antarctica with air bubbles as old as 800,000 years has not revealed a level higher than 300 ppm. “This should be taken as a warning,” said Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist with the Carnegie Institution’s department of global ecology at Stanford University. “It is time to stop building things with tailpipes and smokestacks. “If we fail to heed this warning, our children will end up living in a world that is much hotter than any human being has ever experienced,” Caldeira said.
Clifton-Morenci Stacks at sunset, Arizona’s Oldest Copper Mine and Smelter since 1849.
Scientists predict this 2014 summer we will experience a new global record for all time HOT … ! Nature reported within 35 years, a cold year, will be warmer than the hottest year now on record.
Thirty nine climate models were used to make a single temperature index for places all over the world, findings estimated when major US cities’ average temperatures will never again dip below that of the hottest year in the past century and a half. Data showed Phoenix and Honolulu would swelter as early as 2043 with 2049 taking San Francisco, and by 2071 Anchorage Alaska would melt.
Sharon Megdal, director of the Water Resources Research Center at the University of Arizona, says she doesn’t want to alarm people, but she thinks our water situation could be serious.
“I don’t want to get people worried. If there is a shortage in 2016, it won’t affect the Colorado River water to Tucson and Oro Valley, but it’s getting real,” she said. “I think the reality of a shortage is resonating with people.”
Megdal believes “toilet to tap” water is in Tucson’s future believing the city will have to implement new systems for recycling water, including cleaning waste water for use again by the customer. Much of Arizona’s water comes from the Colorado River via the Central Arizona Project, but the river is in trouble, Megdal told AZ Illustrated Nature. “The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the manager of the Colorado River says there’s a two percent chance of a shortage in 2015, but a 50 percent chance in 2016, Megdal said. “The Colorado River flows, are based on rain falling on the headwaters and how much water they’re releasing from Lake Powell to Lake Mead.”
Former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said last year that to avoid a water crisis, Arizona should partner with Mexico to establish desalination plants to bring water north, if the Colorado River’s flow continues to suffer. The U.S. Department of the Interior could declare a shortage as early as 2017.
Stocking up for the 4th of July Holiday, buying fruit, ice tea and hotdogs–I ask my grocery checker what folks are buying to cool off today …. “Water!” she says, “people are loading up on water”.”I never thought I’d see the day she says–when folks would pay good money-a dollar or more-for a plastic bottle of water”, I mutter pushing my cart across the parking lot. “Now we can’t keep it on the shelves” and we are running out!
As many already know, Tucson’s historic Agua Caliente Park is experiencing the extended drought and changes in the water table. The stream that feds the ponds is not currently flowing and, although Pima County is pumping well water to augment the pond, it is insufficient to counteract the water loss. Continuing drought has been blamed for dropping water table, as well as, the significant amount of palm trees and cattails that use lots of water. The park originally was once a three pond compound which has shrunk up and has now only the main pool. Twelve new nearby wells have reportedly dropped the water acquirer and additional pumping has been unable to replace the monthly loss. The County wants now to bail on the two ponds and shrink the main pool.
Last Spring something mysterious happened in deserts of the West. In the Mojave Desert’s Joshua Tree National Park. we’re talking about blooms on the Joshua trees that are larger than locals say they’ve ever seen, the reason may be grim but the effect was beautiful. “I don’t know what happened this year, but it was an incredible display,” Virginia Willis, a 15-year resident, told ABC. Biologists have said they think the blooms are a stress response by the trees to climate change, specifically, to no rain. Joshua Tree National Park receives two to five inches of rain a year but this year only received 7/10 of an inch, the Los Angeles Times reported. The theory is that the trees are producing more flowers, and thus more seeds, in an effort to survive with less rain. And locals hope it works, because right now the iconic trees are in decline. “We haven’t had a new, young Joshua tree emerge on our Wickenburg study site in almost 30 years, and there have been a number of trees that have died,” desert ecologist Jim Cornett told USA Today. “They’re just not getting the kind of environmental conditions that they require to survive.” The Wickenburg Joshua Tree Forest also produced large blooms and maximized seed output “It’s more than interesting, it’s probably unprecedented in anybody’s recent memory anyway,” Cameron Barrows, an ecologist at the University of California, Riverside, told ABC.
Get used to the heat!”, says Jonathon Overpack, a UA Scientist, “Expect 130 degree days and by 2050, the Colorado River will probably be dry.” “Once the Central Arizona Project (canal) goes dry for one year, Arizona is dead,” Overpeck warns. “People won’t want to live here anymore.” Economic calamity will result. The question isn’t whether the man-made Colorado River and its reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell will go dry, it’s when.”
Phoenix will become the largest ghost town in history-extending to every corner of the Valley of the Sun. The few folks who remain will do so mostly to provide services for people passing through.
The date is January 1, 2114 and Phoenix is dead.
Scientists predict this 2014 summer we will experience a new global record for all time HOT … !
“Temperatures are more frequently going beyond the bounds of what we’ve seen before,” said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center. It wasn’t just Phoenix that simmered last summer. It was the fifth-hottest summer worldwide since record-keeping began in 1880, and the 15th-hottest in the United States, Crouch said. Most of the hotter areas were in the West. Nationwide,it reflects a warming trend of 1 degree over the past century. In Arizona, the increase has been about 2 degrees, he said. Higher temperatures can affect moisture in the air, Crouch said, leading to more floods and longer droughts. “When it’s wet, it will be wetter. When it’s dry, it will be drier,” he said.
It isn’t your imagination-since Phoenix recorded its all-time high of 122 degrees on June 26, 1990-it has just gotten hotter, last summer was the hottest in Phoenix since U.S. record-keeping began in 1895. 2013 was the 6th hottest year in Arizona since 1850, the National Weather Service says the average temperature in Phoenix was 95.1 degrees from June through August. Tucson recorded its second-highest average temperature, 88.3. John Glueck, a meteorologist notes those temps were partly from heat-island effects, the tendency for concrete and asphalt in urban areas to retain heat, raising night-time temperatures. Every day last summer in June the temps pushed past 100 degrees, and news stories promised all-time heat records and Phoenix finally topped out at 118, Death Valley reached 128, pushing the all-time Death Valley record, of 134 degrees at Furnace Creek Ranch, recorded on July 10, 1913 it’s the highest or hottest temperature ever recorded in the World.
Valley residents better prepare to swelter through more days like the June 26 record temperature when in 1990 the heat soared to 122 degrees in Phoenix, the hottest recorded day in the city’s history. That extreme heat does more than make people sweat. Temps climb over 119 in Phoenix, cancels air flights because excess heat affects a planes’s ability to take off and land.
The American Southwest will be ground zero for extreme heat. The Southeast and Upper Midwest of the United States will add 27 to 50 extra days each year when temps hit at least 95 degrees by 2050. By 2100 45 to 100 additional days when days exceed 95 degrees. These ground temps will make being outdoors so difficult, labor productivity will drop. Demand will increase for air conditioning, requiring more power thus increasing costs.
In the Southwest, we have plenty of drought experience. The region has been in drought much of the last 14 years, including several years of unprecedented drought, first early in the 21st century, and then eclipsed by the burning dryness of the last two years. Burning dryness because we’ve literally seen unprecedented wildfire, but also because Southwest droughts of the last two decades have been hotter than any time since we started keeping track reports Johnathan Overpeck.
Today throughout the South West individual states are fighting their own battles with drought, Las Vegas is paying its residents $2 a square foot to pull out their grass and lush gardens, the landscape is changing slowing. Nevada is removing wild horses and cattle from all federal rangelands. Wyoming is seeding clouds as part of a long-term “weather modification program,” officials in Colorado say the state’s southeastern plains are experiencing Dust Bowl conditions, and the entire western U.S. has been beset by ferocious wildfires across an ever-more combustible landscape. In small towns all across New Mexico residents are subsisting on trucked-in water, and others are drilling deeper wells. Eighty-seven percent of New Mexico is in drought, the last three years have been the driest and warmest since 1895. All of New Mexico is officially in a severe or exceptional drought, water reservoir storage statewide is 17% of normal, the lowest in the West. Wildlife managers are hauling water to elk herds in the mountains and blame drought for the high number of deer and antelope being killed on roadways.
Thousands of Albuquerque’s trees have died because homeowners under water restrictions can’t water them, and in the NM state’s agricultural belt, low yields and crop failures are the norm. Livestock levels in many areas are about one-fifth of normal, and panicked ranchers face paying inflated prices for hay or selling off their herds.
Last year was California’s driest on record for much of the state, and this year, conditions are only worsening. Sixty-three percent of the state is in extreme drought, and the Sierra Nevada snowpack is just 10 to 30 percent of normal. Last year was California’s driest in 119 years of records, Los Angeles and other cities around the state recorded their lowest precipitation amounts for a calendar year. Urban areas are feeling the pinch, the Metropolitan Water District, which serves about half of heavily populated Southern California, has been using reserves to meet residents’ needs, and plans to do the same next year, said spokesman Bob Muir. If 2015 is also dry, rationing may be required. Water levels in key reservoirs have been dropping when they should be rising with winter rains, storage in Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville, the two largest reservoirs in California, is at 57 percent. Gov. Jerry Brown has asked Californians to reduce their water use by 40% in this drought emergency. Lake Mead’s water levels is eight feet above the cut off level where a shortage is officially declared and rationing goes into effect for Nevada and Arizona, and at that point, Hoover Dam’s hydroelectric output could be seriously jeopardized and may brown out the Vegas Strip. Lake Mead could be dry by 2020 and Lake Powell will never fill up again. “This strikes me as such an amazing moment” says Barry Nelson, an analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, “It’s three-quarters of a century since they filled Lake Mead. And now at the three-quarter-century mark, the world has changed.”
In the winter of 2005, Lake Powell reached its lowest level since filling, an elevation 150′ below full pool. Lake levels recovered during 2005 – 2011, but the resurgence of extreme drought conditions have provoked a steep decline in 2012 and 2013, with the lake falling 35′ over the past year. As of August 18, 2013, Lake Powell was 109′ below full pool (45% of capacity), and was falling at a rate of one foot every six days.
LAKE MEAD GOES DRY, THE VEGAS STRIP BROWNS OUT – WILL VEGAS BECOME THE NEW CHACO ?
Looking back in time through the tree rings, scientists have determined that the current Southwest drought, beginning in 2000, is the fifth most severe since AD 1000. Devastating mega-droughts have occurred regularly in the region, one struck during the latter 1200s (probably driving people from the region) and another in 1572-1587, a drought that stretched across the continent to the Colonies. Few conifers then abundant in the Southwest survived including piñon, ponderosa pine, and Douglas fir, despite lifespans approaching 800 years; those species have now regrown.
By the Classic Period, 1150 to 1450, the Hohokam irrigation systems could deliver water to over 110,000 acres and support the largest population in the Southwest. It was the largest canal irrigation system ever developed in the prehistoric New World. The Hohokams created a sustainable agriculture that survived for at least 1,500 years. From 1200AD to 1350AD, their irrigation systems delivered water and fed the Southwest, today, canals still follow prehistoric routes, and many were built by cleaning out original Hohokam canals.
The Hohokams were also the only prehistoric culture in North America to rely on irrigation networks to raise crops. They transformed their environment creating fields that stretched as far as the eye could see.
Scientists studying the drought say the extensive damage done to trees shows what the future holds for other forests worldwide face rising temperatures, diminished rainfall, and devastating fires.
As air grows warmer, its capacity to hold water vapor increases exponentially, which speeds evaporation and sucks more moisture out of trees’ leaves or needles, as well as the soil itself. If the vapor pressure deficit sucks out enough moisture, it kills trees.
Global warming will make feeding the world harder and more expensive, a warmer world will push food prices higher, trigger hunger among the world’s poorest people and put the crunch on delights like fine wine and robust coffee, says the Panel on Climate Change in a 32-volume report. Food prices are likely to go up in a wide range of 3 percent to 84 percent by 2050 just because of climate change, said the United Nations scientific panel.“We’re facing the specter of reduced yields in some of the key crops that feed humanity,” panel chairman Rajendra Pachauri said.
We will still get good years—wet years—but they will be more and more the exception. A better bet is to expect more drought and plan for it.
Climate change is affecting today’s world’s oceans as well as every continent and it’s going to get much worse if emissions are not curbed, scientists say in the sweeping report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last spring. The report asserts that ice caps are melting and global water supplies are being affected. Important for many island and coastal countries, the pace at which sea levels are rising is endangering coastal areas. The list of problems reads like an unending parade of misery, including rising acidity in the oceans, a threatened world food supply, and possibly mass migration and violence as a result.
January 2014 was recorded as the warmest January in fifty years in Arizona. Tucson’s Ski Valley on Mount Lemmon lost the whole ski season to the lack of snow in the southernmost ski area in the United States. Sabino Creek, a mountain stream fed by snowfall and rain stopped running three weeks early this year. Residents of Oracle on the North side of the Santa Catalinas find their beloved oak trees receding and withdrawing up the mountain. Fires and tree die off makes longtime residents like Rick Volante, think their forest may soon become a grassland. Elsewhere in Arizona, plant species are scaling the Sky Islands growing uphill to reach higher altitudes and cooler habitats.
Last year Drought covered 30 percent of Arizona–this year it has almost doubled to 57 percent settling in the southern counties of Pima, Pinal, Cochise and Graham, where residents there are being hammered the hardest.
U.S. Forests shows stress, 20th-century temperature records show a connection between drought and tree mortality associated with huge wildfires and bark-beetle outbreaks, like we have seen here in the past two decades. Projections say forests by 2050 in the Southwest will be suffering regularly from drought stress at levels exceeding previous megadroughts. After 2050, 80 percent of the years to follow will exceed those levels.
“The majority of South West forests will not survive the temps projected”.
In 2013 the USDA designated a Drought Disaster Areas in Arizona where Navajo Reservation water supplies were being compromised by the springs drying up and folks turning to shallower wells that might have been impacted by uranium or arsenic. On January 9, 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated Apache, Maricopa, Navajo and Pinal Counties as primary natural disaster areas due to drought. Eight other counties were named as contiguous disaster counties Coconino, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Pima, Yavapai and Yuma.
The tragic Wildlands firefighter death toll taken last summer when 19 members of the Arizona’s Prescott Granite Mountain Hot Shots died fighting a wild fire near Yarnell, Arizona, it was the worst tragedy since 1903. More than 500 homes were lost in a firestorm of epic proportions in Colorado Springs, where wildfire triage wanted to save “every other house” but saved only one in four homes. In California the Fire season just didn’t end last year which prompted Gov. Edmund Brown, to declare a state of emergency. “It’s not if–it burns,” he says. “It’s when.”
After a year of asking Californians to cut back their water consumption, water use has gone up one per cent. A $500 Water Waste fine has now gone into affect…
Thomas Tidwell, the head of the United States Forest Service, told a Senate committee on energy and natural resources recently that the fire season now lasts two months longer and destroys twice as much land as it did four decades ago. Fires now, he said, burn the same amount of land faster.
The Slide Fire’s 1200 firefighters are now just winding down with a 32 square mile damage footprint wiping out iconic Oak Creek Canyon which would just now beginning to pull in Phoenix tourists for cooler get-aways and now will not attract any tourist, causing huge damage to the high country economy when it is just beginning the season. Flagstaff averages a 100 inches of snow a year, last season, the area received 19 inches of snow, they now fear fire.
The present 11-year drought, says Nelson, has caused the Colorado River to deliver considerably less water than users were promised. The Bureau of Reclamation’s current plan calls for an increase of up to 40 percent in the amount of water delivered to Lake Mead from Lake Powell, the big reservoir upstream, a step that may help equalize the amount of water in each reservoir and possibly avoid triggering the shortage declaration that cuts off towns like Tucson from the concrete tit.
Nate Stephenson, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), based near Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, says that if climate warming continues tens of thousands of the ancient Sequoia trees will be at risk in the coming century from destruction. “In 25 years, we would see trouble for sequoia seedlings, then in 50 years trouble for the whole population,” Stephenson said. “In 100 years time, we could lose most of the big Sequoias.”
The threat that climate change poses to giant sequoias is indicative of a broader danger to tree species worldwide. A study published in December in the Journa Science found rising death rates among trees 100 to 300 years old across a wide range of global landscapes, from forests, to savannas, to cities. The study noted that mortality among older trees is linked, at least in part, to higher temperatures and drier conditions, according to a paper in Nature Climate Change.
A 2010 study conducted by 20 researchers worldwide and published in Forest Ecology and Management documented dozens of cases of “significant tree mortality” on every continent (except Antarctica) over the last 40 years — all of which were linked to heat and drought. According to Craig Allen, a USGS research ecologist based in New Mexico and the Forest Ecology and Management paper’s lead author, ‘Old trees and ancient forests everywhere are arguably at risk.’ Mortality rates have not only risen in dry regions, but also in wet forests. “Old trees and ancient forests everywhere are arguably at risk,” says Allen. “If projected temperatures rise by 4 degrees by 2100, that warming alone could cause most old trees to die sometime this century.”
A new study center at the University of Arizona thinks residents of the Sonoran Desert are lucky to be the canary in the coal mine. “In Arizona, many opportunities will come from the fact that we are early adapters. We have so much focus here on drought and extreme temperatures that we’ve actually developed techniques to deal with them: artificial groundwater recharge, reuse of waste water, conservation and efficiency.” We’re going to have to adapt to more huge wildfires, prolonged heat waves, electricity brownouts, floods and more drought in the future, thanks to climate change, says the new director of the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions that will try to help people do that. “That’s really how people experience climate change,” says director Kathy Jacobs.
The center is a virtual center, with no formal office or headquarters, and with only Jacobs and an assistant as full-time staff. It operates out of the UA’s Institute for the Environment headquarters in the Marshall Building near Main Gate Square. Being prepared is a key theme the center will focus on. Starting operations in January, the center’s basic purpose is to help people in Tucson, nationally and globally adapt to a changing climate by offering management options and practices aimed at protecting lives, property and the national environment from its impacts. The center will connect with the UA’s climate science community, so ideas stemming from climate research have a better chance of becoming reality. “How do we make science useful?” Jacobs said. Helping manage risks that come with climate change, particularly a cascading series of risks such as public health problems from a major heat wave that damages the electrical grid. “Managing risk is the central nut we need to crack here,” Jacobs said “Risk is a complicated, interdisciplinary problem — it’s hard to understand the factors for risk.”
Last year’s drought scorched over half of the U.S. last year. Now that drought is targeting the Southwest and western Plains, according to Mark Svoboda, climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center. Svoboda says the Southwest and Great Plains are likely to see the drought deepen, and it’s possible the drought will reach the Pacific Northwest, like Oregon and Idaho. At the end of last summer, about 65 percent of the country was experiencing drought. Today, the extent of the drought has dropped to 48 percent — but it is far from over Svoboda warns.
The Union of Concerned Scientists reports misinformation about climate science on cable news channels is pretty common. A study found that last year, 30 percent of CNN’s climate-related segments were misleading, compared with 72 percent on Fox News and just 8 percent for MSNBC. The methodology for the study was quite strict: segments that contained “any inaccurate or misleading representations of climate science” were classified as misleading.
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