CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

Thursday, September 17, 2015

BIBLICAL DROUGHT:Surface Waters;Groundwater losses from the Western States basin appear massive enough to challenge long-term water supplies

 

 

 

 

   

Groundwater losses from the Colorado River basin appear massive enough to challenge long-term water supplies

 

 

For the seven states and parts of Mexico that it serves, according to a new Nasa study.

A team from NASA and the University of California Irvine say their study is the first to quantify how much groundwater people in the West are using during the region's current drought.

Stephanie Castle, the study's lead author and a water resource specialist at the University of California, Irvine, called the extent of the groundwater depletion 'shocking'.

The Colorado River Basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater over the past nine years, according to a new study based on data from Nasa - who say the discovery could have a dramatic effect on California's water supply

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The Colorado River Basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater over the past nine years, according to a new study based on data from Nasa - who say the discovery could have a dramatic effect on California's water supply

THE COLORADO RIVER BASIN

The Colorado River basin — the largest in the Southwest — has lost 53 million acre feet, or 17 trillion gallons, of water.

That's enough to supply more than 50 million households for a year, or nearly fill Lake Mead — the nation's largest water reservoir — twice.

It supplies water to about 40 million people and 4 million acres of farmland in seven states — California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming — as well as to people and farms in part of Mexico.

'We didn't realize the magnitude of how much water we actually depleted' in the West, Castle said.

Since 2004, researchers said, the Colorado River basin — the largest in the Southwest — has lost 53 million acre feet, or 17 trillion gallons, of water.

That's enough to supply more than 50 million households for a year, or nearly fill Lake Mead — the nation's largest water reservoir — twice.

Three-fourths of those losses were groundwater, the study found.

Unlike reservoirs and other above-ground water, groundwater sources can become so depleted that they may never refill, Castle said.

For California and other western states, the groundwater depletion is drawing down the reserves that protect consumers, farmers and ecosystems in times of drought. 'What happens if it isn't there?' Castle said during a phone interview.

'That's the scary part of this analysis.'

Nasa and University of California research used monthly gravity data to measure changes in water mass in the basin from December 2004 to November of last year, and used that data to track groundwater depletion.

The Colorado River Basin (black outline) supplies water to about 40 million people in seven states. Major cities outside the basin (red shading) also use water from the Colorado River.

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The Colorado River Basin (black outline) supplies water to about 40 million people in seven states. Major cities outside the basin (red shading) also use water from the Colorado River.

'Combined with declining snowpack and population growth, this will likely threaten the long-term ability of the basin to meet its water-allocation commitments to the seven basin states and to Mexico,' Jay Famiglietti, senior author on the study and senior water-cycle specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement.

The Colorado River basin supplies water to about 40 million people and 4 million acres of farmland in seven states — California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming — as well as to people and farms in part of Mexico.

California, one of the nation's largest agricultural producers, is three years into drought. While the state has curtailed use of surface water, the state lacks a statewide system for regulating — or even measuring — groundwater.

 

 

 





Climate change and air pollution will lead to famine by 2050, study claims

  • Research has shown hotter climates and ozone pollution damage crops
  • But until now, nobody has looked at how both changes impact plants
  • Latest study suggests rates of malnourishment in the developing world could increase from the current 18 per cent to 27 per cent by 2050
  • Global food production could fall by around 15 per cent in the same period

The world is expected to need 50 per cent more food by 2050, with around four billion more mouths to feed.

But this food could soon be in short supply due to increasing temperatures and ozone pollution, according to a U.S. study.

As a result, rates of malnourishment in the developing world could increase from the current 18 per cent to 27 per cent within the next four decades. 

The world is expected to need 50 per cent more food by 2050, with around four billion more mouths to feed. But this food could soon be in short supply due to increasing temperatures and ozone pollution, according to a U.S. study

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The world is expected to need 50 per cent more food by 2050, with around four billion more mouths to feed. But this food could soon be in short supply due to increasing temperatures and ozone pollution, according to a U.S. study

Previous research has shown that both higher temperatures and ozone pollution can damage plants and reduce crop yields, but until now, nobody has looked at these together.

And while rising temperatures are widely studied, the impact of air quality on crops is less recognised, the study's authors claim.

The latest research looked in detail at how both these changes affect global production of four leading food crops - rice, wheat, corn, and soy.

These crops currently account for more than half the calories humans consume worldwide.

It predicts that effects will vary considerably from region to region, and that some of the crops are much more strongly affected by one or the other of the factors.

The latest research looked in detail at how both these changes affect global production of four leading food crops - rice (pictured), wheat, corn, and soy. These crops currently account for more than half the calories humans consume worldwide

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The latest research looked in detail at how both these changes affect global production of four leading food crops - rice (pictured), wheat, corn, and soy. These crops currently account for more than half the calories humans consume worldwide

For example, wheat is very sensitive to ozone exposure, while corn is much more adversely affected by heat.

HOW CLIMATE AND OZONE CHANGES WILL AFFECT THE WORLD

The latest research by MIT suggest that rates of malnourishment in the developing world could increase from the current 18 per cent to 27 per cent within the next four decades.

It predicts that effects will vary considerably from region to region, and that some of the crops are much more strongly affected by one or the other of the factors.

For example, wheat is very sensitive to ozone exposure, while corn is much more adversely affected by heat.

In the U.S, tougher air-quality regulations are expected to lead to a sharp decline in ozone pollution, mitigating its impact on crops.

But in other regions, the outcome 'will depend on domestic air-pollution policies,'

A separate study by the the IPCC warned that as well as lack of food supply, climate change would cause storm surges, flooding and heatwaves in the coming decades. 

In the U.S, tougher air-quality regulations are expected to lead to a sharp decline in ozone pollution, mitigating its impact on crops.

But in other regions, the outcome 'will depend on domestic air-pollution policies,' Professor Heald said. 'An air-quality cleanup would improve crop yields.'

Overall, with all other factors being equal, warming may reduce crop yields globally by about 10 per cent by 2050, the study found.

The research was carried out by Colette Heald, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at MIT, former CEE postdoc Amos Tai, and Maria van Martin at Colorado State University.

Ozone pollution can be tricky to identify, Professor Heald says, because its damage can resemble other plant illnesses, producing flecks on leaves and discoloration.

And while heat and ozone can each damage plants independently, the factors also interact.

For example, warmer temperatures significantly increase production of ozone from the reactions, in sunlight, of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.

Because of these interactions, the team found that 46 per cent of damage to soybean crops that had previously been attributed to heat is actually caused by increased ozone.

Under some scenarios, the researchers found that pollution-control measures could make a major dent in the expected crop reductions following climate change.

In the U.S, tougher air-quality regulations are expected to lead to a sharp decline in ozone pollution, mitigating its impact on crops. In other regions, the changes could be more dramatic, causing less production of crops such as wheat (pictured)

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In the U.S, tougher air-quality regulations are expected to lead to a sharp decline in ozone pollution, mitigating its impact on crops. In other regions, the changes could be more dramatic, causing less production of crops such as wheat (pictured)

For example, while global food production was projected to fall by 15 per cent under one scenario, larger emissions decreases projected in an another scenario reduce that drop to nine per cent.

Agricultural production is 'very sensitive to ozone pollution,' Professor Heald says, adding that these findings 'show how important it is to think about the agricultural implications of air-quality regulations.

‘Ozone is something that we understand the causes of, and the steps that need to be taken to improve air quality.'

Earlier this year, the IPCC warned that as well as lack of food supply, climate change would cause storm surges, flooding and heatwaves in the coming decades.

It argued that rising temperatures will exacerbate poverty and damage land and marine species.

It also claimed that the world is in ‘an era of man-made climate change’ and has already seen impacts of global warming on every continent and across the oceans.

And experts warned that in many cases, people are ill-prepared to cope with the risks of a changing climate.

 

Dramatic Photos of California's Historic Drought

SEP 3, 2014 |

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 82 percent of the state of California currently falls in the "Extreme Drought" category. The years-long dry spell has tapped groundwater reserves and left reservoirs at record lows. Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville are both down to 30% of full capacity, exposing steep shorelines that were formerly under hundreds of feet of water. Marinas are crowding into ever-smaller coves as the water recedes, and ramps and roads no longer reach the shoreline. Getty Images photographer Justin Sullivan traveled to a number of these reservoirs last month and captured dramatic images, evidence of the severity of the water crisis in California.

 

A section of Lake Oroville is seen nearly dry on August 19, 2014 in Oroville, California. As the severe drought in California continues for a third straight year, water levels in the State's lakes and reservoirs are reaching historic lows. Lake Oroville is currently at 32 percent of its total 3,537,577 acre feet. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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Low water levels are visible in the Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville on August 19, 2014 in Oroville, California.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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Dry cracked earth on the banks of Shasta Lake at Holiday Harbor in Lakehead, California, on August 30, 2014. Shasta Lake is currently near 30 percent of its total capacity, the lowest it has been since 1977. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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Rings on the banks of Lake Oroville that used to be under water on August 19, 2014 in Oroville, California.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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A buoy sits on dry cracked earth on a dry inlet of Shasta Lake on August 30, 2014 in Lakehead, California.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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(1 of 2) For a before-and-after comparison, first an image from a wetter time: the Green Bridge passes over full water levels at a section of Lake Oroville near the Bidwell Marina on July 20, 2011.(Paul Hames/California Department of Water Resources via Getty Images) #

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(2 of 2) Seen from the same location as the previous image, the Green Bridge passes over low water levels at a section of Lake Oroville on August 19, 2014. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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(1 of 2) Full water levels in the Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville on July 20, 2011.(Paul Hames/California Department of Water Resources via Getty Images) #

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(2 of 2) Low water levels in the Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville on August 19, 2014. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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(1 of 2) Before: full water levels in the Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville on on July 20, 2011.(Paul Hames/California Department of Water Resources via Getty Images) #

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(2 of 2) After: low water levels in the Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville on August 19, 2014. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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(1 of 2) Before: the Enterprise Bridge passes over a full Lake Oroville on July 20, 2011.(Paul Hames/California Department of Water Resources via Getty Images) #

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(2 of 2) After: the Enterprise Bridge passes over a nearly dry Lake Oroville on August 19, 2014. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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Deer walk on ground that used to be the bottom of Shasta Lake near Digger Bay Marina on August 30, 2014 in Redding, California.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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Animal tracks in dry cracked earth on the banks of Shasta Lake on August 30, 2014 in Lakehead, California.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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The Digger Bay marina sits in the low waters of Shasta Lake far away from the boat ramp on August 30, 2014 in Redding, California.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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Water lines are visible in steep banks of Shasta Lake at Bridge Bay Resort in Redding, California, on August 30, 2014.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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The Oroville Dam spillway stands dry at Lake Oroville on August 19, 2014. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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A houseboat is dwarfed by the steep banks of Shasta Lake on August 30, 2014 in Redding, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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Shasta Lake's Bailey Cove is seen completely dry on August 31, 2014 in Lakehead, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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A paddleboarder floats on the waters of Shasta Lake near the Shasta Marina Resort on August 30, 2014 in Lakehead, California.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

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House boats are dwarfed by the steep banks of a shrinking Lake Oroville on August 19, 2014 in Oroville, California. As the severe drought in California continues for a third straight year, water levels in the State's lakes and reservoirs is reaching historic lows. Lake Oroville is currently at 32 percent of its capacity. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #

Stark pictures reveal the dramatic drop in water levels at Lake Powell in Arizona as scientists warn how parts of America are heading towards a 'mega-drought'. 

The striking images show how severe drought, combined with withdrawals that many believe are not sustainable, has reduced levels to just 42 percent of its capacity.

The lake, on the Colorado River, provides water for Nevada, Arizona and California but is struggling to cope with increasing demand and weather abnormalities.

Scroll down for video

Scorched: An area that would be under water if the lake was full is seen in Lake Powell near Page, Arizona

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Scorched: An area that would be under water if the lake was full is seen in Lake Powell near Page, Arizona

Journalist Rick Wilking took to the land, air and water to document how the river looks today after years of diminishing snowfalls on the Rockies.

'Navigation on the water was difficult, with lake maps showing water where in many places now there is just dry land. All around the lake, strikingly pale bands of rock have been exposed by the receding waters,' he said.

More than 500 feet deep in places and with narrow side canyons, the shoreline of the lake is longer than the entire West Coast of the United States. But these shots show how much it has dried up since 1991, and how it is a dramatically visible marker of the crisis engulfing the US.

The peak inflow to Lake Powell occurs in mid to late spring, when the winter snow starts to melt in the Rockies but abnormal levels of snow and rainfall since 2012 means the area has experienced a persistent drought.

Low levels: A power boat moves through a canyon at Lake Powell near Page, Arizona, with the high water mark visible above it

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Low levels: A power boat moves through a canyon at Lake Powell near Page, Arizona, with the high water mark visible above it

Falling: Huge areas of dry ground which would be under water when the lake is full. Scientist say it is down to about 42 per cent capacity

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Falling: Huge areas of dry ground which would be under water when the lake is full. Scientist say it is down to about 42 per cent capacity

Empty: A severe drought in recent years, combined with withdrawals that many believe are not sustainable, has reduced its levels to only about 42 percent of its capacity

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Empty: A severe drought in recent years, combined with withdrawals that many believe are not sustainable, has reduced its levels to only about 42 percent of its capacity

Dam: The Glen Canyon dam, which can be seen in the background, holds back the Colorado River creating Lake Powell

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Dam: The Glen Canyon dam, which can be seen in the background, holds back the Colorado River creating Lake Powell

From above: An aerial picture of The Glen Canyon dam, which creates Lake Powell in Arizona, shows the scale of the lake

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From above: An aerial picture of The Glen Canyon dam, which creates Lake Powell in Arizona, shows the scale of the lake

Drying up: Lake Powell in the United States is seen in a combination of NASA satellite images taken in 1991 (left) and 2015 (right)

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Drying up: Lake Powell in the United States is seen in a combination of NASA satellite images taken in 1991 (left) and 2015 (right)

Scientists from NASA and Cornell and Columbia universities had warned earlier this year how climate change meant the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains regions were likely to be scorched by a decades-long "megadrought" during the second half of this century.

They forecast that there is an 80 per cent chance of an extended drought in the area between 2050 and 2099 unless aggressive steps are taken to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The said the cause of the drying as twofold: reduced precipitation and snowfall; but also increased evaporation, driven by higher temperatures, leading to more parched soils.

The number of people living in the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains, and the volume of water they need, has increased rapidly over recent decades, scientists said.

These trends are expected to continue for years to come.

Satellite images released by NASA in June showed dramatic changes in the northeastern reaches of the lake between 1999 and 2015.

NASA captures the drop in Lake Powell's water level since 1999

 

Striking: Sandstone sculpted by water and wind erosion is seen in a slot canyon, one of hundreds that surround Lake Powell near Page, Arizona

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Striking: Sandstone sculpted by water and wind erosion is seen in a slot canyon, one of hundreds that surround Lake Powell near Page, Arizona

Ride: A jet ski spins through Lake Powell with houseboats tied up in the marina at lower levels than in previous years

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Ride: A jet ski spins through Lake Powell with houseboats tied up in the marina at lower levels than in previous years

Spectacular: A houseboat camps on the shore in shallow water in a canyon at Lake Powell near Page in Arizona

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Spectacular: A houseboat camps on the shore in shallow water in a canyon at Lake Powell near Page in Arizona

Exposed: Huge parts of dry land that should be underwater if the lake was at normal levels, can be seen below the rocky crags

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Exposed: Huge parts of dry land that should be underwater if the lake was at normal levels, can be seen below the rocky crags

Stretched: The lake, on the Colorado River, provides water for Nevada, Arizona and California but is struggling to keep up with demand

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Stretched: The lake, on the Colorado River, provides water for Nevada, Arizona and California but is struggling to keep up with demand

Ripples: Forecasters say that levels will continue to decline unless something is done about global warming with a 'mega-drought' forecast in future

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Ripples: Forecasters say that levels will continue to decline unless something is done about global warming with a 'mega-drought' forecast in future

Leisurely: A power boat cruises with Phoebe the dog on the bow, through a cut below Castle Rock in Lake Powell

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Leisurely: A power boat cruises with Phoebe the dog on the bow, through a cut below Castle Rock in Lake Powell

Difference: This aerial shot shows vast areas of dry ground which have previously been underwater but are now exposed

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Difference: This aerial shot shows vast areas of dry ground which have previously been underwater but are now exposed

Changes: Previous water levels are marked on the unmistakable rocks that form part of Lake Powell on the Colorado River

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Changes: Previous water levels are marked on the unmistakable rocks that form part of Lake Powell on the Colorado River

 

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