Glacier National Park is on fire — and yes, warming is making things worse

Glacier National Park is on fire — and yes, warming is making things worse

SOURCE: Grist DATE: August 13, 2018 SNIP: This summer has felt like a global warming turning point. Now, another milestone: Saturday was the hottest day in the history of Glacier National Park, and its first recorded time reaching 100 degrees F. On the same day, lightning started three fires in the Montana park, which has since been partly evacuated and closed. On Sunday, hot and dry winds helped the biggest fire expand rapidly. Authorities have taken extreme measures, including deploying smokejumpers and dispatching firefighters by foot to reach the parts of the fire in rough terrain. So far, according to the National Park Service, these efforts have not been effective to slow the fire’s spread. Right now, every state west of the Mississippi is at least partly in drought, including Montana. Missoula, the closest major city to Glacier National Park, hasn’t had any measurable rain for 40 days, and none is in the short-term forecast either — a streak that will likely wind up being the driest stretch in local recorded history, beating a mark set just last year. It’s clear that Montana is already becoming a vastly different place. In recent decades, warmer winters have helped mountain pine beetles thrive, turning mountains red with dead pines. In 1850, there were 150 glaciers in the area now known as Glacier National Park. Today there are 26. They’ve been there for 7,000 years — but in just a few decades, the glaciers of Glacier National Park will almost surely be gone. By then the park will need a new name. Glacier Memorial Park doesn’t have the same ring to it....
Heatwave and climate change having negative impact on our soil say experts

Heatwave and climate change having negative impact on our soil say experts

SOURCE: Science Daily DATE: August 2, 2018 SNIP: The recent heatwave and drought could be having a deeper, more negative effect on soil than we first realised say scientists. This could have widespread implications for plants and other vegetation which, in turn, may impact on the entire ecosystem. That’s because the organisms in soil are highly diverse and responsible not only for producing the soil we need to grow crops, but also other benefits such as cleaning water and regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The new study, led by researchers at The University of Manchester and published today (02/08/2018) in Nature Communications, provides new insight into how a drought alters soil at microbial level. It shows that expected changes in climate will affect UK soil and that soil is not as tough as previously thought. Due to climate change, disturbances such as drought are increasing in intensity and frequency. These extreme weather conditions change vegetation composition and soil moisture, which in turn impacts the soil’s underlying organisms and microbial networks. Professor Nick Ostle, from the Lancaster Environment Centre, said: “Our hot and dry summer this year is a ‘wake up’ to prepare for future weather stresses. We have just had the hottest ten years in UK history. This work shows that continued summer droughts will change soil biology. This matters as we plan for ensuring food security that depends on healthy...
The Water Wars of Arizona

The Water Wars of Arizona

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: July 19, 2018 SNIP: Aquifers are unimaginably complex and incredibly fragile; once tapped, they can take more than 6,000 years to replenish. Among the most vulnerable aquifers are those underlying the desert basins of the American Southwest. The Sulphur Springs Valley, in Arizona’s far southeastern corner, is one such basin. Surrounded on three sides by steep mountain ranges, the valley is an unusually flat and level 1,900-square-mile expanse of sagebrush and tanglegrass, which acts as a massive natural vessel for rain and snowmelt. In geological terms, it is a “closed basin,” as none of its water rejoins a river. Instead, it pools at the center, percolating into the ground. Centuries of evaporation have transformed this ancient lake bed into a dry alkali flat, inhabited today by a migratory roost of 30,000 sandhill cranes. Beneath it, buried in layers of sediment, lies all the water that never flowed to the ocean. Some of it is more than 20,000 years old. Around the turn of the 20th century, when sulfurous water was discovered bubbling out of the ground, cattle ranches and homesteads began to proliferate across the valley. One of the first deep water wells was drilled around 1915, when Texas farmers began adopting the oil industry’s turbine pump. Overnight, this innovation allowed agriculture to stray deep into arid climates, and in the span of a generation, the valley became home to a thriving agricultural economy. In the late 1990s, during the first few years of what would eventually turn out to be a 19-year-and-counting Arizona drought, only about 15,000 acre-feet of water were estimated to...
Lack of snowpack leaves the West hung out to dry

Lack of snowpack leaves the West hung out to dry

SOURCE: Grist DATE: March 13, 2018 SNIP: The lack of snow across the West this winter points to a parched summer ahead. In California, Colorado, and across the Southwest, the snowfall has ranked among the lowest on record. The last four months have also been among the warmest throughout most of the region, according to a report out last week. Parts of eight states already are already under “extreme” drought conditions. “I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say that this winter is the stuff of nightmares for water managers in the Colorado River watershed,” says Luke Runyon, a Colorado-based public radio reporter focusing on western water. Some 40 million people in seven states depend on water from the Colorado River. In the river’s main storage spot, Lake Mead just south of Las Vegas, Nevada, water levels are on track to fall so low that they would trigger the first-ever official shortfall late next year, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Water rationing would be the next step. Warmer, drier winters like this one are exactly what you’d expect with climate change. A new study published earlier this month showed that over the past 100 years, more than 90 percent of snow monitoring sites throughout the West have seen a decline in snowpack. In total, that’s a loss of summertime water storage equivalent to Lake Mead. “It is a bigger decline than we had expected,” said Philip Mote, a climate scientist at Oregon State University and lead author on the study, in a statement. “In many lower-elevation sites, what used to fall as snow is now...
Warming, Water Crisis, Then Unrest: How Iran Fits an Alarming Pattern

Warming, Water Crisis, Then Unrest: How Iran Fits an Alarming Pattern

SOURCE: New York Times and LA Times DATE: January 18, 2018 SNIP: Nigeria. Syria. Somalia. And now Iran. In each country, in different ways, a water crisis has triggered some combination of civil unrest, mass migration, insurgency or even full-scale war. In the era of climate change, their experiences hold lessons for a great many other countries. The World Resources Institute warned this month of the rise of water stress globally, “with 33 countries projected to face extremely high stress in 2040.” Iran is the latest example of a country where a water crisis, long in the making, has fed popular discontent. That is particularly true in small towns and cities in what is already one of the most parched regions of the world. Climate change is projected to make Iran hotter and drier. A former Iranian agriculture minister, Issa Kalantari, once famously said that water scarcity, if left unchecked, would make Iran so harsh that 50 million Iranians would leave the country altogether. Water alone doesn’t explain the outbreak of protests that began in early January and spread swiftly across the country. But as David Michel, an analyst at the Stimson Center put it, the lack of water — whether it’s dry taps in the city, or dry wells in the countryside, or dust storms rising from a shrinking Lake Urmia (pictured) — is one of the most common, most visible markers of the government’s failure to deliver basic services. “Water is not going to bring down the government,” he said. “But it’s a component — in some towns, a significant component — of grievances and...