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Tue, 21 Aug 2018
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Cow Skull

The Southwest's drought is bad and could last a generation or more

© Irrigation pipes on Southern California farmland. Eddie J. Rodriquez/Shutterstock
Late-summer 2014 has brought uncomfortable news for residents of the US Southwest - and I'm not talking about 109-degree heat in population centers like Phoenix.

A new study by Cornell University, the University of Arizona, and the US Geological Survey researchers looked at the deep historical record (tree rings, etc.) and the latest climate change models to estimate the likelihood of major droughts in the Southwest over the next century. The results are as soothing as a thick wool sweater on a midsummer desert hike.

The researchers concluded that odds of a decadelong drought are "at least 80 percent." The chances of a "megadrought," one lasting 35 or more years, stands at somewhere between 20 percent and 50 percent, depending on how severe climate change turns out to be. And the prospects for an "unprecedented 50-year megadrought" - one "worse than anything seen during the last 2000 years"­ - checks in at a nontrivial 5 to 10 percent.

Comment: Additional examples that support researchers' conclusions that odds of a potential 'decade-long drought' in the Southwest are concerning:


Spike in coyote attacks on animal pets in Claremont, California

It seems you can't step outside your front door these days without spotting a coyote running down the street. Lack of food and extreme drought conditions in the Angeles National Forest are forcing wildlife further down the mountain and into town, alarming residents who are unsure of how to protect themselves and their pets.

"The problem is everywhere," says Don Nelson, Warden with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), of the recent coyote sightings. "Anywhere there is open space, even a small amount of open space where they can find food and somewhere they can get up and under for coolness in the daytime and seclusion from predators."

Two weeks ago, COURIER publisher and owner Peter Weinberger and his wife lost their beloved chihuahua Rudy to a suspected coyote attack. The animals have been seen frequenting their Claremont neighborhood in recent weeks, particularly on trash days, in search of food.


As California drought becomes "race to the bottom", state considers regulating groundwater use for the first time

The ongoing disaster that is the drought in the West is leaving wells dry across California - which account for up to 60% of water usage. As WSJ reports, as groundwater levels plunge (100 feet or more lower than norm), wells are being driven further and further into the earth (500 feet in some cases) forcing the state legislature is considering regulating underground water for the first time. "We can't continue to pump groundwater at the rates we are and expect it to continue in the future," warns one engineer, adding "What's scary is we're not fixing anything... It's a race to the bottom."
"Everybody was pumping to their heart's content, until they realized the basin isn't that big."
As WSJ reports, "Groundwater was kind of out of sight, out of mind," said Lester Snow, executive director of the California Water Foundation, a nonprofit policy group in Sacramento, and former director of the state Department of Water Resources. But now...
With groundwater levels falling across the Golden State - causing dried-up wells, sinking roadbeds and crumbling infrastructure - the state legislature is considering regulating underground water for the first time.

Californians have long battled over rights to rivers, lakes and other surface-water supplies, but the drought is finally shifting the focus to groundwater, which accounts for about 40% of water used in normal years - and up to 60% in drought years, as other sources dry up.

Comment: The drought shows no signs of letting up and is continuing to spread. Will these new government actions help precipitate a migration out of California?


Another atypical animal attack on humans: Villagers viciously attacked by a pack of starving wolves in China


Grey wolves usually keep away from humans because of the threat of being hunted. There are thought to be 10,000 living in Xinjiang

* Two seriously injured in attack by wolves driven mad by hunger

* One victim has ear torn clean off, while others suffer scratches to face

* Starving beasts attacked humans after drought killed off their usual prey

These shocking images show the horrifying injuries suffered by villagers in China when a pack of starving wolves attacked.

Up to five of the animals surrounded the small farming community before viciously mauling the six people living there, leaving two seriously injured in a previously unheard of attack.

One of the victims had their ear torn off by the wolves, who had been driven mad by hunger, while others suffered bites and scratches to the face, neck and chest.


Six Chinese villagers were injured when wolves driven mad with hunger attacked

Comment: There appears to have been a spate of unusually aggressive animal attacks on humans of late including some by species normally thought of as being wary and retiring when encountering people, see also: Giant anteaters kill Brazilian hunters!

Bear attacks kill at least three people with many others injured in Siberia and far-east Russia

Boy and grandmother attacked and injured by river otter on Pilchuck River, Washington

Paddling family of three attacked by a beaver in Austria

400 pound alligator attacks 9-year-old boy, Florida

Crocodile kills fisherman in front of his wife in Northern Territory, Australia

Man mauled by bear in Italian wood

Minneapolis girl attacked and chased by otter in Wisconsin lake

More unusual animal behaviour: Crocodile attack earns Florida swimmers dubious distinction

Aggressive dolphin tried to push swimmer underwater off the coast of Ireland

Three dingoes attack man on Fraser Island beach, Australia


California drought: East Porterville residents without water as wells go dry

© Chieko Hara, AP
Volunteers Marrisa Zuniga, right, Paul Vigil, and Raul Alatorre, left, load cases of water on a dolly to deliver homes in East Porterville, Calif., Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Nearly 1,000 people whose wells have gone dry due to drought received an emergency allotment of bottled water Friday.
Hundreds of people in a California town have no water after wells ran dry during the state's drought.The small town of East Porterville in Tulare County has about 7,300 residents, and at least 300 homes have been without water for weeks.

"We can't shower. We're wearing dirty clothes. My kids had to wear dirty clothes to school this morning," said Elizabeth Baker. "I had to go across the street last night to get water for my kids from the fire department."

The county set up a 5,000-gallon water tank for residents to help with flushing toilets and irrigation, but now drinking water is the problem. They had to distribute more than 15,000 gallons of drinking water last week.

There are fears the problem could be even worse as people believe some people aren't reporting their wells have gone dry out of fear their landlords will evict them, or their children will be taken away. In fact, the county didn't know how dire the problem was until they were tipped off by a nonprofit group.

Donna Johnson has been delivering water to those in need for months. She's even taken out a loan to pay for the water.

Comment: This situation is continuing to widen and is getting worse.


Guatemala declares state of calamity in 17 drought-hit regions

Guatemala drought
© Daniel Leclair/Reuters
Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina on Monday declared a state of calamity in 17 of the country's 22 departments, where as many as 200,000 rural and indigenous families whose livelihoods depend solely on farming are said to have been afflicted by a severe drought in those areas and a potential famine.

"At a cabinet meeting this Monday, we signed a governmental decree that declares a State of Calamity in 17 departments as a result of the effects on agriculture of the prolonged drought," the president said in a tweet.

The decree, which requires legislative approval, would allow emergency assistance and humanitarian aid to be delivered to families in the affected regions which have been without rainfall for two months and suffered crop losses.


No end in sight: California's record drought is making Earth's surface rise

© Ruaridh Stewart/ZUMA Press/Corbis
California’s exceptional drought has exposed the bottom of Big Bear Lake.
The record-breaking California drought is so bad that monitoring stations used to study earthquakes can detect the drying ground rising up. Measurements of these subtle movements, made using GPS instruments, suggest that the western United States is missing some 62 trillion gallons of water, enough to cover the entire region six inches deep.

Drought has plagued various parts of the western United States for years. California's dry times started at the beginning of 2013 and have continued to worsen. Nearly 100 percent of the state is now experiencing drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and more than half the state falls under the most severe category of "exceptional drought." Water restrictions are in place. Farmers have been hard hit. And some people are even questioning participation in the viral "ice-bucket challenge" that is raising awareness and funding for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

While it's not difficult to see parched lawns and drying lakes, and scientists can directly measure changes in rainfall and stream flow, getting a measure of how much water has been lost from the desiccating landscape hasn't been easy. The new study, appearing today in the journal Science, provides a way to do just that by taking advantage of GPS monitors set up across the country.

Comment: Richard Howitt, professor emeritus of resource economics, stated:
"A well-managed basin is used like a reserve bank account," Howitt said. "We're acting like the super rich who have so much money they don't need to balance their checkbook."
The systems in which we live are failing in a fractal-like way. For those interested in the science behind these failures, from cosmic, to global, to you, check out:

Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection


California is sinking as aquifers disappear

A pole is marked with the land levels in Mendota, California, showing the drastic sinking of the land for nearly a century.
Walk into any grocery store in America and there's a good chance the fresh produce you see there was grown in California. Up to half of the nation's fruit, nuts and vegetables are grown in the Central Valley, one of the planet's most fertile growing regions, between Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Now, for the first time this century, the entire state is in severe to exceptional drought.

"It's really depressing for us to leave ground out. We're still paying taxes and payments on everything that's non-production," said Gene Errotabere, whose family has farmed the valley since the late 1920s. "I mean, it's this whole valley. It's just a breadbasket of our whole country here, and to see this much ground being fallowed is not something I like to see."

Comment: What if it's not drought per se that is causing California to sink, but 'Earth opening up' from below that is causing aquifers to disappear?

Arrow Up

Huge water loss in Western U.S. causes Earth's crust to rise

Western US crust uplift
© Shawn Lawrence, UNAVCO
Plate Boundary Observatory GPS station P466, located in the Inyo Mountains near Lone Pine, California. P466 is mounted on a deep-drilled braced monument, and its displacement data were used in the determination of water loading changes in the western U.S.
About 63 trillion gallons of water have been lost to drought in the western United States, enough to blanket the region with 4 inches of water, according to a study published Thursday.

Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, arrived at the conclusion by measuring the level of the earth's crust with a network of GPS stations that is normally used to predict earthquakes.

When water is lost because of a lack of rain and snow, the earth's crust rises. The sensors show that the earth's crust has risen an average of 4 millimeters in the western United States since last year and as much as 15 millimeters in the California mountains.

The earth's crust typically sags in the winter and spring, weighed down by water, and it rises during the dry season in summer and fall, said co-author Adrian Borsa. The authors removed those seasonal factors when analyzing about a decade of data from GPS stations within the National Science Foundation's Plate Boundary Observatory.


Historic drought over western US goes from bad to worse, stoking fears of water crisis

© Max Whittaker/Prime/Washington Post

When the winter rains failed to arrive in this Sacramento Valley town for the third straight year, farmers tightened their belts and looked to the reservoirs in the nearby hills to keep them in water through the growing season.

When those faltered, some switched on their well pumps, drawing up thousands of gallons from underground aquifers to prevent their walnut trees and alfalfa crops from drying up. Until the wells, too, began to fail.

Now, across California's vital agricultural belt, nervousness over the state's epic drought has given way to alarm. Streams and lakes have long since shriveled up in many parts of the state, and now the aquifers - always a backup source during the region's periodic droughts - are being pumped away at rates that scientists say are both historic and unsustainable.

One state-owned well near Sacramento registered an astonishing 100-foot drop in three months as the water table, strained by new demand from farmers, homeowners and municipalities, sank to a record low. Other wells have simply dried up, in such numbers that local drilling companies are reporting backlogs of six to eight months to dig a new one.