Climate Change, Climate Refugees, Coal, Ecological Overshoot, Environmental Collapse, Epic Colorado Fire, Gina Rinehart, Global Warming, Peak Soil, Peak Water, Resource Wars, Soil Erosion, Southwest Wild Fires
I posted a snarky comment over at the Rogue Columnist, but I’m really beginning to think that it’s not far off from what will be a reality in the not too distant future. Read just the following two articles to see what I mean. The estimates of water loss to the Colorado River will be much greater than predicted in my post “When The River Runs Dry“. Las Vegas is already frantically constructing another straw at a lower height to capture water from the river.
…The heat in Colorado is one ingredient that along with unusually dry conditions and strong winds is creating one of the worst wildfire seasons on record in the Rocky Mountain State. The High Park Fire has already burned 83,000 acres, making it one of the largest fires in state history. More than 1,800 personnel are currently battling the blaze, which has already cost at least $31.5 million, according to a U.S. Forest Service website. Another wildfire began on Tuesday and threatened the city of Boulder, causing staff at the National Center for Atmospheric Research to be evacuated.
According to a recent Climate Central analysis, Colorado was the 20th-fastest warming state between 1970 and 2011, with average temperatures increasing by about 0.5°F per decade. Arizona, which is also grappling with hot weather and wildfires, was the fastest-warming state, with an increase of about 0.6°F per decade.
The heat is not just affecting the West, however. The High Plains and even the South have been sweating it out under a dome of high pressure, which is causing a broad area of sinking air. As air sinks it warms, and this also inhibits the formation of showers and thunderstorms that could offer some heat relief.
During the June 18-to-24 period, 731 daily high temperature records and 798 daily warm low temperature records were set or tied in the U.S., compared to 154 record cold daily high temperatures and 131 record cold daily low temperature records, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
Between June 19-25, there were 14 all-time high temperature records set or tied, along with two all-time overnight warm low temperature records. There were no all-time cold temperature records set or tied during the same period.
In a long-term trend that demonstrates the effects of a warming climate, daily record-high temperatures have recently been outpacing daily record-lows by an average of 2-to-1, and this imbalance is expected to grow as the climate continues to warm. According to a 2009 study, if the climate were not warming, this ratio would be expected to be even. Other studies have shown that climate change increases the odds of extreme heat events and may make them warmer and longer lasting.
Bill Deger, a meteorologist for AccuWeather in State College, Pa., posted a comprehensive rundown of some of the more noteworthy heat records in the West and the High Plains.
“A couple of 113-degree readings in Kansas on Monday nearly claimed the top spot for the hottest temperature on planet earth. Only six other observing stations in the Middle East were hotter on Monday, with Makkah, Saudi Arabia, leading the pack at a blistering 117,” Deger noted. “A cooperative weather station near Tribune, Kan., which set an all-time record high of 109 on Sunday, turned around and beat the new record by a full 2 degrees on Monday.”
Deger wrote that Galveston, Texas had its earliest 100-degree day in any calendar year since at least 1875.
The heat is slowly building east, and records may fall during the next few days in cities such as Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City. The heat wave should reach the Mid-Atlantic states by the end of the week as well…
And new research on soil erosion and the dying forests in the Southwest…
(June 27, 2012) — New research concludes that a one-two punch of drought and mountain pine beetle attacks are the primary forces that have killed more than 2.5 million acres of pinyon pine and juniper trees in the American Southwest during the past 15 years, setting the stage for further ecological disruption.
The widespread dieback of these tree species is a special concern, scientists say, because they are some of the last trees that can hold together a fragile ecosystem, nourish other plant and animal species, and prevent serious soil erosion.
The major form of soil erosion in this region is wind erosion. Dust blowing from eroded hills can cover snowpacks, cause them to absorb heat from the sun and melt more quickly, and further reduce critically-short water supplies in the Colorado River basin.
The findings were published in the journal Ecohydrology by scientists from the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and the Conservation Biology Institute in Oregon. NASA supported the work.
“Pinyon pine and juniper are naturally drought-resistant, so when these tree species die from lack of water, it means something pretty serious is happening,” said Wendy Peterman, an OSU doctoral student and soil scientist with the Conservation Biology Institute. “They are the last bastion, the last trees standing and in some cases the only thing still holding soils in place.”
“These areas could ultimately turn from forests to grasslands, and in the meantime people are getting pretty desperate about these soil erosion issues,” she said. “And anything that further reduces flows in the Colorado River is also a significant concern.”
One of those heads on a pike will be this woman.