Wildfires Rage Through Portugal and Spain, Kill at Least 39

GR:  Fire, storm, flood, and drought disasters are growing. Perhaps they will soon become so commonplace as to go unreported. Of course, when we see something coming at us like the fire in the photo below, we need the reports. Hurricane Ophelia is partly responsible for the spread of these fires.

“Hundreds of fires in both countries are being fanned by winds from Hurricane Ophelia in the north, currently barreling towards Ireland, and encouraged by extremely dry terrain from a scorching hot summer in the region.

“Sixty-four people died in a wildfire in Portugal in June, and the country has declared a state of emergency in the northern region. “We are facing new (weather) conditions” due to climate change, Portuguese Interior Minister Constanca Urbano de Sousa told the press, as she also referenced the fires blazing in California. “In an era of climate change, such disasters are becoming reality all over the world.”

Source: Wildfires Rage Through Portugal and Spain, Kill at Least 39

Death by 1,000 Cuts: Why the Forest Carbon Sink Is Disappearing

GR:  While we’re on the subject, here’s more evidence that deforestation is not stopping anytime soon. The research reported below found that 69% of deforestation came from small-scale projects.

“The clear-cutting of giant swathes from the globe’s tropical forests has long been understood to be a major force behind global warming, but new research finds that smaller-scale forest loss—from minor logging and fires—is an even more powerful driver of climate change.

“On Thursday, scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center and Boston University published a study in the journal Science that says the planet’s tropical forests are releasing more carbon dioxide than they can store, mostly due to “fine scale” degradation and disturbance that previous studies haven’t captured.

“The finding means tropical forests may not act as carbon “sinks” unless both deforestation writ large and this more subtle degradation is stopped or slowed.

“The researchers looked at tropical forests across Asia, Africa and Latin America using a trio of tools—remote sensing, field observations and satellite imagery—that gave them a more comprehensive and detailed picture over a period of eleven years, from 2003 to 2014.

“This approach allowed them to measure not just large-scale deforestation, largely from agriculture, but smaller-scale degradation and disturbances that have, until now, been especially difficult to gauge.

“Collectively, these fine-scale losses have been very difficult to quantify,” said Wayne Walker, an associate scientist at Woods Hole and one of the report’s authors. “While they don’t seem like much in any given place, when you add them up across an areas as big as the tropics, they can be huge.” –Georgina Gustin (Death by 1,000 Cuts: Why the Forest Carbon Sink Is Disappearing | InsideClimate News).

Degraded Tropical Forests Now Release More Carbon Than They Store

GR: Brazil and other tropical nations are still allowing companies to cut and burn their forests for wood, pasture, and cropland. Deforestation is also occurring outside the tropics. The U. S. Forest Service, for instance, still permits forest clear cutting a century after the U. S. Forest Service was created to prevent clear cutting. And of course, the “wake-up call” sounded by the research is late and is unlikely to be heeded. The lungs of the Earth are shriveling up and it is the short-sighted nature of humans to permit this in return for a share of the profits (more on this story here: Washington PostReutersThe GuardianPBS NewsHour).

Forest thinning in Bolivia. Wayne Walker

“Tropical forests may no longer be acting as carbon sinks and could be releasing more carbon than they store, according to troubling new research.

“A study published Thursday in the journal Science finds that forests across Asia, Latin America and Africa release 425 metric tons of carbon per year, which is equal to nearly one-tenth of the U.S.’ annual carbon footprint.

“Researchers found nearly 70 percent of this loss is caused by small-scale degradation, the result of selective logging, drought and wildfire. All is not lost for forests, however. Researchers say that policies to curb deforestation, reduce degradation and restore land could turn forests back into carbon sinks.

“These findings provide the world with a wakeup call on forests,” the study’s lead author, Alessandro Baccini, a scientist with the U.S.-based Woods Hole Research Center, said in a statement.

“If we’re to keep global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels, we need to drastically reduce emissions and greatly increase forests’ ability to absorb and store carbon.” –Climate Nexus (Degraded Tropical Forests Now Release More Carbon Than They Store, New Study Finds.)

Climate Change Is Shrinking the Colorado River

Predicted Growth of Drought in the U. S. Southwest

GR: Here’s a helpful article that explains the drought disaster that is spreading across the southwestern U. S. There’s nothing new here, but the discussion clarifies some issues and will help you prepare for the inevitable changes. The article has an optimistic message, but the science is clear, life will become steadily more difficult in the Southwest, people will move away, and most will be gone from Arizona and large areas of surrounding states by 2100. It is inescapably obvious that we need to redirect the energy devoted to development in the Southwest and the corresponding effort to conserve water to forcing an immediate end to fossil fuel use.

Projected Drought Intensity in the U. S.

Though I believe the future for the Southwest is bleak, there is one small hope that the article contains. The Southwest could become a solar power generator that might give some of the people the financial means to survive the drought. Of course, this does nothing to protect nature and wildlife in the region. I’ve posted 43 discussions of climate-change induced drought in this blog. Click here to scroll through stories about the coming megadrought that can no longer be avoided.

“The nation’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mead on the Arizona/Nevada border and Lake Powell on the Arizona/Utah border, were brim full in the year 2000. Four short years later, they had lost enough water to supply California its legally apportioned share of Colorado River water for more than five years. Now, 17 years later, they still have not recovered.

“This ongoing, unprecedented event threatens water supplies to Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, Denver, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque and some of the most productive agricultural lands anywhere in the world. It is critical to understand what is causing it so water managers can make realistic water use and conservation plans.

“While overuse has played a part, a significant portion of the reservoir decline is due to an ongoing drought, which started in 2000 and has led to substantial reductions in river flows. Most droughts are caused by a lack of precipitation. However, our published research shows that about one-third of the flow decline was likely due to higher temperatures in the Colorado River’s Upper Basin, which result from climate change.

“This distinction matters because climate change is causing long-term warming that will continue for centuries. As the current “hot drought” shows, climate change-induced warming has the potential to make all droughts more serious, turning what would have been modest droughts into severe ones, and severe ones into unprecedented ones.

The Colorado River is about 1,400 miles long and flows through seven U.S. states and into Mexico. The Upper Colorado River Basin supplies approximately 90 percent of the water for the entire basin. It originates as rain and snow in the Rocky and Wasatch mountains (Courtesy USGS).

 

How Climate change reduces river flow

“In our study, we found the period from 2000 to 2014 is the worst 15-year drought since 1906, when official flow measurements began. During these years, annual flows in the Colorado River averaged 19 percent below the 20th-century average.

“During a similar 15-year drought in the 1950s, annual flows declined by 18 percent. But during that drought, the region was drier: rainfall decreased by about 6 percent, compared to 4.5 percent between 2000 and 2014. Why, then, is the recent drought the most severe on record?

“The answer is simple: higher temperatures. From 2000 to 2014, temperatures in the Upper Basin, where most of the runoff that feeds the Colorado River is produced, were 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 20th-century average. This is why we call this event a hot drought. High temperatures continued in 2015 and 2016, as did less-than-average flows. Runoff in 2017 is expected to be above average, but this will only modestly improve reservoir volumes.” –Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeck (Much more: Climate Change Is Shrinking the Colorado River – Indian Country Media Network.)