Drought

Parched California Braces for Drought Without End in Sight

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 24, 2014   View Article

As California and other western states face what some scientists fear could be a prolonged drought amplified by global warming, water experts say there’s simply no way to predict how long the dry spell will last.

The best thing to do, they said, is to prepare for the worst and hope for rain. It wouldn’t be the first time California soil went parched for a long stretch. Tree growth rings in the region show evidence of prolonged periods of aridity in the past.

“To know that we are going into another pattern like that, that we could expect this drought to persist for 10 to 15 years is really, really, really hard to say,” Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb., told NBC News. “There is really nothing in our forecasting models that are being looked at that would suggest that we would even have the ability to do that.”

Parched California Pours Mega-Millions Into Desalination

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 17, 2014   View Article

Besieged by drought and desperate for new sources of water, California towns are ramping up plans to convert salty ocean water into drinking water to quench their long-term thirst. The plants that carry out the high-tech “desalination” process can cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but there may be few other choices for the parched state.

Where the Pacific Ocean spills into the Agua Hedionda Lagoon in Carlsbad, Calif., construction is 25 percent complete on a $1 billion project to wring 50 million gallons of freshwater a day from the sea and pour it into a water system that serves 3.1 million people.

Desalination was a dreamy fiction during the California Water Wars of the early 20th century that inspired the classic 1974 movie “Chinatown.” In the 1980s, however, the process of forcing seawater through reverse osmosis membranes to filter out salt and other impurities became a reliable, even essential, tool in regions of the world desperate for water.

‘Crazy’ climate re-engineering could reduce vital rains, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 1, 2013   View Article

If global warming gases build up so much that record-setting rains, droughts and coastal floods routinely bankrupt businesses and cities, the world’s economic and political powers may decide to aggressively re-engineer the global climate. One option is to fill the atmosphere with enough sunlight-reflecting particles to restore surface temperatures to pre-industrial levels. If they do, would all be cool?

Absolutely not, according to a new study that asked the question to 12 models forced to simulate the global climate with four times more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than existed in 1850, the start of the industrial revolution. Under such conditions, reflecting sunlight in order to lower temperatures to pre-industrial levels would cause monsoonal rains to drop 5 to 7 percent below pre-industrial levels.

Weather pattern could provide early warning for catastrophic U.S. heat waves

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 27, 2013   View Article

The emergence of a newly identified atmospheric pattern is likely to provide two to three weeks advance warning that a stifling and potentially deadly heat wave will hit the U.S., according to a new study. Since current forecasts go out no more than 10 days, the additional notice could give homeowners, farmers, electric companies and hospitals critical time to prepare for severe heat.

The precursor is a so-called “wavenumber 5″ pattern, a sequence of alternating high and low pressure systems — five each — that ring the northern mid-latitudes several miles above the Earth’s surface, according the research published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Over half of Americans link extreme weather to climate change

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 1, 2013   View Article

Six months after Superstorm Sandy killed dozens of people and caused an estimated $50 billion in damage on the East Coast, a majority — 58 percent — of Americans see a connection between recent changes in the weather and global climate change, according to a new report.

“People are beginning to recognize a pattern of extreme weather across the country and are themselves saying ‘Aha, I wonder if climate change has something to do with that,’” Anthony Leisrowitz , director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, which released the report today, told NBC News.

Middle East lost a Dead Sea’s worth of water, study finds

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 12, 2013   View Article

Freshwater resources in the water-stressed Middle East are rapidly declining at a time when global climate change is projected to make the region even drier, scientists report in a new study.

Between 2003 and 2009, parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins lost 117 million acre feet of stored water, according to gravity measurements taken by a pair of wedge-shaped satellites. That’s nearly the equivalent of all the water in the Dead Sea.

Drought Reaches New Orleans; Hurricane Isaac Could Add Insult to Injury

Publication:   Date: August 24, 2012   View Article

New Orleans may be the victim of a one-two punch as Hurricane Isaac threatens to strengthen over the Gulf of Mexico and the ongoing effects of this summer’s drought continue to trickle down to the Delta.

The record temperatures and lack of rain that have devastated crops in America’s heartland upstream also have weakened the once-mighty Mississippi River’s defenses against saltwater intrusion.

Freshwater flowing south from the Mississippi and salty water from the Gulf are constantly arm wrestling for territory in the Mississippi River Delta, where the river dumps into the sea. But as dry weather shrinks the Mississippi, the Gulf is gaining ground, pushing more saltwater inland. At risk is New Orleans’ freshwater supply.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach