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.)

Wild Amazon Faces Destruction as Brazil’s Farmers and Loggers Target National Park

Cattle graze beside the tree stumps that are all that is left of cleared Amazon forest inside the Sierra Ricardo Franco state park. Photograph: Jonathan Watts for the Observer

GR:  A few years back, Brazil finally realized that cutting down the Amazon rainforest was causing drought, something that Alexander Von Humboldt had described two centuries ago. The country made an effort to preserve its forest. Then we saw oil prices fall, rampant corruption exposed, and the wealthy had to shift their hungry eyes. The oligarchs replaced conservation sentiments with the old standby, harvest and sell natural resources. In Brazil’s case, this has often been irreversible logging or simply clearing for pasture of the ancient rainforest. The loss of indigenous and migratory wildlife is a sad example of how human greed is destroying the natural world.

I used Google Earth’s history function to show the forest’s destruction in around the Serra Ricardo Franco state park. You can see that destruction accelerated after 1993. It slowed between 2003 and 2013, but that’s because not much was left. Nevertheless, efforts are underway today to harvest the remnants.

Google Earth 12-30-1984.

Google Earth 12-30-1993.

Google Earth 12-30-2003.

Google Earth 12-30-2013

The excellent article below describes what’s happening now to the Amazon Rainforest.

“Today, orange dirt roads, cut into the forest by illegal loggers, lead you to the north-western flank of the elevated hilltop. Now called the Serra Ricardo Franco state park, this is nominally a conservation area set up with support from the World Bank. Instead of forest, however, you find swaths of land invaded by farmers, stripped of trees, and turned over to pasture for 240,000 cows. There are even private airfields inside the park’s boundaries, which exist on maps only.

“Far from being an isolated area where a wanderer might starve, this is now – despite its dubious legal status – one of the world’s great centres of food production. In recent months, it has also emerged as a symbol of the resurgent influence of a landowning class in Brazil who, even more than in the US under Donald Trump, are cashing in on the destruction of the wild.

“Locals say a member of President Michel Temer’s cabinet – chief of staff Eliseu Padilha – owns ranches here on hillsides stripped of forest in a supposedly protected park. The municipal ombudsmen told the Observer the cattle raised here are then sold – in contravention of pledges to prosecutors and international consumers – to JBS, the world’s biggest meat-packing company, which is at the centre of a huge bribery scandal.

“These allegations are denied by farmers but there is no doubt the government is easing controls as it opens up more land for ranches, dams, roads and soy fields to meet the growing appetite of China. Last year, Brazil reported an alarming 29% increase of deforestation, raising doubts that the country will be able to meet its global commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Rather than an aberration, this appears to mark a return to historical norms for a country that has been built on 500 years of land seizures that were later legalised by the politicians who benefited from them.

“The concurrent erosion of legal authority and natural habitat can be seen in many Brazilian states: the newest soy frontiers of Maranhão, Tocantins and Bahia; the hydropower heartland of Pará and the wild west mining and logging regions of Rondônia and Acre. But it is in Mato Grosso that the political forces behind deforestation – associated with corruption, violence, weak regulation and deliberate obfuscation of land ownership – reveal themselves most clearly.” –Jonathan Watts (Continue: Wild Amazon faces destruction as Brazil’s farmers and loggers target national park | World news | The Guardian.)

The endangered Tatu-bola Armadillo, the mascot of the 2014 World Cup is disappearing along with many other inhabitants of the forest (belizar73/Getty Images/iStockphoto).

New study finds the oceans are rising three times faster than they were during the 20th century

GR: Coastal flooding as global warming melts the polar ice caps is one of the most devastating consequences of human-caused climate change. Years ago, scientists predicted that at some point, the rate of sea level rise would accelerate. We have now passed that point. According to NOAA, “nuisance flooding” is already becoming a problem on the U. S. east coast where high tides will be higher than many other places on the globe. Here’s a story on what scientists expect. You will notice that global annual averages are small. However, when you consider totals for decades, and when you consider that the totals will be much higher in some areas like the U. S. east coast, you can see how great the threat is.

An iceberg is pictured in the western Antarctic peninsula in March 2016. (Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images)

“A new scientific analysis finds that the Earth’s oceans are rising nearly three times as rapidly as they were throughout most of the 20th century, one of the strongest indications yet that a much feared trend of not just sea level rise, but its acceleration, is now underway.

“We have a much stronger acceleration in sea level rise than formerly thought,” said Sönke Dangendorf, a researcher with the University of Siegen in Germany who led the study along with scientists at institutions in Spain, France, Norway and the Netherlands.

“Their paper, just out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, isn’t the first to find that the rate of rising seas is itself increasing — but it finds a bigger rate of increase than in past studies. The new paper concludes that before 1990, oceans were rising at about 1.1 millimeters per year, or just 0.43 inches per decade. From 1993 through 2012, though, it finds that they rose at 3.1 millimeters per year, or 1.22 inches per decade.

“The cause, said Dangendorf, is that sea level rise throughout much of the 20th century was driven by the melting of land-based glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms, but sea level rise in the 21st century has now, on top of that, added in major contributions from the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica.

“The sea level rise is now three times as fast as before 1990,” Dangendorf said.

–Chris Mooney, More: New study finds the oceans are rising three times faster than they were during the 20th century – The Washington Post

Trump Repeal of Climate Rules Means U.S. Paris Target Now Out of Reach

GR: Ignoring recent weather extremes, thinning sea ice, disappearing wildlife, and more, our leaders are rushing to help their masters take a little more profit before the Earth becomes uninhabitable. Do they think their children will get to go along to the mountain retreats or to Mars when temperature extremes, floods, and fires have made life unendurable across much of the planet?

“The U.S. would have had to ramp up its climate ambitions to help slow global warming to the 2 degrees C goal, but under Trump, it’s going in the opposite direction.

President Trump may not have waved goodbye formally to the Paris agreement, but his policies are keeping the U.S. from meeting its goals. Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

“Whether the U.S. meets its emissions-reduction commitments under the Paris climate accord is pivotal to the success of the global agreement, but the Trump administration’s policies have all but ensured the U.S. will fall far short. One recent analysis says the country will miss its target by more than 1 billion metric tons.

“Under President Barack Obama, the United States pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. That means emissions must be cut about 1.7 billion metric tons, according to figures from the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest greenhouse gas inventory. The nation is a third of the way to that target, but the rest was to be achieved via an array of regulations, especially the Clean Power Plan, that are now targeted for elimination by President Donald Trump. Not only was the goal dependent on those rules, it would have also required even more rigorous policies from Obama’s successor because reductions from those rules would not have been enough, numerous studies have found.

“David Bookbinder, a longtime environmental lawyer and a fellow at the libertarian think tank the Niskanen Center, released a new analysis that puts the shortfall at 1 billion metric tons if Trump succeeds in undoing most of the Obama-era climate rules. Meaning, emissions from the world’s second-largest carbon polluter would be virtually unchanged from today. That would jeopardize any chance the world has to set a course of deep and rapid decarbonization over the next critical few years.

“There were people at the [EPA] hard at work on 2.0 [of climate policy], and they were going to ratchet it up, and it was going to be justified by Paris. It all would have worked, except for that whole election thing,” Bookbinder said. “Now, it’s all over…We’re at square zero.” –Marianne Lavelle (Continue reading: Trump Repeal of Climate Rules Means U.S. Paris Target Now Out of Reach | InsideClimate News.)