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Mon, 19 Feb 2018
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Drought


Sun

Record heat and dry conditions spark fears of another drought in California

California heat
© KTLA
"We're about halfway through the rain season, so we've only got February and March, and they better be a miracle," said climatologist Bill Patzert. "If they're not, we just backflipped into the drought again."
January in Southern California is typically marked by rain, chilly temperatures and snow-capped mountains.

But this month is ending on a decidedly hot and dry note, with umbrellas and sweaters giving way to bathing suits and air conditioning.

The region is in the midst of a heat wave that on Monday brought record high temperatures for the day in places such as Long Beach (91 degrees), UCLA (89), Santa Ana (88), Oxnard (87) and Newport Beach (85). At 93 degrees, Lake Forest was the hottest spot in the United States. More records could fall Tuesday, and there is no rain in the foreseeable future.

It's a repeat of the unusually hot, dry and windy weather that helped fuel huge brush fires in December. Since the end of last February, downtown Los Angeles has seen just 2.26 inches of rain - an anemic amount over an 11-month period. Los Angeles has seen just 28% of its average precipitation since October - with most of it coming from the rainstorm that caused the deadly mudslides in Santa Barbara County.

"We're about halfway through the rain season, so we've only got February and March, and they better be a miracle," said climatologist Bill Patzert. "If they're not, we just backflipped into the drought again."

The culprit has been a recurring high-pressure system over the West. "It's been a hot summer, a hot fall, and even now in the midwinter. We're talking mid-80s at the end of January? That's unheard of," Patzert said.

"The heat today is pretty extraordinary," added UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain. "Coastal California is susceptible to midwinter heat spells, but this is a particularly extreme example - to the point where we are breaking records."

Boat

Venice water levels lowest since records began - and it's sinking (PHOTOS)

A gondola is seen tied up in Venice, near the Rialto bridge, on January 31, 2018, as exceptionally low tides have drained the lagoon city.
© VINCENZO PINTO / AFP/ GETTY IMAGES
A gondola is seen tied up in Venice, near the Rialto bridge, on January 31, 2018, as exceptionally low tides have drained the lagoon city.
Photographs taken this week show the famed Venetian gondolas helplessly abandoned on the docks, as the low tides caused by Wednesday's 'super blue blood moon' dry up the canals, robbing gondoliers of their money and residents of their transportation.

This is the third year that Venice has experienced record low water levels, with data showing a decrease of up to 60 cm lower than average. Two years ago, the city reported water levels up to 70 cm below normal levels, the lowest ever recorded in city data, according to Express.

Attention

Southern California's drought deepens dramatically

Los Angeles skyline
© AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
In this Dec. 14, 2017 file photo, Los Angeles skyline is seen through burned trees after a brush fire erupted in the hills in Elysian Park in Los Angeles.
California is rapidly plunging back into drought, with severe conditions now existing in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties-home to one-fourth of the state's population, a national drought monitor said Thursday.

The weekly report released by the U.S. Drought Monitor, a project of government agencies and other partners, also shows 44 percent of the state is now considered to be in a moderate drought. It's a dramatic jump from just last week, when the figure was 13 percent.

"It's not nearly where we'd like to be," Frank Gehrke, a state official, acknowledged after separately carrying out manual measurements of winter snowfall in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which supplies water to millions of Californians in a good, wet year.

Overall, the vital snowpack Thursday stood at less than a third of normal for the date.

Water

South Africa's Cape Town may become first major city in world to run out of water

Cape Town drought
© ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES
Dead fish lay in the cracked mud in the now dry bed that is the Gamka Dam in Beaufort West in November 08, 2017.
As the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, residents of Cape Town, South Africa, ushered in 2018 - the start of a new year and the start of the city's stringent new water regulations.

The Level 6 restrictions came into effect to combat an unprecedented drought which threatens to make Cape Town the first major city devoid of water.

The slew of new measures include limiting individuals municipal water usage per day and threatening to impose fines on those who exceed it.

They also reduce agricultural water use by 60 percent and commercial use by 45 percent, compared to pre-drought allocations.

The drought and water stress across most of South Africa follows a strong El Niño in 2015 and 2016.

The weather pattern - characterized by warmer-than-normal ocean water in the equatorial Pacific - resulted in extreme heat and spells of dry weather.

Beneficial rain eventually returned in late fall for much of the country, including the drought-stricken western Cape.


Comment: South Africa's Cape Town contends with worst drought in over a century


Bizarro Earth

After the flames subside: Hillsides left barren by California wildfires now at risk from mudslides

Thomas fire, California
© Noah Berger/AP
The Thomas fire burns through Los Padres National Forest near Ojai, California
The frightening hiss and crackle of the massive Thomas Fire in Southern California has been replaced by the loud droning of heavy equipment below the burn area.

Public work crews in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties are frantically clearing out every debris basin and storm drain possible, because the fire has left behind another threat -- mudslides.

"The Thomas Fire burned all of our front country range here," said Tom Fayram, Santa Barbara's deputy director of public works."

All these hills normally have a protective cover of chaparral. That's all gone. Almost 100% gone," he said.

What's left is black-gray hillside that officials and residents alike fear will become ashy waves of floodwater with the first rain of a so far bone-dry season.

Arrow Up

Record-breaking natural disasters from around the world in 2017 (PHOTOS)

Hurricane Maria damage
© Carlos Giusti/AP
People walk next to a gas station flooded and damaged by the impact of Hurricane Maria, which hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, September 20, 2017.
2017 was an expensive, deadly year of natural disasters on Earth.

Wildfires relentlessly scorched dry land from California to Portugal. Super-strength hurricanes and tropical storms slammed homes from the Caribbean to Ireland. Famine continued in Somalia and Yemen, while avalanches killed more than a hundred people in Afghanistan.

People around the world recorded record-breaking devastation, much of it caused by higher-than-usual temperatures on land and at sea. Climate experts say that in a warming world, these fatal events will continue to worsen.


A November 2017 report released by the Trump Administration cautioned that "extreme climate events" like heavy rainfall, extreme heatwaves, wildfires, and sea-level rise will all get more severe around the globe, and that some of these events could result in abrupt, irreversible changes to the climate as we know it.

Here's a look at some of the deadly power Mother Nature wielded in 2017:

A trio of super-strong hurricanes pummeled the Caribbean and US Gulf Coast, with each storm causing tens of billions of dollars in damage.

Comment: For more information on extreme weather from around the world, check out our Earth Changes Summaries. The latest video for November 2017:

To understand how and why these extreme weather events are occurring read Earth Changes and the Human Cosmic Connection by Pierre Lescaudron and Laura Knight-Jadczyk.


Magic Hat

A famous waterfall mysteriously disappears overnight in Chiapas, Mexico - local residents manage to 'fix' it (videos)

Cascadas de Agua Azul Chiapas Mexico waterfall
© Radio Formula
Before and after pictures: The Cascadas de Agua Azul waterfall in Chiapas, Mexico has completely disappeared overnight.
One of the most famous tourist attractions of Chiapas has almost completely disappeared as the flow of the river has decreased unexpectedly. Residents living around Cascadas de Agua Azul and from tourists visiting the area, woke up in distress as they noted that the waterfall had almost completely disappeared on November 10, 2017. The baffled inhabitants directly alerted authorities about the unusual phenomenon. Officials are investigating but have found nothing yet. Baffling is the fact that Chiapas is coming out from an intense wet season and that it has rained last week as well. So no drought, no needs of irrigation of agriculture. So what's the heck?

Comment: The first video speculates that the cause could be geological, as a result of the strong earthquake of September 7th, but does not offer a conclusive explanation. The second video claims that a natural dam of rocks was broken and this caused the flow of the river to change its course.

The authorities said they would come up with a diagnostic within 20 days, but apparently the local residents - not willing to wait, probably because the waterfalls guarantee the inflow of tourists - took matters in their own hands and in 24 hours had removed debris from an area where the water used to flow, and managed to restore them back to their former glory:




Cow Skull

Drought across Spain and Portugal causes alarm

Spain and Portugal drought
© YouTube/Euronews (screen capture)
Months of high temperatures and no rain causes worst drought this century for Iberian Peninsula

The Douro River which is one of the symbols of the Iberian Peninsula is 60 percent dry.

The snow, that by now should be covering the landscape above 2,000 meters has been replaced by temperatures of over 25ºC.

It's a situation which has become critical - for Spain's economy, for growing food, for living.

One woman living close to the Cuerda del pozo reservoir was one of many worried about the situation:

"I can't remember seeing the reservoir so big, so empty."


Cow Skull

Study claims cooling in high and mid-latitudes led to aridification in Northern Africa

Neolithic rock art in Tassili n’Ajjer National Park, Sahara, Algeria
© Patrick Gruban, Munich, Germany / CC BY-SA 2.0.
Neolithic rock art in Tassili n’Ajjer National Park, Sahara, Algeria.
It is one of the driest regions of the Earth, yet, in a cave in the Egyptian Sahara, researchers have found paintings depicting people swimming. This stone-age art is thought to be up to ten thousand years old and falls into the so-called African Humid Period between 11,500 and 5,500 years before now. Climate scientists still puzzle about the rapidity of aridification and the climate processes that led to this. Now, a group of researchers from several European institutions found that northern high-latitude cooling played a role in triggering the rapid termination of the African Humid Period.

According to the study, published in Nature Communications, the temperature drop in the Arctic and in the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere weakened strong winds at high altitudes over Africa, the so-called Tropical Easterly Jet. "This cooling reduced precipitation over Africa, and in combination with a range of other complex climate feedback mechanisms tipped the humid system towards aridification," explains the first author of the study, James Collins from Helmholtz Centre Potsdam.

The findings are based on analyses of ancient plant leaf wax found in the sediments of the Gulf of Guinea in combination with computer models of the climate system. The wax lipids comprise n-alkanes, i.e. long-chain hydrocarbons, that are produced by plants to protect their leaves. Their hydrogen isotopic composition can be used as an indicator of past precipitation intensity. The wax isotopes told the researchers about rainfall in Cameroon and the central Sahel-Sahara over the past several millennia and showed a rapid aridification around 5500 years before now.

Comment: Once-Green Sahara Hosted Early African Dairy Farms


Sun

Despite historically wet winter, Oregon moving toward drought

Oregon heat wave
© MOLLY J. SMITH / Statesman Journal
Boats on the Willamette River on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, near Salem's Riverfront Park. The high for Saturday was forecast for 104 degrees; the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory lasting until Tuesday.
Salem recorded its hottest August temperatures since records started being kept in 1893.

The five warmest Augusts have taken place in the last five years, said David Elson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service - Portland.

"It's pretty clear that something is going on that we are changing our climate," said Kathie Dello, deputy director of the Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State University. "We're seeing climate change impacts already and we need to think about resiliency toward these 100-degree days."

The hot, dry conditions in the Mid-Willamette Valley are a result of a persistent pattern of the growing drier conditions and lack of rain.

Salem recorded just .15 inch of rain on August 13 - the only day there was precipitation in August.

Average rainfall for Salem in August is .45 inches.

The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory that will remain in effect until 10 p.m. Tuesday. Temperatures are expected to creep into the high 90s on Sunday, hover around 100 degrees on Monday and may reach 103 degrees on Tuesday.

"Normal temperatures would be around 80 degrees around this time of year," Elson said. "We'll be in the ballpark for record temperatures in the next few days."

Oregon is abnormally dry and on the cusp of drought conditions, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center.