Indian villages lie empty as drought forces thousands to flee

Indian villages lie empty as drought forces thousands to flee

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: June 12, 2019 SNIP: Hundreds of Indian villages have been evacuated as a historic drought forces families to abandon their homes in search of water. The country has seen extremely high temperatures in recent weeks. On Monday the capital, Delhi, saw its highest ever June temperature of 48C. In Rajasthan, the city of Churu recently experienced highs of 50.8C, making it the hottest place on the planet. Further south, less than 250 miles from the country’s commercial capital, Mumbai, village after village lies deserted. Estimates suggest up to 90% of the area’s population has fled, leaving the sick and elderly to fend for themselves in the face of a water crisis that shows no sign of abating. Wells and handpumps have run dry in the 45C heatwave. The drought, which officials say is worse than the 1972 famine that affected 25 million people across the state, began early in December. By the end of May, Hatkarwadi had been deserted with only 10-15 families remaining out of a population of more than 2,000. With 80% of districts in neighbouring Karnataka and 72% in Maharashtra hit by drought and crop failure, the 8 million farmers in these two states are struggling to survive. More than 6,000 tankers supply water to villages and hamlets in Maharashtra daily, as conflict brews between the two states over common water resources. By the end of May, 43% of India was experiencing drought, with failed monsoon rains seen as the primary reason. The country has seen widespread drought every year since 2015, with the exception of 2017. Groundwater, the source of 40%...
In Southeast, Alaska is seeing its first extreme drought ever recorded, climatologists say

In Southeast, Alaska is seeing its first extreme drought ever recorded, climatologists say

SOURCE: Anchorage Daily News DATE: May 26, 2019 SNIP: Alaska’s wettest region is experiencing an extreme drought for the first time in recorded history, climate scientists say. The southernmost portion of Southeast Alaska, including Ketchikan, Prince of Wales Island, Wrangell and Metlakatla, has been in a drought for the last two years, said Rick Thoman, a climatologist at the Fairbanks-based Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy. Last week, though, the drought was updated to a D3, or “extreme” drought, the second-highest category the U.S. Drought Monitor measures. It’s the first time those conditions have ever been recorded in Alaska, according to the Drought Monitor. Meanwhile, areas experiencing lesser “severe” and “moderate” droughts on the Panhandle have expanded, the Drought Monitor said. Although this week represents the first time an “extreme” drought classification has ever been recorded in Alaska, it’s likely not the first the region has ever seen, climatologists caution. Similar deficits were measured in the early 1990s — before the U.S. Drought Monitor was established — and episodically throughout the 2000s. The drier conditions have also caused ecological damage, including an increase in insect pests like the saw fly, damage to coastal foliage and warmer stream temperatures that may inhibit salmon spawning, climatologists...
Drought effects on aging power plants may be larger than expected

Drought effects on aging power plants may be larger than expected

SOURCE: Duke University DATE: March 26, 2019 SNIP: Older power plants with once-through cooling systems generate about a third of all U.S. electricity, but their future generating capacity will be undercut by droughts and rising water temperatures linked to climate change. These impacts would be exacerbated by environmental regulations that limit water use. The new study shows that if surface waters warm 3 degrees Centigrade and river flows drop 20 percent — both of which are probable by the end of the century — drought-related impacts will account for about 20 percent of all capacity reductions at thermoelectric power plants with once-through, or open-loop, cooling systems. These reductions include capacity curtailments or shutdowns that could occur when local surface water levels drop below a plant’s intake structures. Environmental regulations that govern a plant’s water use and the maximum temperature of used cooling water it can discharge back into rivers or lakes will account for much of the remaining 80 percent of future shutdowns and capacity cuts, Pratson said. Thermoelectric power plants use steam-driven turbines to generate their energy. Once the steam has passed through the turbines it must be cooled down. Once-through systems do this by drawing in cold water from nearby rivers or lakes, circulating it through pipes to absorb the steam’s heat, and discharging the heated water back into the river or...
An unexpected side effect of drought: Higher carbon emissions

An unexpected side effect of drought: Higher carbon emissions

SOURCE: National Geographic DATE: December 21, 2018 SNIP: During the darkest days of the drought that has gripped the western U.S. since the early 2000s, fires raged and crops withered. Dust storms rolled across plains and valleys. And rivers shriveled from north to south. But the drought had less obvious effects on climate and the environment, too: Low river flows drastically hampered the amount of carbon-free electricity [sic] that could be produced by the thousands of hydroelectric power plants dotted along rivers and reservoirs across the West. If energy utilities can’t get the power they need from hydroelectric sources, they have to fill that gap with something else. Most of the time, the researchers found, the utilities fell back on carbon-emitting sources like natural gas and coal to fill their power needs. Now, a group of researchers has done the carbon math to see how big that effect was. They figured out that an extra 100 megatons of carbon ended up in the atmosphere because utilities had to use carbon-emitting power sources instead of hydroelectric power during drought, added up over the 15 years they studied. That’s the equivalent of adding about 1.4 million cars to the road for every one of those years. “Droughts are going to get worse, and that could mean more natural gas and coal being burned,” says Peter Gleick, a water expert at the Pacific Institute, a research organization in Oakland. Related: Hydroelectric dams emit a billion tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, study...
Oregon, Already Struggling With Drought, May Have Still More to Come

Oregon, Already Struggling With Drought, May Have Still More to Come

SOURCE: Water Deeply DATE: October 24, 2018 SNIP: Oregon is known by many as a wet place, with persistent rain and forests enveloped in fog. This year is different. In a matter of just six weeks over the summer, one-third of Oregon was instead enveloped by extreme drought. That figure comes from the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), a branch of NOAA. The results also rank 86 percent of Oregon in severe drought territory, a slightly less severe category. The Oregon drought this year is most striking because it covers many coastal areas known historically as some of the wettest in the country. “Only the northeast corner of Oregon experienced somewhat normal amounts of precipitation and snowpack,” Rancier said. “The rest of the state was drier and warmer than normal.” That low snowpack was due, in part, to higher temperatures. Portland, for instance, saw its hottest year in recorded history, with more days above 90 degrees than ever before. Without a deep snowpack contributing to streamflow the state dried out very quickly after last winter. The Willamette Valley experienced its driest ever May through September period. In September, statewide streamflows averaged just 55 percent of normal, and many reservoirs across the state were at less than 25 percent of capacity at the end of the month. El Niño, a periodic warming of equatorial Pacific Ocean waters, often means relatively dry winter conditions in the Northwest – including Oregon. In a report issued Oct. 18, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said there is a 70–75 percent chance of El Niño forming by late fall. Warmer-than-normal conditions are expected throughout the...