Posts Tagged ‘Drought’

World’s groundwater reservoirs running dry

July 15, 2015

Double click to enlarge.

The following is a NASA press release.

About one third of Earth’s largest groundwater basins are being rapidly depleted by human consumption, despite having little accurate data about how much water remains in them, according to two new studies led by the University of California, Irvine (UCI), using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites.

This means that significant segments of Earth’s population are consuming groundwater quickly without knowing when it might run out, the researchers conclude.  The findings are published … in Water Resources Research.

“Available physical and chemical measurements are simply insufficient,” said UCI professor and principal investigator Jay Famiglietti, who is also the senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.  “Given how quickly we are consuming the world’s groundwater reserves, we need a coordinated global effort to determine how much is left.”

The studies are the first to comprehensively characterize global groundwater losses with data from space, using readings generated by NASA’s twin GRACE satellites.  GRACE measures dips and bumps in Earth’s gravity, which are affected by the mass of water. In the first paper, researchers found that 13 of the planet’s 37 largest aquifers studied between 2003 and 2013 were being depleted while receiving little to no recharge.


California’s water and the reality principle

March 25, 2015

Drought map USASource: Business Insider.

Bertrand Russell once wrote that democracies would always triumph in the long run over dictatorships because dictators had the power to ignore unwelcome facts while democracies did not, thanks to contested elections, freedom of the press and the loyal opposition.

In short, although Russell did not use that word, democracies had a better system of feedback.

I hope this is true, but I wonder about American democracy’s ability to face reality, as I look at the lack of U.S. response to global climate change, the failure to keep the nation’s physical infrastructure in good repair, the erosion of civil liberties and the continuation of failed interventionist policies in the Middle East.

Drought-2-650x435The California water crisis is an example of what I mean.  During the past few weeks, journalists have reported that California has only a year’s supply of water in its reservoirs at current rates of use.

That’s exaggerated, because the supply can be stretched out by means of rationing and pricing schemes, but most of California, left to its natural state, would be a desert, and that is a real possibility.

California voters last year approved a bond issue to pay for long-range solutions, such as large-scale water recycling and ocean water desalinization from the ocean.  But these will take years to implement.


Half the country is burning up

July 16, 2012

The map shows the counties that are on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s fast track to receive emergency drought aid.  They cover a larger area than in any previous U.S. drought on record.  Corn and soybean harvests are in danger.

Click on Drought devastating 26 states is the largest natural disaster in U.S. history for details.

Click on 4 Summer Heat Charts That Will Blow Your Mind and How hot has it been? This hot for more charts showing the current heat wave.

Bookmark US Drought Monitor for weekly updates on U.S. drought conditions.

It seems obvious to me that this is the result of a long-range warming of the planet, and that things are going to get worse before they get better, or even level off.

[Update]  My Iowan friend Anne Tanner commented as follows.

I think this chart omits a lot, or perhaps the map is a bit outdated. Numerous counties in Iowa have been on the severe drought list for weeks, and our farmers are cutting down corn–can’t even make silage out of it. Wonder what the standards were for this map?

In response to her comment, I checked and found the following maps.  She’s right.  The top map does not tell the whole story.

Drought situation as of July 10. Source: Drought Monitor (link above)