U.S. has hottest summer on record

The United States had its hottest summer on record this year, narrowly edging out the previous milestone that was set 85 years ago during the Dust Bowl.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday that the average temperature this summer for the contiguous U.S. was 74 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2.6 degrees warmer than the long-term average. The heat record caps off a season full of extremes, with parts of the country experiencing persistent drought, wildfires, record-breaking heat waves, hurricanes and other extreme weather exacerbated by climate change.

This summer beat the previous record set in 1936 by a hair, coming in at less than 0.01 degrees warmer than during the Dust Bowl year, when huge portions of the West and Great Plains were parched by severe drought…

Global warming is making heat waves and other extreme weather events both more likely and more severe, and climate scientists have said conditions this summer offer a glimpse of what could become more common in the future.

If you accept and understand the science, get ready to sweat. If you don’t accept the science, guess what? You still get to sweat!

What do you think 102 million dead trees mean for wildfire danger in California?

Click to enlarge

The number of dead trees in California’s drought-stricken forests has risen dramatically to more than 102 million in what officials described as an unparalleled ecological disaster that heightens the danger of massive wildfires and damaging erosion.

Officials said they were alarmed by the increase in dead trees, which they estimated to have risen by 36 million since the government’s last survey in May. The U.S. Forest Service, which performs such surveys of forest land, said Friday that 62 million trees have died this year alone….

Scientists say five years of drought are to blame for much of the destruction. The lack of rain has put California’s trees under considerable stress, making them more susceptible to the organisms, such as beetles, that can kill them. Unusually high temperatures have added to the trees’ demand for water, exacerbating an already grim situation…

Although California enjoyed a wet start to the water year in Northern California, the central and southern parts of the state remain locked in what federal officials classify as “extreme” and “exceptional” drought.

Sooner or later – hopefully, the former – folks will realize that climate change means more than a couple paragraphs about global warming. Distorted climates produce untypical environments, often ending in disaster.

NASA GRACE Satellite Mapping

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❝ Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center generate groundwater and soil moisture drought indicators each week. They are based on terrestrial water storage observations derived from GRACE satellite data and integrated with other observations, using a sophisticated numerical model of land surface water and energy processes.

❝ The drought indicators describe current wet or dry conditions, expressed as a percentile showing the probability of occurrence within the period of record from 1948 to the present, with lower values (warm colors) meaning dryer than normal, and higher values (blues) meaning wetter than normal. These are provided as both images and binary data files.

Important stuff even if you don’t earn your living from the land. That ain’t a large number of folks as the percentage of US population. Their products are significant even in a global economy.

Sooner or later, everything in these maps is going to affect your life.

Watch Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US, shrink

The water level in Lake Mead — the United States’ largest reservoir that serves as a source of water for over 20 million people — has dropped to an all-time low, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the reservoir and the Hoover Dam…Water level in the reservoir dropped to 1,074.34 feet Friday — bringing it to its lowest level since the dam was built in 1936…

Lake Mead, whose high-water capacity is about 1,225 feet, is currently only 37 percent full. At 900 feet, Lake Mead becomes a “dead pool,” which means that nothing would flow downstream from the Hoover Dam…

The reservoir has not reached full capacity since 1983, and, over the past 16 years, as the Colorado River basin reels under a historic drought, its water levels have fallen consistently.

❝ “This problem is not going away and it is likely to get worse, perhaps far worse, as climate change unfolds,” Brad Udall, a climate research scientist at Colorado State University, told the Desert Sun. “Unprecedented high temperatures in the basin are causing the flow of the river to decline. The good news is that we have time and the smarts to manage this, if all the states work together.”

Officials from California, Nevada and Arizona — the three states that would face crippling water shortages if the reservoir’s water levels drop further — are believed to be working on a deal to temporarily reduce water withdrawal from Lake Mead.

Just, please, don’t tell the conservative anti-science nutballs in Congress that states are working to solve problems that include the words “climate change” in any portion of the question. They’ll go into action faster than any speed-trap sheriff in West Texas.

They may be incapable of passing a budget which doesn’t support the Republican War on Women or filling vacancies in any portion of our judiciary above the rank of suburban family court – but, boy, can they roll into hearings, conferences, lawsuits faster than you can say, Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi – all guaranteed to stop up the works of useful projects.

California drought means nothing to crop production for export

alfalfa for export
Click to enlarge — Alfalfa packed for export

In eastern Riverside County, almost to the Arizona border, is the Palo Verde Valley, where scorching summers, mild winters and access to Colorado River water have made it an agricultural hot spot, especially for alfalfa.

Some of the hay crop grown in the valley is used for domestic cattle and the rest is sold to other countries where land or water shortages preclude industrial-scale growing operations. The same is true in the Coachella Valley, the high desert of San Bernardino County and other Inland growing areas.

This month, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabian dairy company Almarai paid almost $32 million for 1,790 acres of prime farm land along the Colorado River in Blythe.

Almarai’s Fondomonte California LLC is growing feed for its cattle in Saudi Arabia. In 2014, the company bought almost 10,000 acres of farmland in Vicksburg, Ariz., for $47.5 million.

The Saudi government has ordered conservation of scarce water resources and is phasing out the growing of crops and green fodder for livestock over the next three years.

Almarai’s Blythe purchase comes in the midst of California’s drought, which has prompted statewide rationing for residents and businesses. The shortages have led some to wonder whether it’s wise for farms like Almarai to grow alfalfa and other thirsty crops for export.

One vocal critic is UC Riverside economist Christopher Thornberg, who says the practice is akin to exporting water.

“They have already destroyed their water tables, now they’re destroying ours,” he said.

Same as it ever was. It’s OK to ignore the fact that a whole state is affected by drought – if you’re a good ol’ boy making a buck selling to foreigners. The PR boys keep up their rant that California growers are the vegetable garden for America. Regardless of how much of a crop is really grown for export.

Now, the foreigners [gasp] who are smart enough to cut out the middleman have started moving in to buy land and water rights. Gonna call Ghostbusters?

Or is it time to face reality and make sensible decisions about water use and allocation?

Earthprints: Lake Powell

Click to enlarge — Photo Essay by Rick Wilking

Where the Colorado River falls from the snow-capped Rocky Mountains into the arid U.S. Southwest, lies Lake Powell.

More than 150 meters deep in places and with narrow side canyons, the shoreline of the lake is longer than the entire West Coast of the United States. It extends upstream into Utah from Arizona’s Glen Canyon Dam and provides water for Nevada, Arizona and California.

But a severe drought in recent years, combined with the tapping of the lake’s water at what many consider to be an unsustainable level, has reduced its levels to only about 42 percent of its capacity, according to the U.S. space agency NASA…

Scientists from NASA and Cornell and Columbia universities warned earlier this year that the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains regions are likely to be scorched by a decades-long “megadrought” during the second half of this century if climate change continues unabated.

Forecasting that there is an 80 percent 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 researchers said their results point to a challenging – and remarkably drier – future.

RTFA for details, descriptive photos in wide-ranging formats. Worth the time spent to learn and reflect.

What water shortage? California farmers using oil field wastewater on crops

Oil field in Central Valley, California

A devastating drought has been plaguing the state of California for years. Governor Jerry Brown has called it “an unprecedented, very serious situation.” The circumstances are so dire, farmers in the Central Valley have resorted to using wastewater from oil fields to irrigate their crops. Ingenious solution? Or dangerous health risk?

Correspondent Mike Kirsch travels to the center of the state to investigate just what’s in the water. He visits farmers and community members and shows us the oil fields from where treated oil wastewater is being sent to farms and used to grow crops…

Growing numbers of citizens and environmentalists are accusing Governor Jerry Brown and the oil industry of being less than transparent about the health hazards from toxic chemicals in the water.

Mike interviews Scott Smith, the chief scientist for an organization called “Water Defense” that has tested the water. Smith tells Mike Kirsch “The chemicals we found cause cancer and negatively impact your health.”

Scott Smith is asking the oil companies to conduct joint testing with him on the wastewater to ensure accurate and transparent results. So far, he says, oil companies have declined his invitation.

CCTV video wastewater crops

Check out Mike Kirsch’s piece for “Americas Now” at the bottom of the article

L.A. County politicians didn’t get the drought memo – I guess

Despite a devastating four-year drought that has forced strict water conservation measures across California, most Los Angeles County supervisors still have their cars washed two or three times a week…

The multiple weekly car washes carry on despite Governor Jerry Brown’s admonitions to Californians to take shorter showers and stop watering their lawns and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s own “Save the Drop” campaign, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

The five supervisors can either collect a car allowance or have the county buy them a vehicle, which is washed, maintained and kept fueled at taxpayer expense.

The Daily News determined through public service records that two of the supervisors, Don Knabe and Michael Antonovich, have their SUVs washed by county workers an average of twice a week and that a third, Mark Ridley-Thomas, has his car cleaned three times a week.

The remaining two, Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis, wash their cars about once a week…Ridley-Thomas, Knabe and Antonovich actually increased the frequency of their car washes after the governor ordered the first statewide mandatory water restrictions in April, directing cities and communities to reduce their water usage by 25 percent…

Unlike many commercial car washes, the county’s facilities do not use recirculated water, the Daily News said.

The supervisors declined to answer questions from the Daily News about the car washing.

How about admitting they’re foolish, self-serving jerks? How about stopping the silliness immediately?

How about adopting practices already part of the daily lives of sensible Californians?