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...
‘A hot drought’: Warming is driving much of the Colorado River’s decline, scientists say

‘A hot drought’: Warming is driving much of the Colorado River’s decline, scientists say

SOURCE: AZ Central (USA Today) DATE: September 7, 2018 SNIP: Since 2000, the amount of water flowing in the Colorado River has dropped 19 percent below the average of the past century, a decline that has left the Southwest on the brink of a water shortage. Now, new research indicates that a large portion of that decline isn’t due to less rain and snow falling from the sky, but to warmer temperatures brought on by climate change. Scientists from the University of California-Los Angeles and Colorado State University found that about half the trend of decreasing runoff from 2000-2014 in the Upper Colorado River Basin was the result of unprecedented warming across the region. “A good chunk of the decline we’re seeing right now is temperature-related. And as the Earth continues to warm, we’re going to see less flow in the river,” said Brad Udall, a water and climate scientist at Colorado State University who co-authored the research. “We need to prepare for a river that has significantly less water in it.” [The researchers] calculated that 53 percent of the trend was linked to warming, which has shrunk the average snowpack in the mountains, boosted the uptake of water by plants and increased the amount of water that evaporates off the landscape. The researchers attributed the remaining 47 percent of the decrease in the river’s flow to shifts in precipitation patterns, with less rain and snow falling in four areas of Colorado that tend to be especially productive in feeding tributaries in the Rocky Mountains. The study, which was published Aug. 30 in the journal Water Resources Research, is...
Crop damage mounts for EU farmers after torrid summer

Crop damage mounts for EU farmers after torrid summer

SOURCE: Reuters DATE: August 22, 2018 SNIP: European farmers are counting the cost of a summer heatwave that has shrunk cereal harvests and shriveled pastures, leaving some farms struggling to survive and shutting the EU out of lucrative export markets. The severe weather in Europe has coincided with adverse growing conditions in other major grain producing zones such as Russia and Australia, raising the risk that supplies in exporting countries will be eroded to their smallest in years. The latest harvest estimates have underlined the impact of drought and heatwaves in northern Europe. Germany’s farmers’ association DBV on Wednesday forecast a 22 percent plunge in grain production this year in the European Union’s second-largest cereal grower. Germany endured its highest summer temperatures in over a century as extreme weather gripped northern Europe from Britain to the Baltic states. The combination of poor harvest yields and shriveled grassland has led to spiraling costs for animal feed, putting pressure on livestock farms. A sharp drop in the EU’s wheat harvest will also limit exports from the bloc, adding to nervousness about global supply given weather issues elsewhere, including in top wheat exporter Russia. The weather woes in northern Europe and speculation about possible Russian government restrictions on grain exports have contributed to renewed price volatility on international...
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....