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Thu, 24 May 2018
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Drought

Bizarro Earth

Severe drought impacts New England states: Bears are bolder, mosquitoes are multiplying and fish are stressed

black bear

Beyond hurting crops and helping the tourism industry, New England's hot, dry summer also is affecting the region's wildlife. Bears are getting bolder, mosquitoes are multiplying and stream-dwelling fish are stressed.
Bears are bolder, mosquitoes are multiplying and stream-dwelling fish are stressed. Beyond hurting crops and helping the tourism industry, New England's hot, dry summer also is affecting the region's wildlife.

All six New England states are experiencing at least moderate drought, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center, with severe patches in all but Vermont and pockets of extreme drought in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Low rainfall also means low stream flow levels across the region. The U.S. Geological Survey says all six states have areas exhibiting moderate hydrologic drought, with severe spots in Massachusetts and one extreme area in Maine.

Low and warm water stresses fish, such as trout and salmon, forcing them to seek out deeper pools or spring holes. On Friday, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection closed portions of the West Branch Farmington River and the Farmington River to fishing through Sept. 15 after several fish kills.

Arrow Down

U.S. Senators trying to muzzle climate change skeptics

Muzzling Free Speech
© The Right Planet
Nineteen U.S. senators are working to destroy free speech and silence dissent, defying the Constitution they swore to defend and uphold. Senators Harry Reid, Tim Kaine, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and fifteen other Democrats took to the Senate floor last month to demonize their 'enemies list' of fossil fuel companies, think tanks and journalists for having the temerity to disagree with their views. They are also proposing a Congressional Resolution to formally disapprove of the actions of those who disagree with them.

Climate change happens to be the subject of their action, but the topic is irrelevant.

As President Harry Truman, himself a Democrat, said, "Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear."

That path of repressive measures has already been blazed. Seventeen attorneys general representing fifteen states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands formed "AGs United for Clean Power" and are threatening legal action and huge fines against anyone who declines to believe in a scientific theory which remains in dispute among respected scientists.

The Daily Signal reports, "This comes on top of U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch admitting that the Justice Department is discussing the possibility of pursing civil actions against climate change deniers, and that she has already referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which federal law enforcement could take action."

Bizarro Earth

Feds see 2018 shortage in Lake Mead water supply to southwest U.S.

drought lake mead water levels
© Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
File photo October 14, 2015. Amid an historic drought in the West, federal water managers are due to release an annual projection of surface levels at Lake Mead that will determine whether water deliveries from the crucial Colorado River reservoir will be cut next year to Arizona, Nevada, and California
Initial shortages not likely to impact Havasu, mayor says

Amid punishing drought, federal water managers projected Tuesday that — by a very narrow margin— the crucial Lake Mead reservoir on the Colorado River won't have enough water to make full deliveries to Nevada and Arizona in 2018.

A 24-month projection, issued on a day the largest reservoir on the closely controlled and monitored river was 36 percent full, showed the surface level of the lake behind Hoover Dam is expected to clear the trigger point this year to avoid a shortage declaration in 2017.

The margin is expected to be just under 4 feet, or almost 228 billion gallons of water. Mandatory shortages begin to take effect once levels dip below 1,075 feet.

For 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation projects missing the mark by under a foot, which would trigger a shortage declaration, cuts to Arizona's water allocation by 11.4 percent, and cuts to Nevada's water flow by 4.3 percent.

That would be enough water to serve more than 600,000 homes a year in Arizona, and about 26,000 in Nevada.

Info

Mexican archaeologist says Teotihuacán was built to worship water

Pyramid of the Moon
© emerzel21/iStockphoto
The ancient Pyramid of the Moon, the second-largest pyramid in Teotihuacan, Mexico.
Perched on a plateau surrounded by mountains some 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, the city of Teotihuacán reached its peak between A.D. 200 and 450, when it was home to as many as 100,000 people. In A.D. 600, Teotihuacán was mysteriously abandoned, leaving future generations of scholars to puzzle for centuries over the secrets of the ancient city, its magnificent pyramids and its people. Now, in what may be a major breakthrough in the study of Teotihuacán, one archaeologist argues that the city was likely built around the worship of a single essential substance: water.

For centuries, archaeologists and other scholars have struggled to unlock the secrets of the ancient city of Teotihuacán. After reaching its peak just as the Roman Empire was in decline, the city was largely destroyed around A.D. 600 by fire and looting, perhaps as the result of a civil war or enemy invasion. By A.D. 750, the surviving members of Teotihuacán's population seem to have been absorbed into neighboring cultures, or to have abandoned the once-great city for their ancestral homelands.

Because they had no complex form of writing, relatively little is known about the founders and inhabitants of Teotihuacán. Archaeologists haven't discovered any carved slabs inscribed with characters, or any royal tombs. This lack of artifacts contrasts sharply with the wealth of evidence left behind by the Maya, who also built impressive pyramids in their cities in Central America.

It was the Aztecs who found the ruins of Teotihuacán in the 1300s and gave the city its name, which means "the place where men become gods" in Nahuatl. It was also the Aztecs who linked Teotihuacán's two largest pyramid—the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon—to their own story of creation. But according to Verónica Ortega, the Aztecs may have had the story wrong.

Bizarro Earth

Drought ravaged Lesotho forced to import food as vital water reserves exported to South Africa

drought Lesotho

Shephard Ts'olo Lesofe secretly takes his sheep down to drink from the controversial Katse dam in Lesotho, which only provides water to South Africa
For farmer Mohlakoane Molise, the view of the enormous Katse dam from his smallholding high in the mountains of Lesotho taunts him daily.

His country is suffering through its worst drought in 35 years, but the vast and vital water reserves remain out of reach, destined instead for export to neighbouring South Africa.

"I am very angry about that water, because it could benefit us, we could use it to water the crops when there is a drought. But that's not happening," the 65-year-old widower told AFP.

Kneeling in front of his round, thatch-roofed hut, he sorted through his maize, examining each grain, one-by-one.

The operation didn't take long. His total annual harvest filled just two large sacks, in place of the usual dozen.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), the 2016 harvest for Lesotho's primary crop maize is estimated at 25,000 tonnes, a dramatic drop from last year's 78,000-tonne haul.

Instead, the mountainous kingdom - - entirely landlocked by South Africa - - must import food from its larger neighbour.

Sun

Iran's disappearing giant saltwater Lake Urmia turns blood-red

Lake Urmia
© earthobservatory.nasa.gov
A drought of epic proportions at Lake Urmia has brought the Iranian UNESCO site to the brink of disappearing off the face of the Earth, and is turning its once blue waters blood-red.

While once Urmia spanned an area five times larger than Hong Kong, its volume has decreased dramatically since 1972.

A study by hydrology experts at the University of California in 2014 painted the picture of a dying natural resource, highlighting how desiccation, or drying, had reduced the 5,000 sq km (1,930 sq mile) lake by almost 90 percent.
Changes to Lake Urmia
Its catastrophic demise has been compared to the loss of the Aral Sea, where poor irrigation and farming practices contributed to it drying up almost completely.

Scientists working with NASA's Earth Observatoryhave explained that as water levels drop during the hot summer months, microscopic algae and bacteria become more apparent, causing the unusual hue.


Bizarro Earth

What happens when the water's gone? Ogallala aquifer in western U.S. is being drained away

elida new mexico wind turbines

Bedsprings once served as a corral near Elida, New Mexico, where turbines tap into the High Plains’ unrelenting wind, generating new income for farmers who have lost earnings as their wells dry up.
The Ogallala aquifer turned the region into America's breadbasket. Now it, and a way of life, are being drained away.

"Whoa," yells Brownie Wilson, as the steel measuring tape I am feeding down the throat of an irrigation well on the Kansas prairie gets away from me and unspools rapidly into the depths below.

The well, wide enough to fall into, taps into the Ogallala aquifer, the immense underground freshwater basin that makes modern life possible in the dry states of Middle America. We have come to assess the aquifer's health. The weighted tip hits the water at 195 feet, a foot lower than a year ago. Dropping at this pace, it is nearing the end of its life. "Already this well does not have enough water left to irrigate for an entire summer," Wilson says.

It is three days into January, and we are alone on an endlessly flat expanse surrounded by 360 degrees of pale blue horizon, not a cloud, not a tree in sight. We are 4,000 feet above sea level, the reason this is called the High Plains. The incessant wind that blew topsoil from the Dust Bowl east to the Atlantic Ocean and onto the decks of ships during the 1930s is unseasonably calm, although Wilson's SUV is packed to the roof with gear for every possible weather calamity. On the field behind us, the spindly steel skeleton of a center-pivot irrigation sprinkler stretches out over brown earth like a giant sci-fi insect, dormant until spring.

Sun

Wildlife dying en masse as Pilcomayo river runs dry in Paraguay

A cattle carcass on the Agropil ranch, in Boquerón, on the border between Paraguay and Argentina. The Pilcomayo River is suffering through its worst drought in almost two decades while cattle and wildlife pay the price.
© Jorge Adorno
A cattle carcass on the Agropil ranch, in Boquerón, on the border between Paraguay and Argentina. The Pilcomayo River is suffering through its worst drought in almost two decades while cattle and wildlife pay the price.
Vultures rest in the tree's upper branches, their black bodies in stark contrast to the blanched wood beneath their feet. Below them, caimans and capybaras crawl in sucking mud through the Agropil lagoon, seeking water that is unlikely to arrive for many months. The river has dried up, and there is nowhere for them to go.

The lagoon, located in the western Paraguayan province of Boquerón, is just one of many stretches of the Pilcomayo River suffering an extensive die-off of caiman, fish, and other river creatures. There have not been any official estimates from the Ministry of the Environment, but Roque González Vera, a journalist for ABC Color in Paraguay, reports utter devastation in some places: Up to 98 percent of caimans (Caiman yacare) are suspected dead, and 80 percent of the capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) population has died.

Paraguay is in the midst of an ecological crisis.

Blue Planet

Water windfall: Scientists discover deep sources of groundwater in California's Central Valley, but oil activities pose threats

California aqueduct
© Rob Jackson, Stanford University
The California Aqueduct, with the Lost Hills Oil Field in the background
California's drought-stricken Central Valley harbors three times more groundwater than previously estimated, Stanford scientists have found. Accessing this water in an economically feasible way and safeguarding it from possible contamination from oil and gas activities, however, will be challenging.

"It's not often that you find a 'water windfall,' but we just did," said study co-author Robert Jackson, the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Provostial Professor at Stanford. "There's far more fresh water and usable water than we expected."

The research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of June 27, highlights the need to better characterize and protect deep groundwater aquifers not only in California but in other parched regions as well.

"Our findings are relevant to a lot of other places where there are water shortages, including Texas, China and Australia," said study co-author Mary Kang, a postdoctoral associate at Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

Sherlock

Excavators of Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion, the 'Egyptian Atlantises' present first results

sphinx great pyramid
© Flickr/ Sam Valadi
Giza Pyramids & Sphinx - Egypt
British archaeologists have presented the first results of their underwater excavations in the Hellenic cities of Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion, which sank into the Mediterranean Sea somewhere around the 8th century AD, Nature magazine wrote. Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion were two major port cities that existed in the Nile Delta in the 5th century BC.

Founded by Greek and Macedonian colonists during the 26th dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs, the cities survived the country's' occupation, first by Persians and then by Alexander of Macedonia's armies before being taken over by Rome during Queen Cleopatra's reign.

Then, around 750-800 AD the millennium-old cities were mysteriously submerged several meters into the Mediterranean and their location was lost for centuries before a team of British and French archeologists began large-scale excavations in the Abu Qir Bay in the Nile Delta.