Extreme droughts in central Europe likely to increase sevenfold

Extreme droughts in central Europe likely to increase sevenfold

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: August 6, 2020 SNIP: Extreme droughts are likely to become much more frequent across central Europe, and if global greenhouse gas emissions rise strongly they could happen seven times more often, new research has shown. The area of crops likely to be affected by drought is also set to increase, and under sharply rising CO2 levels would nearly double in central Europe in the second half of this century, to more than 40m hectares (154,440 sq miles) of farmland. Central Europe suffered its biggest and most damaging drought on record in 2018 and 2019, which had two of the three warmest summer periods ever recorded on the continent. The summers were also much drier than average, and more than half of the region suffered severe drought conditions. Rivers and watercourses dried up, some crops were ruined and wildfires increased during these two years of extreme drought. The only other drought on record to come close, in 1949 and 1950, affected a land area about a third smaller. Rohini Kumar, one of the authors of the study, told the Guardian the findings were concerning. “The findings indicate that introducing measures to reduce future carbon emissions may lower the risk of more frequent consecutive drought events across Europe. On the one hand, we need to step up our efforts to reduce greenhouse gases worldwide, and at the same time deal with strategies to adapt to climate change.” The paper is published on Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports. The study adds to an increasing body of research showing the impacts of global heating on Europe. Previous studies...
US south-west in grip of historic ‘megadrought’

US south-west in grip of historic ‘megadrought’

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: May 29, 2020 SNIP: When Ken Pimlott began fighting US wildfires at the age of 17, they seemed to him to be a brutal but manageable natural phenomenon. “We had periodic [fire] sieges in the 80s, but there were breaks in between,” said Pimlott, the former head of the California department of forestry and fire protection. But no longer. “That doesn’t really happen any more. Now you can’t even blink” between fires, he said. “We’re seeing the kinds of fires we have never seen before.” A recent study published in the journal Science helps explains why, revealing that the south-western US is in the grip of a 20-year megadrought – a period of severe aridity that is stoking fires, depleting reservoirs and putting a strain on water supplies to the states of the region. “You see impacts everywhere, in snowpacks, reservoir levels, agriculture, groundwater and tree mortality,” said co-author Benjamin Cook, of Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory. “Droughts are these amazingly disruptive events. Water sits at the foundation of everything.” Researchers compared soil moisture records from 2000-2019 to other drought events from the past 1,200 years. They found that the current period is worse than all but one of five megadroughts identified in the record. Unlike past megadroughts – brought on by natural fluctuations in the Earth’s climate – this current drought has been heavily influenced by human-induced climate change, “pushing what would have been a moderate drought in south-western North America into megadrought territory”, according to the study. “Global warming has made the drought much worse than it otherwise would have been,” said...
Trump’s Border Wall Endangers Arizona’s Wildlife Amid Drought

Trump’s Border Wall Endangers Arizona’s Wildlife Amid Drought

SOURCE: Truthdig DATE: October 4, 2019 SNIP: August is normally Arizona’s wettest month. Not this year, though. The usual monsoon season failed to arrive, and just 1.5 inches of rain fell sporadically on the state throughout the month — the same period that the city of Phoenix experienced record high temperatures of up to 114 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also driven wildlife managers to fret over whether the state’s abundant wildlife — which rely on infrequent rains — will have enough water to survive. “As the drought has deepened, the waters that wildlife traditionally used are going away or have completely disappeared,” says Kevin Woolridge, a teacher at Blue Ridge High School in Arizona who, with his students’ help, has collaborated with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to monitor the drought and its impact on wildlife. Meanwhile a new manmade threat to Arizona’s water has cropped up. The Trump administration has begun construction on a stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border wall at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. As part of construction, the Trump administration plans to pull up some of Arizona’s precious groundwater — not to hydrate people or animals, but to mix with concrete to build a 44-mile section of the border wall. While the federal government spends billions on its wall across the border and sucks up some of Arizona’s last remaining ancient groundwater in the process, Arizona wildlife officials are asking the public for millions of dollars in donations to fund the delivery of water to animals in parched areas across the state. Beginning in the 1940s, long before the world was...
Somali aid community faces up to a new reality of recurring drought

Somali aid community faces up to a new reality of recurring drought

SOURCE: Devex DATE: July 9, 2019 SNIP: If she were to meet someone from her past life, Halima Dahir Mahmoud is not sure they would recognize her. She’s lost weight and is constantly stressed. She was once a nomadic herder who would roam the Ethiopian countryside with her 200 sheep and goats, and 50 camels. Now she lives in a displacement camp on the outskirts of Somaliland’s capital city of Hargeisa. A few years ago, her animals started dying because of a regional drought. Eventually, there were none left. Her family left Ethiopia and walked 12 hours until they reached the displacement camp where they now live. Drought has burdened the region year after year since 2015, killing off livestock and crops. Globally, there has been an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. In the Horn of Africa, scientists have linked climate change to frequent drought conditions. “We’ve faced five years of consecutive drought in this country. Livelihoods have collapsed,” said Mohamed Abdalle Hussein, director of administration and finance at the National Disaster Preparedness and Food Reserve Authority in Somaliland — a region that unilaterally declared independence from Somalia in 1991, although this is not internationally recognized. In the past, there was typically a buffer zone of good rainy seasons in between droughts that allowed people to recover and rebuild their assets, Hussein said. “Drought is a common disaster we’ve always faced, but the interval has changed. Before, it was a five to seven-year interval between [periods] when we experienced drought. Now that interval has decreased to one to two years,” he said. “If you...
Drought and climate change blamed for the death of centuries-old sandalwood trees

Drought and climate change blamed for the death of centuries-old sandalwood trees

SOURCE: ABC (Australia) DATE: July 6, 2019 SNIP: Rare Australian sandalwood trees that are more than 200 years old are dying in South Australia’s outback. Ecologist John Read spotted the dying trees on his property at Secret Rocks, between Whyalla and Kimba, on the state’s Eyre Peninsula. The trees had been seen by the explorer Edward John Eyre in 1840. “If it was just a single species of tree, you might think it would be a pest or disease that’s gone through, but we’ve noticed quite a significant die-off of wattles and long-lived pine trees.” Mr Read called for national action on climate change and said: “old trees don’t...