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Australia faces the “permanent dry” — as do we

By Joe Romm

"Australia faces the “permanent dry” — as do we"

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australia-drought.jpgThe story of Australia’s worst dry spell in a thousand years continues to astound. Last year we learned, “One farmer takes his life every four days.” This year over half of Australia’s agricultural land is in a declared drought.

How bad is it? One Australian newspaper is reporting:

DROUGHT will become a redundant term as Australia plans for a permanently drier future, according to the nation’s urban water industries chief….

“The urban water industry has decided the inflows of the past will never return,” Water Services Association of Australia executive director Ross Young said. “We are trying to avoid the term ‘drought’ and saying this is the new reality.”

Unless we take start leading on climate action soon, America faces the same fate: In April, Science (subs. req’d) published research that “predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest” — levels of aridity comparable to the 1930s Dust Bowl would stretch from Kansas to California. What causes this climatic disaster?

According to the study, as the planet warms, the Hadley Cell, which links together rising air near the Equator and descending air in the subtropics, expands poleward. Descending air suppresses precipitation by drying the lower atmosphere so this process expands the subtropical dry zones. At the same time, and related to this, the rain-bearing mid-latitude storm tracks also shift poleward. Both changes in atmospheric circulation, which are not fully understood, cause the poleward flanks of the subtropics to dry.

And that is separate from recent research that finds “future reductions in Arctic sea ice cover could significantly reduce available water in the American west” (subs. reqd). With the Arctic melting at a stunning rate, the West is facing a double drought whammy from climate change.

The time to act is now.

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25 Responses to Australia faces the “permanent dry” — as do we

  1. Dr_Bob says:

    “One farmer takes his life every four days.”

    …Would think that after the first time he wouldn’t need to try again??

  2. Joe says:

    Normally I’d say that’s funny. But this is a pretty dire situation….

  3. Ronald Lindeman says:

    And this stuff doesn’t reach the main stream media because; Where is the discussion.

    I’ve read the books and I’m on board. But what about our colleges and universities? What are the faculty in these institutions doing? surely they have heard something about it.

  4. Joe says:

    The media here is slow to cover other countries, especially when there is already one dominant foreign-policy issue (Iraq).

  5. IANVS says:

    I understand that the water supplies for Sydney, Melbourne, and other Aussie cities are threatened as well.

    Australia’s drought may stay for keeps

    Grim outlook on rain

  6. Paul K says:

    Joe,
    Saw this article about the effect of the “bunny fence” on rainfall in Australia a few weeks back. Climate Science had this recent post about land use as climate forcing.

  7. Robin says:

    I live in Los Angeles. There are many decisions to be made to make our future more water-secure but these decisions are considered political suicide: should we continue to build in fire-prone hill sides, should we be allowed to have wasteful lawns and pools?

  8. Rit Krishna says:

    I have heard of droughts that have occurred throughout the world and most
    of the time the rainfall does return. Even if this takes time. It would make sense more for the rainfall to return given examples of other nations.
    Also downsizing factories and carpooling does reduce the emissions

  9. danny says:

    the drought sucks, we have large restrictions on what we can use and when. most peoples gardends are dead and even the native trees are beginning to die.

  10. Alex says:

    Come and show your support by pledging a raindrop, and together with RSVP you can help break the drought!

    http://www.breakthedrought.com.au

  11. mrs jones says:

    i wanted to live in australia but I’m not so sure now. Where is the drought?

  12. Bob says:

    I have to do a project on school for this could someone explain the whole thing to me

  13. diddlysquat says:

    ditto. school project

    what is causing it? no rain? or is it el nino related?

  14. Timm From Australia says:

    I live in sydney
    we were on the WORST level of drought/water restrictions. we could not water our gardens fill up our pools or wash our cars. Nowadays its calmed down alot
    we have a desalanation plant in progress and the dams area above 50%! =]

  15. LUKE FROM AUSSIE says:

    I LIVE IN AUSSIE, NOWDAYS THE DROUGHT IS DIEYING OUT BUT 1 YEAR AGO IT WAS 35 DEGREES IN WINTER AND NOT ONE DROP OF RAIN!

  16. Refer to this disturbing story about the gravity of the situation in Australia with River Murray ,the main fresh water source for over 5m Australians http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=455698

    We soft launched Windesal on 7th April at the CEDA forum on water in Adelaide(massive interest over 60 systems), our global engineers/project managers http://www.arup.com/australasia/skill.cfm?pageid=6282 are indication potential market in Aust large numbers of Windesal® although it seems most Govts want to buy our water/power under contract, we can do up to 40m liters per day per system from sea/ground water to fresh

    There has been much talk about climate change, but not much about where we will see its first impact.

    Flooding ,Drought, water is the vector of climate change, we already have seen in recent times in where there is intense competition for water, Windesal® can sustain many areas of these regions of Aust/Worldwide that will be impacted by this issue, that may suffer physically or economically from this lack of fresh water shortage and could benefit from sustainable energy.

    Windesal® can deal efficiently in way to lead the greatest single issue of the 21st Century: Sustainability.

  17. Ginni says:

    Hi,
    we have recently launched a new free online map-based carpooling service for Australia.
    Your opinion and comments are very welcome as well as enquiries regarding possible implementation of this service for other countries (or organisations/corporates).
    The address is http://www.carpoolone.com.au/
    Thanks
    Ginni
    P.S. a bit off topic, but perhaps still handy might be http://www.motorcyclefuelconsumption.com/ guide for motorcycle fuel consumption figures that are usually missing in the factory specs.

  18. Moonlight says:

    I live in Victoria in Australia.

    And I must say, we are in a heck of a lot of trouble. Melbourne’s water storages are nowhere above 30%, and every water-saving strategy has it’s cons. For instance, desalination plants could damage the seas where they are placed, as well as release more greenhouse gas – and that is obviously not a good idea. You can ask people to save water, but not everyone is as mindful or anything.

    The weather forecasts show that we’re in for a hotter, drier and longer summer this year. I’m sure there will be bushfires along with that, too.

    People who live overseas… look at the state of our land. We are the first to go if Global Warming sets in, not to mention we’ll be under twelve stories of ocean due to rising sea levels. Take my advice; if you don’t want this to happen to you, then start becoming efficient in the way you use your energy. I know we aren’t the greatest of energy-savers either, but…

    Please save your resources. It may be a little too late for us to change our climate back the way it was, but we can still help the other countries before they are severely effected.

    And by the way, we are 1) not getting enough rain, 2) having bushfires every single summer destroying unholy amounts of land and lives, 3) hot dry weather evaporating what we do have, and 4) Not enough dams, which should have been built before the population boom, which is sure to only increase. This is why we call what we’re in a drought. It may have calmed in Sydney a little, but Victoria is a different story. (although we’re getting more rain now, although it’s not doing a great deal, and the coming summer will probably kill any good it has done)

  19. Ravi the rat says:

    As far as I know the reasons for these drastic weather changes in australia and other parts of the world varies from water levels out of their normal bounds, surface evaporation level caused by building dams around the world, deforesting and also our popular carbon emmisions that is the main character in global warming.. no clods no rain… I have a hare brain idea… in areas of australia that have inland bound winds most of the year.. is it possible to build huge water heaters inside the sea hot enought to evaporate water (close to shore) and let the wind blow the vapour back inland.. calculate how much was the cloud density from past records and “make the clouds” go back to where they were… I dont know just a thought… I have more of these silly ideas here http://ravitherat.blogspot.com/2008/07/happening.html#links … by the way I am from malaysia.. but my fiancee is from victoria.. so I know how bad it is at the farms…

  20. bob hodgeson says:

    i agree

  21. Louis says:

    You should build one of these :-)
    http://video.stumbleupon.com/#p=rmlqvbfnn2

  22. Mariah says:

    this is awesome

  23. Beth says:

    I have been reading many articles about water and the problems of a shift in rainfall. It is a huge concern, but I always seem to see humans trying to put a quick fix on these matters. Unfortunately there is more than just drought at hand. Everything is interconnected and until governments put into action GOOD laws that will stop the impact of emissions, dioxins, freons, cow methane, to name “some of the causes” of the shift in the ozone of our great planet, I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. We need to educate everyone and stop keeping secrets and clean things up. Grey water tanks would save unfathomable amounts of water for starters. And talk is cheep and actions speak louder than words my grandmother said. People need to care and take action, get up of their !#$@!%#$%. Look stuff up and do their part. There are many ways we as a whole, a planets worth of people..Gosh that’s a lot of people that can help the situation. Take part.