Sunday, August 17, 2014

U.S. drought reaches 'apocalyptic' extremes

Wide swaths of the United States remain mired in one of the worst droughts in recent times, prompting some to describe conditions as near "apocalyptic."

California, which is essentially the nation's fruit basket, has been particularly hard hit. As noted by The Economic Collapse Blog, some scientists and climatologists are beginning to use phrases like "the worst drought" and "as bad as you can imagine" to describe the current situation in the western half of the nation.

"Thanks to an epic drought that never seems to end," reported the blog, "we are witnessing the beginning of a water crisis that most people never even dreamed was possible in this day and age."

How bad? California is preparing to ban people from watering lawns and washing cars -- but if the drought persists, trust that such measures will pale in comparison to the tight restrictions that are on the way.

Here are some additional reports that describe just how bad things have gotten:

-- The Los Angeles Times has reported that 80 percent of California is now in "extreme" drought:

The NWS' Drought Monitor Update for July 15 shows 81% of California in the category of extreme drought or worse, up from 78%. Three months ago, it was 68%.

The map shows that drought conditions worsened in parts of Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

The new data comes as officials are getting tough on water wasters.

  Las Vegas may have to shut down

-- The State Water Resources Control Board has voted to give local authorities the power to fine those who waste water up to $500 a day. The board also says that nearly 50 communities around the state are on the verge of running out of water.

-- Many Southern California cities, including Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Long Beach, already have mandatory restrictions in place.

-- Worse, water usage is increasing; the latest figures showed that water usage statewide was up 1 percent in May over the same period a year ago (a trend driven primarily by an 8 percent increase in Southern California).

-- The Times also reports that downtown Los Angeles is the driest it has been since records began to be kept in 1877.

-- In something right out of communist East Germany, a social media phenomenon known as "drought shaming" has sprung up -- neighbors who take pictures of other neighbors using water and then posting them on Facebook, or other social media.

-- Climatologist Tim Barnett has said the water situation in Las Vegas "is as bad as you can imagine." He said he believes that, if the city can't "find a way to get more water from somewhere," it will soon be "out of business."

-- The water in Lake Mead, which was created by the Hoover Dam and supplies Vegas, is at its lowest level since 1937. Worse, it is continuing to drop at a frightening pace. See incredible pictures of the 14-year drought here:

  Crops can't be grown; tens of millions affected by lack of water

-- "The drought is like a slow spreading cancer across the desert. It's not like a tornado or a tsunami, bang. The effects are playing out over decades. And as the water situation becomes more dire we are going to start having to talk about the removal of people," said Rob Mrowka of the Center for Biological Diversity.

-- Some areas of Nevada have officials actually paying people to remove their lawns, citing lack of water.

-- According to Accuweather, "more than a decade of drought" along the Colorado River has set up an "impending Southwest water shortage" which could ultimately affect tens of millions of people.

-- Farmers in California are not planting nearly a half-million acres this year because of water shortages.

Read the full measure of the drought at The Economic Collapse Blog.


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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Surprise! Icebergs Spotted in Lake Superior

Though it's starting to feel like summer in the Great Lakes region, with temperatures soaring into the 80s (Fahrenheit), icebergs are still loitering in Lake Superior — a reminder of an especially harsh winter.

Last week, a marine warden with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was patrolling Lake Superior when she spotted seagulls resting on a huge chunk of ice near Madeline Island, off the northern coast of Wisconsin.

"Normally the ice is mostly gone by end of April with some bays having some ice chunks floating around," said warden Amie Egstad. "We were doing commercial net checks and had been seeing the ice floating around the area. This one was the biggest we had seen so far."

The iceberg rose 12 to 14 feet (3.5 to 4 meters) above the water and stretched 40 feet (12 m) long and 20 feet (6 m) wide, though much of the block was hidden underwater, Egstad told Live Science in an email.

"The surface water temperature in this area is only 34 Fahrenheit [1.1 degrees Celsius] so it will be a bit before the ice is actually gone," Egstad said.

The giant ice cubes seen by Egstad are lingering after a frigid winter, during which ice covered nearly 100 percent of Lake Superior, the deepest, largest and northernmost of the five Great Lakes. In March, all five of the lakes combined hit 91 percent ice cover, the most ice since the record of 94.7 percent was set in 1979, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

At the end of May, Lake Superior surface-water temperatures were about 1 or 2 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 or 1 degree Celsius) below their long-term average. However, scientists with the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA) forecast that surface temperatures over the deepest parts of the lake will still be in the 40s F (about 4 C), at least 6 degrees F below normal by August, because these deeper waters take longer to mix with the surface waters and get thoroughly warm.

Scientists say the winter's deep freeze will have lasting effects beyond persistent icebergs and colder-than-average water for swimming. The Great Lakes will likely have higher water levels and occasional blankets of fog as well.

"It's going to be the summer of fog. The water will stay really cold, but summer air tends to be warm and humid," Peter Blanken, a GLISA collaborator from the University of Colorado, explained in a statement. "And any time you get that combination, you're going to have condensation and fog — basically evaporation in reverse."

Chilly water will also delay the start of the yearly evaporation season by four to six weeks. Less evaporation could be a good thing for the Great Lakes, which last year experienced record low water levels. Lake Superior could see water-level gains of up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) by next spring, depending on rainfall, said GLISA climatologist John Lenters.

Original article on Live Science.

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