Climate

Dust Bowl Days: Historic U.S. Drought Projected To Persist For Months, Worsened By Thin Western Snowpack

NOAA's latest seasonal drought outlook projects historic drought will persist.

By Lauren Morello and Andrew Freedman via Climate Central. See also the NY Times piece, “Thin Snowpack in West Signals Summer of Drought

Time is running out to avert a third summer of drought in much of the High Plains, West and Southwest, federal officials warned Thursday.

Without repeated, significant bouts of heavy snow and rain in the remaining days of winter, a large part of the country will face serious water supply shortages this spring and summer, when temperatures are hotter and average precipitation is normally low.

The drought already ranks as the worst, in terms of severity and geographic extent, since the 1950s. Though it’s not over yet, its economic impact appears to be severe, said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist at the Agriculture Department’s Office of the Chief Economist.

It “will probably end up being a top-five disaster event” on the government’s ranking of the costliest weather events of the past three decades, he said at a Capitol Hill briefing Thursday.

There is little relief predicted in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) latest three-month drought outlook, which the agency released Thursday. Federal forecasters predict that drought will persist in the Rocky Mountain and Plains states, expand throughout northern and southern California and return to most of Texas, a state that has been mired in drought since 2011.

NOAA does forecast improvements in drought conditions in the Upper Midwest and Southeast, areas that have received beneficial precipitation in recent weeks.

“The next couple of months will kind of determine how the spring and summer plays out in that part of the country,” said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Crouch said that continued drought conditions could threaten water supplies in many areas, particularly in the Southwest.

Dwindling Water Supplies

With drought extending into its second or even third year in some areas, the main concerns are shifting from agriculture and recreation to water supplies as rivers run dry and reservoirs shrink.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston on Feb. 15, Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said water managers are especially concerned about the situation in West Texas, where emergency conservation plans have gone into effect as water supplies dwindle.

In the western U.S., low mountain snowpack is once again a concern, especially in portions of Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming that feed the Platte and Arkansas rivers, said Mike Strobel of USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service.

Western mountain snowpack compared to average. (Credit: USDA)

“We’ve got the same trend we had last year,” Strobel said. “But prior to last year, we had very good snowpack, so there was a lot of moisture in reservoirs and soil” when drought conditions hit. This year, reservoirs are running low and soils are dry, which could magnify the impact of a winter without much snow buildup.

In Colorado, where 100 percent of the state is experiencing some level of drought, snowpack is at 70 percent of the long-term average and just 91 percent of last year’s total, Strobel said. Streamflow forecasts are poor and reservoir levels are low.

“We just don’t have the water in storage right now as we’re heading into the spring and summer, periods that are essential for agriculture and water management,” he said.

Those dry conditions and poor snowpack have also raised the risk that water levels could drop on the Mississippi River later this year, in a repeat of factors that reduced barge traffic last fall.

“We need rain in spring and fall so that we don’t have a crisis like we had this year on the Mississippi,” said Steve Buan from NOAA’s North Central River Forecast Center.

The portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa that funnel water into the Mississippi are “bone dry,” Buan said. NOAA estimates there is a 40 percent chance that come fall of 2013, the Mississippi River will dip as low, or lower, than during the record-breaking autumn last year.

The drought was most likely initially set into motion by the cooler-than-average water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, combined with the effects of warmer-than-average waters in the Atlantic Ocean. Studies have shown that this combination tends to favor major drought events in the U.S.

But some scientists, such as Nielsen-Gammon, suggest that the overall warmer climate created by manmade global warming may have amplified this already devastating drought, particularly by triggering more intense heat during the spring and summer of 2012.

A recently released draft of a new federal climate change assessment shows that as the climate continues to warm in the next few decades, drought events are likely to become more frequent and severe, leading to more significant water supply and agricultural impacts in much of the U.S

Escalating Costs

The continuing drought has already taken a toll on the nation’s farmers, said the USDA’s Rippey.

Drought during last year’s growing season took “major hits on row crops,” especially corn and sorghum, he said. Parched conditions reduced the nation’s production potential for those two crops by about one-quarter. Drought cut corn yields by 4 billion bushels and sorghum yields by 100 million bushels.

According to Climate Central research released on Feb. 18, the states of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana were among the hardest hit “Corn Belt” states, with yields at nearly 30-year lows.

The U.S. soybean crop rebounded slightly during a cooler, wetter August last year, though the overall yield still dropped by 200 million bushels, USDA found.

But heading into spring, it’s winter wheat that is the most immediate concern, Rippey said. In Oklahoma and South Dakota, roughly two-thirds of the current winter wheat crop is rated “poor” or “very poor,” while more than half of Texas’ crop falls into the same categories despite some rainfall this winter.

“We are at high risk for abandonment this year,” Rippey said, predicting that farmers could walk away from 25 percent or more of the nation’s winter wheat this year, the worst since 2002, unless their crops begin receiving steady, regular rains.

USDA won’t release its official estimates of crop production for 2013 until mid-May. But the agency is optimistic that U.S. corn will do well this year, yielding 163.5 bushels per acre. July weather will tell the tale, Rippey said, but encouraging signs include ebbing drought in the eastern half of the Corn Belt.

Another Destructive Wildfire Season Ahead?

It’s still too early to tell whether poor snowpack and persistent drought will yield another severe fire season in the western U.S., experts said.

Last year’s fires consumed many of the dead and damaged trees and underbrush that fuel wildfires, said Jim Douglas, a senior advisor at the Interior Department.

“If that fuel doesn’t regrow, it’s not there,” he said. “So we could have drought conditions with nothing to burn yet. And we could have a spring with early moisture, with a lot of grass growing good and tall. If it dries out in late summer, we could have very bad fire conditions.”

The National Interagency Fire Center projects an immediate above-average fire risk in regions hardest hit by drought in its Feb. 1 outlook, including portions of the Oklahoma Panhandle and eastern Colorado. But in the drought-stricken Rocky Mountains and Southwest, fire season normally doesn’t begin until April, the center said, and what it will look like isn’t yet clear.

— By Lauren Morello and Andrew Freedman

69 Responses to Dust Bowl Days: Historic U.S. Drought Projected To Persist For Months, Worsened By Thin Western Snowpack

  1. John McCormick says:

    Is this a consequence of the stalled El Nino being trapped by the lingering La Nina?

  2. Here’s an interesting moral dilemma: is it okay to protect yourself individually from rising food prices through financial derivatives?

    The stock market offers several exchange-traded funds that do just that. You can buy ETFs for cattle (COW), grains (JJG), and many others. A list is here: http://etfdb.com/etfdb-category/agricultural-commodities/

    Same question applies to energy prices.

    Or does trading derivatives just support the capitalist/unsustainable growth paradigm that many think is at the heart of the climate crisis?

    There’s certainly a lot of ambiguity here. At the extreme, if participation in financial markets is morally repugnant, then any economic activity beyond subsistence farming is immoral.

    Thoughts, anyone?

  3. Superman1 says:

    These articles are like a biologist looking through a microscope and watching the cells of a Stage 4 cancer patient deteriorate. We know the situation is dire, maybe terminal; where are some credible plans and roadmaps that won’t drive us over the climate cliff on the road to Nirvana?

  4. Daniel Coffey says:

    The article uses the phrase “mired in drought since 2011.” There is something oh so Texan about being mired – implied water – in a drought.

    For those who think it’s not soon enough to do something because it might cause some environmental harm to some habitat in places where one might put large-scale solar PV and wind, when will the trade-off be big enough to take the action we must ultimately take? The expiration date on Earth’s last and best offer is running out.

    Some practical action on behalf of the wild world would be appreciated. Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and others, are you listening? Are you reading? Do you get it? Delay will not change the trajectory of this horror story.

  5. Lore says:

    Don’t look to the Great Lakes Regions as a future source of fresh water. We have hit record lows in both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron water levels, effecting commerce and recreation on the lakes. Not to mention the contamination of clean water as the Chicago River begins to back flow into Lake Michigan.

  6. John McCormick says:

    Super, for the sake of our sanity, go find those plans and post them here. If you fail to come up with any, go away. You are becoming a bore.

  7. Paul Klinkman says:

    Sounds like a telenovela plot.

  8. catman306 says:

    Here’s a dust storm today taking place in another part of the world:

    Saharan dust over the Mediterranean Sea
    http://lance-modis.eosdis.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/imagery/single.cgi?image=MediterraneanSea.A2013053.1120.500m.jpg

  9. Joan Savage says:

    Internationally, where are the customers going to buy commodities?

    Several states in India are in multi-year drought due to weak monsoons. (Numerous reports, haven’t located an overview.)

    Argentina’s wheat crop is significantly less than last year. A review of the Argentina situation has some all too familiar factors, unseasonal heavy rain and related risk of crop-attacking fungi.

    http://en.mercopress.com/2013/01/21/argentina-s-wheat-crop-down-to-10-million-tons-2011-12-planted-area-25-less

    Wheat prices are up in France and UK due to fears of effect of heavy rains on crops.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-18/paris-wheat-gains-on-concern-of-crop-damage-as-conditions-worsen.html

  10. A friend said he wants to get a gun because when climate change gets bad enough there will be anarchy and he wants to be able to defend himself.

    I asked him what he plans to do with the people he shoots. Eat them? Because if things get that bad, there won’t be much else to eat.

    But you’re right. It’s a dilemma for all of us. How can we live and participate in society without adding to the problem. Even if you go to the grocery store on your bike, you’re buying food that was brought there by a fossil-fuel burning truck.

    I’d say, grow as much of your own food as you can (or trade with neighbors who grow their own), buy used clothes, use your car only when you have no other choice and get active — push for a carbon tax, blocking keystone and so on.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Derivatives are ‘economic weapons of mass destruction’ as someone said. They were passed off for years as a form of insurance, to take the risk out of various economic activities (and dump it onto someone else, naturally). But they have long become a completely opaque scam, a form of legalised banditry, understood by few, and rorted backwards and forwards, inside and out, by the insiders. When they finally implode, which could be near as other strains beset the global Ponzi universe of late capitalism, it will devastate economies.

  12. Jacob says:

    When did being a realist become boring?

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Yet again the obsessive attack on environmental groups, as if they were the sole, or even a major, impediment to renewable energy deployment. As I’ve requested numerous times, please inform me as to just why renewable energy projects MUST be constructed on ecologically precious land, and not on the vastly greater areas of derelict or degraded land, or on military reserves, or on grazing land, where they can happily co-exist with cattle?

  14. Ken Barrows says:

    Here’s the plan: (1) Politicians stop using the word “growth.” If it’s used, death penalty; (2) goal of reducing carbon emissions by x% per year. If it’s not met, next year is x+y% (y being the % missed from the previous year); (3) people who lose their jobs have to enroll in a permaculture training course. If not, no support.

    If the whiz bang tech can maintain prosperity under these constraints, great. If not, then they have to go, too.

  15. Hoedad says:

    At the Keystone demonstration last week i was surprised how few of us have made the connection or understanding between loss of Arctic ice and the jet stream over the northern hemisphere .
    My placard read:
    ICE FREE ARCTIC
    COMING TO A DUSTBOWL
    NEAR YOU.
    Have you seen the Pacific jet this winter over the
    west North America?
    http://www.weatherimages.org/data/imag213.html
    What a mess it looks like a yoyo.
    Translation: Drought.

  16. Daniel Coffey says:

    You apparently don’t want to believe it, and you don’t read the cites I post, so what is the point. You are suffering from the halo effect. If a Republican opponent of renewable energy calls themselves an environmentalist, then I suppose that will throw you off the trail.

    Do you follow anything when it comes to the deployment of renewable projects? The simple fact is that there are reports all over the internet of projects being challenged, sued, slowed, delayed, objected to, etc. Montana, Colorado, California, the east coast… etc. Just read a little.

    Have you ever attended any hearing with respect to a renewable wind or large-scale solar project? Let me guess – probably as one objecting to a project, I bet.

    I am not obsessed, but if you read a little, you will realize that there are more than a few people concerned over the slow deployment.

  17. Daniel Coffey says:

    Second point: I don’t cut slack to oil, coal or natural gas interests either. But everyone is piling on that group and no one is paying enough attention to the unbelievable and absurd delays which are playing out due to environmentalists. it doesn’t matter who stops the projects, if they don’t get built, we don’t have the option to use energy produced by other than fossil or nuclear. We need to do more and fast!

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Ever since late November, or thereabouts, in 4004 BC.

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Hang on! Which ‘cites’. I remember none, just a series of vague denunciations. Please, educate me. Specific incidents, with specific environmental groups, specific renewable projects and, if there is no mitigating factors, just the irrational opposition you assert, then I’ll gladly join you in denouncing their intransigence.

  20. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You see, this is where we might be forced to agree to disagree. I really find it very hard to equate any environmental group (and I personally believe that many have sold out, to varying degrees) with ‘oil, coal or natural gas interests’, who are, in my opinion at least, vastly more dangerous and destructive than any environmental group.

  21. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    PS, if there are reports all over the internet of renewables being opposed, is that opposition from real ‘environmental’ groups. I don’t mean Astroturf greenwash operations, which are pretty easy to spot, but from genuine environmentalists. And, in the case of genuine environmentalists, are their objections over the siting of projects in precious ecological reserves and centres of biodiversity, and do they support renewables otherwise?. As I have said often, I cannot see why renewables would have to be constructed in these few remaining areas of intact or relatively intact biospheres, when so much degraded and derelict land of far lesser ecological value is available. That is the dimension of your argument that I have difficulty grasping.

  22. Jacob says:

    Oh. Okay if you find the calamity which we’re on the brink of to be boring, who is anyone to argue with that.

  23. Paul Klinkman says:

    If you don’t mind cliff notes:

    Get a government with a spine.

    Then the government crushes the price of solar everything. When the government really truly goes to war, it wins. This rule is opposed by, when the government props up foreign drug lords, it doesn’t win.

    Crush through innovation. Crush through taking the vast profit out of the products by setting up AAA-style solar consumer clubs. Crush through subsidies, and yank all the fossil fuel subsidies. Crush through not accepting foreign monopoly tactics in solar. Crush through not accepting domestic monopoly tactics in solar, similar to Teddy Roosevelt versus Standard Oil.

    Swap out 80% of all heat and hot water needs for almost all buildings with active solar and rock bed storage. Generate 80% of all electricity with solar thermal, with rock bed heat storage for nighttime generation. Wind and PV aren’t bad, but we’ll have to build pumped hydro.

  24. Paul Klinkman says:

    No way are we done yet. We need a new transit system, above grade, hanging on cables, automated, using electric battery packs, carrying both freight and passengers to any address. If people aren’t driving then no one will abuse the batteries.

    We need active climate remediation. We need millions of thermal transfer devices to cool the Arctic Ocean in winter. We need small automated wind-powered devices to generate snow on windy days to transform tundra and many other lands into reflective snow surfaces more often, so that sunlight goes back into space.

    Deserts aren’t good. We need to plant trees at the edge of the Sahara in Kansas. We need to migrate tree seeds by hand (hunters will carry them in).

    We need to freeze the eggs of millions of species in liquid nitrogen. Better to have a shot at no extinction than none at all.

  25. Paul Klinkman says:

    Next, assuming that we’ve dropped the cost of biodiesel from growing algae in the desert, with salt water if necessary, we replace the remaining energy needs with biodiesel. Coal mines are all closed now except in museum simulations. Our love of meat/fish gets satisfied by algae-eaters, not by corn eaters.

    Now we need to overproduce algae in the desert. Hydrocarbons and biochar are the surest ways to sequester carbon dioxide. Build huge lignite mountains in the desert. Cap them with a surface of baked clay scales covered with soil for 2500 years. Keep going back past 350 to at least 300.

    It remains to go into every single Congressional district in every democracy and run somebody with a spine against the jellyfish swimming in the acid ocean of moolah. Aim for 98% worldwide approval for ending climate change.

    Don’t stop there. Get every possible business to sign on to some Sullivan Principles about climate change. Already colleges are selling their oil company stock as immoral. People should also switch to solar/insulation as much as possible, replacing ever greater percentages of fossil fuel use, because fossil fuel is now immoral.

  26. john c. wilson says:

    That’s actually had a fair amount of play around here. The connection and the understanding you’re looking for come oh so very slowly.

  27. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Thanks Paul. At the local level we could also get every community together to make their plans for efficiencies and communally owned renewables with people helping each to insulate their buildings and make other changes as required. Human energy is also renewable and cooperation actually increases energy, ME

  28. Paul Magnus says:

    may have a lot to do with ave temps reaching a point where the soil is just drying out too quickly. This also exasperates the heat which then leads to more drying. And so on and so on…

  29. Paul Magnus says:

    We haven’t reached 1C+ and the US food states are pretty much done. Farming all over the world is struggling.

    So we want to limit to 2C.

    We need to get real.

  30. Paul Magnus says:

    Watkins is stoical. Bad weather happens and farmers shoulder the burden, but the past 12 months has seen his mettle tested to new limits. His fields have flooded four times in the past four months.

    “Absolutely unheard of,” he said. In 2011 his land had 17 inches of rain. Last year 39 inches fell.

    Even this was potentially surmountable as some of his crops can survive the odd short flood. “But not the constant flooding,” Watkins said.

    “The land has never really been allowed to drain properly.”

  31. Paul Magnus says:

    And whats bizarre is they also had the most intense 1yr drought on record last year

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/18/summer-drought-flooding-unprecedented

  32. sailrick says:

    I agree with Dan on this one. I’m all for protecting sensitive ecosystems, but if global warming isn’t slowed down, the southwest could see changes that could be worse for the desert ecosystems than large solar farms. Using just a tiny fraction of available and suitable land could give us huge amounts of solar power, like from solar thermal plants with heat storage. The base load power that is flexible enough to help integrating more intermittent energy into the grid. The southwest has some of the best solar resources in the world. We should use it.

  33. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    In one of my nightmare visions of the future I see heavily armed guards patrolling the perimeter around large grain bins full of wheat and corn. Various numbers of chevrons on their uniformed shoulders convey their rank, while the logo on their lapels – a vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity – conveys the identity of their masters. [Feel free to use this in your next book. Matt Taibbi should be cited on the “vampire squid” portion.]

  34. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    And I keep trying to convince the grandkids that its 13.7B years worth of hydrogen evolution – as opposed to some silly dogma… or dog-something.

  35. Mark E says:

    Relax – Don’t worry….

    On occasion heat and humidity will get so bad that those armed guards will strip their uniforms and lie gasping in the shade of the grain bins, where they will still die, since it will be so hot and humid their sweat won’t evaporate even in a strong wind, and they’ll die of hyperthermia. Voila! No more armed guards around grain bins. So you don’t have anything to worry about.

    http://www.ccrc.unsw.edu.au/staff/profiles/sherwood/wetbulb.html

  36. John McCormick says:

    Thanks Mark,

    Is this the beginning of the next dust bowl. Unlikely, NASA (or its predecessor) had any ability to track this Pacific Ocean oscillation back in the 30s.

    It is time to get some answers regarding any correlation between Arctic melt back and the “La Nada”.

    This could become an extremely serious situation for the Colorado River, N.A. ag sectors, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Australia.

  37. John McCormick says:

    It is time to establish a federal government owned and operated National Renewable Energy Utility. America has millions of acres under our control to do whatever we need to build and expand non-fossil electric generating capacity.

  38. Mark E says:

    Superman, see Socolow’s “climate stabilization wedges” plan

    http://cmi.princeton.edu/wedges/

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/05/18/208131/socolow-wedges-deployment/#comment_link

    Kindly

    (1) do what you can to make that happen,

    (2) or else give us a detailed rationale supported by references why it won’t work,

    (3) or else have the good grace to shut up about how futile it all is.

  39. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    The severe flooding in OZ made the local news again last night. Amazing, and terrifying.
    Back in my collegiate days there was a requirement for EE students to take a course in what we called “Thermogodammics.” We learned the three Laws: 1) You can’t win. 2) You can’t break even. And 3) You can’t get out of the game. I wished I had learned my lessons better, as it now seems to be vitally important. But even with my limited knowledge I know that because the Earth is out of thermal balance – more heat coming from the sun than being radiated back out into space – it can only get hotter and hotter. And those disastrous wetbulb temperatures seem all to close for my liking.

  40. NREU. Great idea. But Mulga has a point. No need to plop giant PV installations on greenfields. There’s plenty of govt brownfield in the SW.

    But the problem with any of these large, centralized PV ops is transmission. The lines themselves are an environmental problem. Distributed PV is more consistent with reducing GHGs and sustainability. It’s just one Pacala/Socolow wedge, for sure, but diversity, not concentration, is the key lesson of nature.

    Efficiency is another area of low-hanging fruit. We should undertake a mandatory upgrade of all under-insulated buildings.

    Most of our energy waste problem has to be solved from the demand/consumer side. Large-scale supply-side solutions don’t break the mental paradigm of growth–they reinforce it.

  41. It’s all about the ice cap.

    If the ice cap goes, the atmosphere will immediately destabilize, with highly erratic rainfall. We won’t have to wait for sea levels to rise for an unmitigable disaster (although that will happen, too). We’ll have an immediate unmitigable disaster–the failure of agriculture. Russia lost 40% of its wheat crop in 2010. Now replicate that across all the Northern Hemisphere for all major crops.

    And that won’t be a one-time event, but an ongoing, downward spiral as the Arctic heats a little more every year.

    Imagine the despair as that reality becomes apparent.

    Save the ice cap.

  42. Warren Buffet said that about credit default swaps, and he was right. Credit is a construct, and open-ended. Banks were in a big daisy chain, selling each other a promise to pay upon the failure of their fellows, which is by definition leveraged. The premium is limited, but the payout is much, much larger. If you pull the wrong block out of that Jenga tower, it all comes crashing down. Which is precisely what happened in 2008.

    But other derivatives are tied to physical markets. They’re not open-ended. They only pay the difference between the physical price and the strike price. And they’re bilateral, meaning there’s both a buyer and a seller. (The aggregation of them for indexed instruments like JJG does add an element of credit to it, since you’re depending on the market maker to support whatever position it has built up.) So in the long run they should all even out.

    But, as John Kenneth Galbraith so astutely observed, in the long run, we’re all dead.

  43. Mark E says:

    If we mean “you” in the typical reductionist narcissistic way common among capitalism-driven societies, then those sound like great rules.

    If we mean “you” in more of a tribal way, where individuals often self-identified according to tribal role, suddenly “you” becomes more species-oriented, and a chart of “winning vs losing” gets replaced with more of a spring lying on its side…. for every downward turn along the coil, there’s also a bit of forward momentum. In other words, as a species we CAN “break even”, longterm, but only if we learn that ultimate lesson: true sustainability, over millenia, means steady-state economics, and replace those three laws with Commoner’s 4 Law of Ecology.

  44. Bill D. says:

    Persistent drought and raging wildfires might be the first, highly-visible shocks to our naive sense of security in the US. But as destructive as it might be, drought is only one of many negative impacts stemming from a warming atmosphere. Once all of these effects combine, we’re probably looking at a major, climate-related disaster in this country almost every week of the year. The new abnormal.

  45. Carol says:

    Daniel,

    Resorting to personal attacks, digressions and conjecture is counterproductive to healthy discourse (example in your response to Mulga: “You apparently don’t want to believe it, and you don’t read the cites I post, so what is the point. You are suffering from the halo effect”.

    I’ve yet to see an answer to the simple question Mulga has (repeatedly/succinctly) posed to you.

    Can you simply answer his question, give a few examples and be done with it?

    Can we rise above egos here?

    I do not believe there are simple answers to the complex questions humanity faces as we struggle with the human induced degradation (ruination) of the earth’s biosphere.

    What we face is truly mind boggling (in addition to being scary, depressing, infuriating and more). I hate seeing in fighting between people who get the reality of AGW.
    In the meantime, more drilling, spewing, raping, pillaging of our earth goes on full steam ahead.

    What a species we are!

    As an (tired, achy) “environmentalist”/”tree hugger”/biophiliac and one who has worked for decades attempting to protect remnant prairies, wetlands, woodlands—-I am with Mulga on this one. No need to attack me for this, I’m trying my best on a local level and no, I have not fought against renewables. But I agree with the point A Change in the Weather makes: “Large-scale supply-side solutions don’t break the mental paradigm of growth–they reinforce it.”

    It would be helpful if you could just answer the questions posed to you——you clearly have a great deal of passion for combating climate change . . . .

    Carol

  46. john c. wilson says:

    When food is in short supply there will be no markets internationally. Any nation that has a surplus will look around and decide to stockpile rather than sell. When food is short it will be plain as day that any surplus is temporary. Paper money or electronic money will not look valuable in the face of hunger.

  47. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s already dire where I live, in Australia. While the east floods,over and over, we’ve had no proper rain for six months, plus baking heat up to 45 degrees Celsius. Just now the dark and brooding sky is eking out a few desultory drops, and, by mid-morning it will all be gone.

  48. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Sorry to be a pedant, but it was Keynes. The type of derivatives you mention were once used here by farmers to insure themselves against the risk of price fluctuations and crop failure. Naturally the ‘market magicians’ turned it all into a casino, with their gift for larceny and parasitism. The financial industry derivatives, based on algorithms that no-one fully understands, not even, perhaps, their creators, now total around one quadrillion in notional ‘value’. And the financial grifters, aided by their ‘former’ and future colleagues in the US Treasury, Federal Reserve, ECB etc, are now back to the same old games, the same extractive, hyper-rentier model, that imploded in 2008. They have learned nothing, and US median household wealth has fallen for the fourth year in a row. The situation for African Americans and Hispanics is even more dire, worse than the Depression of the 1930s.

  49. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Sorry, Jacob. I find the reality terrifying and enraging, so I attempted a joke to calm myself down a bit. The situation is so grim that we risk going mad just contemplating it.

  50. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Carol, I Googled a bit to discover for myself what the situation might be. After all, and I don’t mean to depress the poor chap, I agree strongly with almost all Daniel says. So I really ought to see what has got him so riled.
    And, indeed, the situation is fiendishly complex in your country. I had to wade my way through the swamp pf numerous Rightwing blogs, replete with gloating over environmentalists opposing renewables, and the usual Rightwing bile and idiocy, in equal measure. Then it became rather apparent that there is a surfeit of phony ‘environmental’ astroturf groups whose only purpose is to sow confusion and discord. And there were what seemed like authentic environmental groups, opposing projects for various ecological reasons. These may or may not be ‘correct’ in the eyes of renewable supporters, and their concerns may not outweigh the need for rapid decarbonisation, but they appear to be simple and honest differences of opinion.
    Finally I came across the Natural Resources Defence Committee, and although I had no time but for a brief perusal, their declaration that there was 15% of the Western USA which was too precious a resource to be afflicted by development or resource extraction, leaving, of course, 85% for such purposes, seems quite reasonable to me. It’s the point I was trying to get at. There is a lot of land that is not precious that could be used for renewables, rather than the irreplaceable stuff. Unfortunately the ecological collapse is fiendishly complex, and the divisions of opinion over priorities will always be a vexed problem. And, as the situation is so insanely calamitous, it’s not surprising that people can get, quite rightly, rather perturbed by it all. I know I am.

  51. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Drought returning to southern Australia while floods bedevil the east and north. We may not contribute much, and, certainly, the medium-term is looking dire.

  52. bugscuttle says:

    This is my 1st time here, and I find it discouraging that so many people who are REALLY on the same side could be fighting over details. I guess I should be used to it. Being a Progressive and Pagan, I’m used to the concept of herding cats.
    It’s the wise use of technology that’ll save this planet, but only if we can dump the monetary system first. But that’s a big order, and we sure don’t have time to implement it before the whole house of cards comes down. (That’s my complaint @ the Zeitgeist Project)
    So what can we do individually? I stay politically active (for all the good it does), I grow organic gardens (2), and I spread the word.

  53. Camburn says:

    The current temp direction of the PDO is called Modoki. That is the negative phase of the PDO.

    Right now we are in what is called La Nada.
    Not a fully established La Nina nor El Nino pattern.

    The ADO has a marginal effect on the Western United States normally. However, in times past when the ADO was positive, which it is now, and the PDO was negative, which it is now, the Western USA has experienced less moisture.

    Based on past history, one would fully expect the precipitation west of the Mississippi to be less than normal for approx the next 13 years. This is consistent with past climate variations as a response to conditions that are very similar to today’s.

    What is causing the forecast models fits, is that they are geared to a warming PDO. We are in a cooling PDO.

  54. Camburn says:

    What you are recommending is to be a speculator in the futures markets.

    These markets, CBOT, are used by farmers, commercials, and end users to establish a price.

    The volume of goods, even with a mini contract, is such that a single family unit would never be able to “lock” in a food price.

    This market is meant for actual producers, handlers, and users of commodities.

    I would advise against even thinking of venturing in this area as a speculator.

  55. Camburn says:

    Actually, the UV level has much more effect on the Jet Streams than the level of Arctic Ice.

    As you know, the Arctic is froze over right now. That shows your theory of Arctic Ice in relation to the Jet Stream to be nullified.

    Research is consistent that the changing UV output of the sun causes the changes in the ozone levels of the Stratosphere, which changes the Jet Streams.

  56. Camburn says:

    The drought of 2012 in the US is slightly smaller than the drought of 1988.

    The drought of 2012 is not even in the same league as the drought of 1955-1957.

    And that drought was not even close to the 1930’s consistent drought.

    The drought of 2012 is not an abnormal happening. In fact, it is approx 6 years late.

  57. Brooks Bridges says:

    Plots of minimum Arctic Ice thickness in September predict 0 in 2015. +/- a couple of years. No way to stop that.

  58. Mark E says:

    ASSUMING we have enough non-critical locations to keep us busy, the only reason to use eco-sensitive ones anyway is politics, especially the unwillingness to talk about nonstop economic growth as part of the problem.

    IF…. our political discourse remains (A) that infantile and (B) that determined to keep on growing no matter what,

    THEN…. even if we fill the eco-critical lands with clean tech development, we’re still screwed in the end anyway.

    No amount of clean=tech deployment will save us, long term, without breaking our addiction to growth. And if we can break our addiction to growth, it would be nice to still have eco-critical habitats in our world.

    Recall the legend of the multiheaded monster the Hydra. Maybe what you see as intransigence by various organizations is their desire to stab the beast in the heart, instead of just whacking at one or two of its heads?

    And then, of course, there’s my stock investments in various clean tech companies that Sierra Club is challenging. Those damn treehuggers are getting in the way of my retirement financials. Oh well. Anything, to slay the Hydra in the heart.

  59. Mark E says:

    The river is just reverting to its normal state. Man told it to flow “backwards” (away from the lake) in 1900, and now its just flowing downstream (toward the lake) naturally again.

  60. Mark E says:

    Shredded, it makes good mulch

  61. Mark E says:

    There is no spoon. (from The Matrix)

  62. John McCormick says:

    Camburn, your comment deserves a full post on CP; with footnotes. Thanks for that brief comment but please add more info. This is the recipe for the next dust bowl.

  63. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    The “you” was meant to be the “collective you”. The post was an attempt at humor for the purpose of catharsis – self and whomever else it might have tickled. I shan’t be attempting any further re-tubing of the toothpaste. Entropy has been canceled.

  64. Camburn says:

    John:
    Here is a brief overview of the current state and some effects.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2011JD016690/abstract

  65. Green Demand says:

    @Mulga Mumblebrain:
    Hope the weather will geht better at ur place and wish u and all the other people all the best! I want to travel there in two months for some weeks!

    Best wishes from Germany!

  66. Joan Savage says:

    Might as well add this in on China’s 2012 problems with wheat production and its expanding corn demand:

    “US officials restate warning over China wheat crop”

    http://www.agrimoney.com/news/us-officials-restate-warning-over-china-wheat-crop–5508.html