Last month, we ran a series on water resources in the American Southwest. The stories, by veteran environment reporter Tom Yulsman, made clear that current trends of water supply and demand in the Colorado River basin are simply unsustainable, and resource managers face a series of tough choices ahead.
Now a new report, produced by the Stockholm Environment Institute, an environmental think tank, warns of climate change-related water shortages in the region, and recommends various approaches to restricting water use in the region.
The report starkly summarizes the current situation in the southwestern states (Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah): "In the U.S. Southwest... there is less rain and snowfall each year than the amount of water used in the region. Today that shortfall is made up for by pumping groundwater, well beyond the sustainable rate," the reports states. "Add the impacts of growing population and incomes, and the Southwest will face a major water crisis in the coming decades."
Lake Powell is a man-made reservoir on the Colorado River, straddling the border between Utah and Arizona. It is the second largest man-made reservoir in the United States behind Lake Mead. Credit: Wolfgang Staudt/flickr
As Yulsman's articles made clear, the water woes facing the Southwest are bad enough even without considering the likely impacts of climate change. In general, most computer model simulations, as well as climate change theory, project that as the world warms due to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, the Southwest will become hotter and drier, thereby increasing water demands from the agricultural sector and reducing supplies.
By Gretchen Weber, KQED ClimateWatch
Taking global climate models and "downscaling" them for use at the local level is an ongoing challenge for scientists and for planners. But thanks to new climate projections from NASA, the Bay Area now has a sharper view of what may be in store.
This map shows parts of southern San Francisco Bay that are vulnerable to flooding from a 16-inch sea level rise by mid-century. Credit: San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
NASA says two-thirds of its facilities are at risk from sea-level rise, including Ames Research Center, which sits at the southern edge of San Francisco Bay. So, it's not exactly altruism that motivated the agency to deploy its own scientists to take a closer look at what climate change will really mean on the ground in places where it's heavily invested.
"This is the first time we're actually working with our scientists and taking the data that's usually at hundreds of miles by hundreds of miles and bringing it down to the local level," said Olga Dominguez, assistant administrator for NASA's Office of Strategic Infrastructure.
Dominguez was at NASA Ames on Friday for a conference on climate change impacts in the South Bay.
NASA scientists used historic local temperature and precipitation data and sea level rise records from San Francisco to downscale global climate models to produce projections for the southwestern Bay Area, which includes Ames.
Their results indicate that by 2050:
- average temps could rise 2-4°F
- sea level could rise 6-9 inches
- precipitation could increase OR decrease up to 15 percent
- [The number of] days per year above 90°F cou...
Earlier this week we reported on the heavy rains and flooding in Queensland, Australia. Since then, the death toll has increased to 16 people, and at least 50 people remain missing. And while the heavy rains in much of the province have stopped — for the time being, at least — and the level of the Brisbane River is now on its way down after peaking about 15 feet above normal, flood risk has shifted to the Victoria region of southern Australia. Already, hundreds of people there have been evacuated as several cities and towns anticipate flooding following a few days of intense rain.
But this week's news of heavy rains and flooding is no longer limited to Australia. Flash floods and landslides tore through an area north of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil on Wednesday, triggered by intense rain that started on Tuesday. Already, more than 500 deaths have been reported due to the floods, but with continued rain hampering rescue efforts, that number is expected to rise over the coming days. And in Sri Lanka, ongoing rains and flooding have caused 27 deaths, displaced more than a quarter million people from their homes, and swamped much of the rice-growing region of the country.
Click to view a slideshow of the floods.
Last night, ABC News' Nightline reported on the series of floods that simultaneously struck around the world this week, and what their connection to both La Niña and long-term climate change might be.
In spite of the snowstorm that rattled the South through the Northeast U.S. — not to mention the winter storm currently rolling through the Seattle area — the biggest news in weather this week actually comes all the way from Australia.
As you may have heard by now, the Australian state of Queensland has recently been inundated by flooding on a grand scale. This past week, the eastern coastline of the state was struck by torrential rains that have led to more severe flooding. Thousands of people have been evacuated around the state, at least 13 people have died, and in the city of Brisbane — with about two million people, it’s Australia’s third-largest city — nearly 20,000 homes are under flood risk after the Brisbane River, which runs through the center of the city, overflowed.
Looking back over the past few months of precipitation records in Australia, which are compiled by the country’s Bureau of Meteorology, it’s clear that there has been a growing risk of flooding. Since before the beginning of their rainy season, which normally starts around September, the rain has been falling in unusual amounts. The period of October through December featured the heaviest rainfalls ever recorded over a three-month span.
December itself was also record-breaking, and much of Queensland recorded its heaviest rainfall on record for the month. With all that rain pummeling the state, it’s no surprise that towards the end of 2010 the rivers swe...
Originally published on Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog
One of the fiercest beginnings to winter on record has slammed Europe with relentless assaults of bitter cold and heavy snowfalls. The unusually wintry weather gripping Europe as well as the cold plaguing the eastern United States are linked by a historically strong weather system locked over Greenland.
In Europe, the strange weather pattern has caused mayhem for holiday travel. Over the weekend, airport and ground transportation disruptions were widespread, from London's Heathrow Airport - one of the world's busiest hubs - to Frankfurt International Airport and the German Autobahn. According to the The Guardian newspaper, Frankfurt airport workers resorted to dressing up as angels in an attempt to calm the situation when crowds of stranded passengers, frustrated by lengthy delays and flight cancellations, became unruly. Heathrow, meanwhile, was closed to arriving aircraft on Sunday, after being closed altogether on Saturday, according to several news reports. More heavy snow is forecast for London yet again today according to the UK Met Office.
BAA spokesman Andrew Teacher told CNN: "These are absolutely ... freak weather conditions ... We've not seen a storm like this in 20 years."
So what has been causing this freak winter weather onslaught in Europe, and the colder-than-average conditions in much of the eastern U.S., including Washington?
There is a very strong "blocking pa...