Drought for Centuries

September 16, 2016

droughtHeavy-deep fog this early Friday on California’s north coast, and damp, too, with a chill announcing an approaching seasonal-change.
Warm inland, though, as the weather continues…

Also relating to a persistence of environment is our drought — a ghastly new study shows the dry is here for the way-long haul with emission levels fueling the aridity, the last three years the hottest and driest in 120 years.
UCLA Professor Glen MacDonald via KTLA:

“The drought today, what we’re experiencing over the last five years – it’s not beyond reason that as we move into the 21st century that this isn’t a drought. This could be what would we consider normal conditions for California: a drier and hotter state.”

Our planet is getting way-wacky…

(Illustration: ‘Ocean Sheet,’ from artist/illustrator Gwynneth Jones, found here).

Not only for California. Climate change is really kind of exploding, and from indications, the situation all over will only get more-serious, creating episodes like the massive flooding in south Louisiana last month, or those ferocious typhoons in the northwestern Pacific — aided and abetted by a heating-up world, which in turn, created by greenhouse gases gushing into earth’s atmosphere.

Meanwhile, our drought appears another victim — the study-research from UCLA reveals we could be locked into dry conditions a shitload longtime — via Phys.org yesterday:

The study, published today in the Nature.com journal Scientific Reports, looked at how natural climatic forces contributed to centuries-long and even millennia-long periods of dryness in California during the past 10,000 years.
These phenomena — sun spots, a slightly different earth orbit, a decrease in volcanic activity — intermittently warmed the region through a process called radiative forcing, and recently have been joined by a new force: greenhouse gases.
As long as warming forces like greenhouse gases are present, the resulting radiative forcing can extend drought-like conditions more or less indefinitely, said MacDonald, a distinguished professor of geography and of ecology and evolutionary biology.
“Radiative forcing in the past appears to have had catastrophic effects in extending droughts,” said MacDonald, an international authority on drought and climate change.
“When you have arid periods that persist for 60 years, as we did in the 12th century, or for millennia, as we did from 6,000 to 1,000 B.C., that’s not really a ‘drought.’ That aridity is the new normal.”

And from Nature World News: ‘“In a century or so, we might see a retreat of forest lands, and an expansion of sagebrush, grasslands and deserts,” MacDonald said. “We would expect temperatures to get higher, and rainfall and snowfall would decrease. Fire activity could increase, and lakes would get shallower, with some becoming marshy or drying up.”

Meanwhile again, some more climate-change activity this week:
Arctic melt — via Climate Central, also yesterday:

Arctic sea ice is one of the grandaddy’s of climate indicators.
And this grandaddy isn’t doing so good these days.
This year’s sea ice extent has bottomed out as the second lowest on record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
It continues a troubling trend as rapidly warming air and water eats away at the briny, frozen mantle on the top of the planet.

Most of what we tend to talk about with Arctic sea ice comes courtesy of satellites since they’re the most reliable way to monitor such a remote region.
Recent research has reconstructed Arctic sea ice data back to 1850 using old ship logs, airplane survey and military records among other sources to provide a longer record than satellite data (though it does come with a little bit more uncertainty).
What is certain is that there’s nothing in modern history like the recent string of low Arctic sea ice years we’ve seen.

And related species-ending shit — from the abstract at ScienceAdvances from June 2015:

Even under our assumptions, which would tend to minimize evidence of an incipient mass extinction, the average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 100 times higher than the background rate.
Under the 2 E/MSY background rate, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have taken, depending on the vertebrate taxon, between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear.
These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way.
Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

The relation — from the Washington Post this past Wednesday:

We mostly can’t see it around us, and too few of us seem to care — but nonetheless, scientists are increasingly convinced that the world is barreling towards what has been called a “sixth mass extinction” event.
Simply put, species are going extinct at a rate that far exceeds what you would expect to see naturally, as a result of a major perturbation to the system.
In this case, the perturbation is us — rather than, say, an asteroid.
As such, you might expect to see some patterns to extinctions that reflect our particular way of causing ecological destruction.
And indeed, a new study published Wednesday in Science magazine confirms this.
For the world’s oceans, it finds, threats of extinction aren’t apportioned equally among all species — rather, the larger ones, in terms of body size and mass, are uniquely imperiled right now.
From sharks to whales, giant clams, sea turtles, and tuna, the disproportionate threat to larger marine organisms reflects the “unique human propensity to cull the largest members of a population,” the authors write.
“What to us was surprising was that we did not see a similar kind of pattern in any of the previous mass extinction events that we studied,” said geoscientist Jonathan Payne of Stanford University, the study’s lead author.
“So that indicated that there really is no good ecological analogue…this pattern has not happened before in the half billion years of the animal fossil record.”

So not only the science, with graphs of studies and research, but actual physical shit occurring right here, right now.
Maybe worse news — Republicans, and the hardshell-nasty ignorance and criminality with the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. A hearing on Wednesday about whether the committee has the authority to subpoena environmental groups and state attorneys general over an ongoing investigation into alleged fraud by Exxon, displayed why we’re not only fucked by the weather, but further-fucked by these assholes.
Via Think Progress:

According to the attorneys general investigating Exxon, they are trying to determine whether Exxon committed fraud by continuing to deny the role of fossil fuels in climate change, even while its own scientists were aware of the connection.
The scientists themselves are not under investigation — their work took place decades ago.
Exxon’s communications with and funding for public policy groups, think tanks, and other perpetrators of climate denial are being investigated.
“In America, it is unlawful for companies to lie to their stakeholders,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) noted Wednesday.

A good back-story from Lawrence M. Krauss at the New Yorker on the shithead-head of the committee, Republican Lamar Smith of Texas:

Smith, a Christian Scientist, has steadfastly campaigned against other scientific findings that cut against his a-priori beliefs — he’s opposed efforts to allow marijuana use for medical purposes, for example, which he has argued do not exist.
Some of his interventions seem to misunderstand the very nature of science.
Last year, for example, Smith introduced legislation requiring that all scientists applying for federal grants guarantee, in a special section of their grant applications, that their work is in “the national interest.”
It’s hard to know exactly what Smith means by this, but whatever it means it sets a dangerous precedent, because fundamental research should be driven by curiosity — by the simple desire to generate new knowledge — rather than by anyone’s political agenda.
The real national interest is always served by the generation of new knowledge; Smith seems to think that only some knowledge is appropriate.
The House passed his bill in February.
From climate change and evolution to sex education and vaccination, there has always been tension between scientists and Congress.
But Smith, who has been in Congress since 1987 and assumed the chairmanship of the Science Committee in 2013, has escalated that tension into outright war.
Smith has a background in American studies and law, not science.
He has, however, received more than six hundred thousand dollars in campaign contributions from the oil-and-gas industry during his time in Congress—more than from any other single industry.
With a focus that is unprecedented, he’s now using his position to attack scientists and activists who work on climate change.
Under his leadership, the committee has issued more subpoenas than it had during its previous fifty-four-year history.

And if T-Rump makes it to the White House…

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