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Fri, 25 May 2018
The World for People who Think



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

Cape Town drought
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The frightening hiss and crackle of the massive Thomas Fire in Southern California has been replaced by the loud droning of heavy equipment below the burn area.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


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.


60 million Pakistanis threatened by toxic ground water

Getting Water from Well
© Tasawar Khanam, COMSATS
Collection of samples from a dug well in the Gujrat district of Punjab province in Pakistan.
The largest ever assessment of water quality in Pakistan has found that as many as 60 million people are at risk because of high concentrations of arsenic in ground water on the Indus Plain.

The study, conducted by a team led by Joel Podgorski from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, measured arsenic concentrations from 1200 sites across the country, most of them hand- and motor-operated pumps.

Using the test results, Pogorski and colleagues then constructed a "hazard map", factoring in statistical estimates of arsenic movement through groundwater. The results suggest that much of the Indus Plain contains arsenic levels above the maximum recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The study - published in the journal Science Advances - confirms and extends the results of recent previous, smaller studies.

In February this year the journal Environment International published a paper assessing the health risks posed by consuming a diet based on arsenic-laced water in Pakistan.

The research, led by Hifza Rasheed of the University of Leeds, UK, used questionnaires to establish the average intake of water, rice and wheat per person. It found that daily water and wheat consumption were both higher than current WHO recommendations, while rice intake was below par.


Drought kills 2 million animals in Ethiopia

dead animals
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said that two million animals have been lost to a "devastating" drought in Ethiopia.

The UN agriculture agency said that the drought had devastated herders' livelihoods as it exhausted pastures and water sources.

It said the current food and nutrition crisis was significantly aggravated by the severe blow to pastoral livelihoods.

"For livestock-dependent families, the animals can literally mean the difference between life and death - especially for children, pregnant and nursing mothers, for whom milk is a crucial source of nutrition.

"With up to two million animals lost so far, FAO is focusing on providing emergency livestock support to the most vulnerable pastoralist communities through animal vaccination and treatment, supplementary feed and water, rehabilitating water points, and supporting fodder and feed production".


12% of Montana is in exceptional drought - a once-in-a-century event, says NOAA scientist

Montana drought
The sun sets over Swords Rimrock Park on the Rims on Sunday. July was one of the hottest and driest on record for Billings and elsewhere in Eastern Montana.
July was one of the hottest and driest on record for Billings and elsewhere in Eastern Montana, intensifying extreme drought conditions that have gripped much of the region this summer.

In July, Miles City recorded only trace amounts of precipitation throughout the entire month, tying with 1988 as the driest July on record. In Glasgow, year-to-date precipitation is less than half of the average, and is the lowest seen in 110 years.

"One of the problems we have this year is you need moisture to have moisture," Glasgow-based meteorologist Tanja Fransen said. "In a dry year without the moisture, your clouds are higher up, so what rain does fall has to fall a lot farther to hit the ground."

In its weekly report released July 27, the U.S. Drought Monitor classified nearly 12 percent of Montana as under "exceptional" drought conditions - the service's most extreme grade for drought. That area, stretching across the northeast portion of the state, jumped from just 1.5 percent of the state's land area that met those criteria one week earlier.

"Generally, that would be a kind of one-in-a-hundred-year event," said David Miskus, a research scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who is one of the 12 authors for Drought Monitor.

The last time any part of the state reached "exceptional drought" was in 2005.

Comment: Dan Wogsland; executive director of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association (NDGGA), estimates 40% of the western North Dakota wheat crop has been rolled into hay. He added, "Everyone remembers 1988, but a lot of people say it's not been this dry since the 1930s."

2017: The year that food becomes an investment - Prepare for a food crisis now