Writings

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.

Global Warming Pause? The Answer Is Blowin’ Into the Ocean

Publication: NBC News   Date: February 9, 2014   View Article

For the past 13 years, global surface air temperatures have hardly budged higher despite continual pumping of planet-warming gasses into the atmosphere from the engines of modern life. Does this prove global warming is a giant hoax? No, according to a new study, which says the missing heat is being blown into the western Pacific Ocean by extraordinarily powerful and accelerating trade winds.

“Their acceleration over the last couple of decades is way stronger than you’ve ever seen in a climate model, about twice as strong,” Matthew England, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, told NBC News. “This is an unprecedented level of strengthening and it is strong enough that it is actually pushing heat in the Pacific Ocean into the ocean’s interior,” he added.

As the heat is drawn down into the ocean’s interior, cooler water rises to the surface and cools air temperatures. When — it’s not a matter of if, noted England — the winds slacken, the heat stored in the Pacific Ocean will return to the atmosphere, allowing the surface air temperatures to spike higher and “catch up to the original projections of global warming in under a decade.”

Google Earth spies unreported fish traps, study reveals

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 26, 2013   View Article

Fishing traps known as weirs that jut from coastlines may be snaring six times more fish in the Persian Gulf than what is officially reported, according to a new estimate based, in part, on satellite imagery available through Google Earth.

Scientists turned to the Internet search giant’s mapping tool as a way to cross-check catch data reported to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization by six countries in the gulf, a region of the world where marine ecosystems are understudied.

Methane emissions soar past previous estimates, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 25, 2013   View Article

Emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane from industrial activities in the United States are vastly higher than previous estimates, according to a new study.

“We think our result for the oil and gas sector could be up to five times higher” than figures reported in a widely used international emissions database, Scot Miller, the study’s lead author and a graduate student at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., told NBC News.

3,700-year-old cellar housed ‘luxurious’ wine

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 22, 2013   View Article

A 3,700-year-old palatial cellar packed with jars once filled with a wine-like brew has been discovered at an archaeological site in northern Israel, a team of researchers announced Friday.

The cellar is perhaps the oldest of its type ever discovered and the wine was anything but ordinary. Spiked with juniper berries, cedar oil, honey and tree resins, it was likely the good stuff pulled from the cellar for grand, royal banquets where resident rulers and perhaps their trading partners washed down a feast of wild cattle with an intoxicating swill.

No excuses: Cut carbon dioxide emissions now, scientists urge

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 21, 2013   View Article

Recently, several scientific studies have concluded that the global climate is less sensitive to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than previously believed. Other studies also found that cuts to short-lived pollutants such as soot could temporarily slow the pace of warming.

Neither, however, are reasons to delay weaning the world off fossil fuels in a bid to curb global warming, according to a pair of perspective papers released Thursday.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach