Droughts 2019

Today I have been without water, as the town works on water pipes in our neighborhood. We were notified several days in advance that we should expect the water to be off today and tomorrow from 9:00 until 3:00. 

Not having water is frustrating and inconvenient. 

But it made me thankful for what we have: Green grass, flourishing gardens. The water is back on, and we can flush the toilets and wash our hands. We can move on as if nothing happened. And it made me thankful to live in the northeast, where we do have water, except when the infrastructure is being updated. And I’m thankful to know that when the water is going to be turned off, we can plan for it.

I recalled an article I saw the other day, and googled “drought news.” Below are SOME of the stories that came up, which were dated within just the last week. There were news stories of droughts in EVRY continent except Antarctica. North America: Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Alaska, Oregon, Canada, Greenland, Costa Rica. South America: Chile. Europe: France. Africa.: Multiple states. Asia: Iraq/Kurdistan, India, Thailand. Australia. This list doesn’t include the articles of areas that are older than the past week. Droughts are occurring globally. And. This. Is. Terrifying.

Here are some brief summaries of this weeks stories:

Temperature extremes and erratic rainfall patterns associated with climate change are affecting food production and infrastructure critical to food distribution, which in turn directly impact nutrition outcomes. https://phys.org/news/2019-08-effects-drought-vulnerable-populations.html

A flash drought is now developing in parts of Texas and Oklahoma after one of the wettest springs on record. This drought has developed rapidly enough to be considered a flash drought. https://weather.com/news/climate/news/2019-08-09-flash-drought-developing-texas-oklahoma Also: Oklahoma: Drought is back! And, it’s getting bad! https://www.koco.com/article/oklahoma-drought-is-back-and-it-s-getting-bad/28653310

Drought affecting about 1 million in Deep South. The worst areas are agricultural counties in southeast Alabama and the area just south of Birmingham. About 600,000 people are affected by drought statewide. https://abc3340.com/news/local/drought-affecting-about-1-million-in-deep-south

Slim rain chances arrive for Thursday; Drought conditions near Indianapolis, IN may be emerging. Since July 22nd, we’ve had less than one inch of rain.  Dry conditions are becoming more widespread and there is some concern that flash drought conditions are well under way. When warm soils and suddenly low to rapidly decreasing soil moisture occurs, stress on plants is underway and it could take a toll. https://fox59.com/2019/08/07/slim-rain-chances-arrive-for-thursday/

Northeast Iowa headed toward drought conditions. After one of the wettest years on record, a drought could start to creep into the Midwest. Two consecutive months of below normal rainfall has parts of Northeast Iowa possibly headed for drought conditions. About 36% of the state is rated DO—Abnormally Dry. Any classified drought in the corn belt, can potentially lead to yield loss. Especially this year where many fields were planted late. A late harvest season is also expected this year, with concerns of early frost damage. https://wcfcourier.com/news/local/northeast-iowa-headed-toward-drought-conditions/article_c94f5b74-4fce-594e-aba0-157d6c477647.html. Also: https://whotv.com/2019/08/12/drought-threats-begin-in-iowa/

Drought increases in Southeast Alaska while July temps break records. Southeast Alaska has suffered from a drought and warmer-than-normal temperatures for about two years now. The month of July broke more records in the region. https://www.ktoo.org/2019/08/12/drought-increases-in-southeast-alaska-while-july-temps-break-records/

Salmon Harvest Update: Warm weather, drought delay humpy harvest in Alaska. Unseasonably warm water and drought conditions in streams are putting a damper on pink salmon harvests in Prince William Sound. The year-to-date catch on Tuesday, Aug. 6, stood at 13.6 million fish. The recent year-to-date harvest average for Prince William Sound is 31.2 million humpies. https://www.thecordovatimes.com/2019/08/09/salmon-harvest-update-warm-weather-drought-delay-humpy-harvest/

Over 2,000 Miles of Pacific Coastline (Oregon, Canada, Alaska) are Experiencing Drought. It’s dry in the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and Alaska. Very dry. A contiguous stretch of over 2,000 miles of Pacific coastline is experiencing drought conditions ranging from “abnormally dry” to “extreme drought.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-03/over-2-000-miles-of-pacific-coastline-experiencing-drought

NASA gauges plant stress in Costa Rican drought. Parts of Costa Rica have received 75% less rainfall than normal in the drought, which is the result of abnormal weather patterns accompanying an El Niño that began in November 2018. https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7472

Over one million Chileans affected by severe drought. In the middle of winter (traditionally rainy season), water is being distributed to homes as well water is not safe to drink or is insufficient. Residents in rural areas are the hardest hit by the prolonged drought that has seen Chile occupy 18th place in terms of water stress worldwide. https://www.plenglish.com/index.php?o=rn&id=45482&SEO=over-one-million-chileans-affected-by-severe-drought

Christmas trees and tourists: The damage from France’s ongoing drought. With the majority of France now facing water restrictions and warnings, the damage of the long summer’s drought is already being seen across the country. https://www.thelocal.fr/20190812/christmas-trees-and-tourists-the-damage-from-frances-ongoing-drought

Sydney Australia’s desalination plant set to expand as drought continues. NSW government wants to be ready to increase water supply if the drought worsens. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/aug/11/sydneys-desalination-plant-set-to-expand-as-drought-continues

Drought reveals lost temple in Thailand submerged by a dam. “The temple is normally covered by water. In the rainy season you don’t see anything.” Submerged 20 years ago when the dam was built, now the reservoir has reached less than 3% of capacity. Hundreds of people are now walking through broken temple structures on cracked earth littered with dead fish. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-drought-temple/drought-reveals-lost-temple-in-thailand-submerged-by-dam-idUSKCN1UW023

A prolonged drought helped archaeologists uncover a mysterious Bronze Age palace in the Middle East. The drought in the Kurdistan-Iraq region has allowed an archaeological team to uncover a unique 3,500 year-old palace on the banks of the Tigris river in Mesopotamia. https://www.businessinsider.com/drought-has-helped-archaeologists-uncover-a-3500-year-old-palace-2019-8

Despite floods, parts of Maharashtra (Western India) are reeling under drought-like conditions. “It is the Monsoon season but we haven’t seen a drop of water in the region. Our crops are suffering, and without rains, we won’t be able to save them.” https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/despite-floods-parts-of-maharashtra-reeling-under-drought-like-conditions-1580155-2019-08-12

‘We can only watch our animals die.” In the Kutch district of Gujarat, India, a three-year drought cycle is considered a normal pattern. Local communities had learned to cope, but this summer many were forced to migrate. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/watch-animals-die-drought-disaster-kutch-190801111934636.html

And then there’s Africa.

Millions in Zimbabwe (southern Africa) are facing starvation after severe droughts, UN food agency says. 5.5 million will need food assistance by 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/07/africa/zimbabwe-millions-starvation-intl/index.html

Namibia (South Africa) cuts some water-related tourist activities due to drought. The river level has dropped so low, with sandbanks emerging daily, that the popular boat cruise has been stopped. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-08/13/c_138304117.htm

Zambia urged to declare emergency after worst drought since 1981. The British government urged Zambia to declare a food emergency to allow donors to provide assistance after the worst drought in nearly four decades hit farm output and left millions of people facing hunger. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-08/zambia-urged-to-declare-emergency-after-worst-drought-since-1981

Catastrophic droughts are becoming the new normal in Somalia. The United Nations has warned that more than 2 million people are soon expected to face severe hunger in Somalia, as a result of devastating drought following a disappointing spring rainy season.* Disturbing as that is, there’s a bigger long-term concern: This is the third severe drought the country has faced in less than a decade. “Drought is becoming more regular and more intense. … In this region, climate crisis is no longer a future scenario.” https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/08/somalia-drought-the-world-is-struggling-to-keep-up-with-climate-change-in-the-horn-of-africa.html

Congo rain forest endures a longer dry season. The forest’s dry season has been starting earlier and ending later for decades, making parts of it vulnerable to incursions by drought-resistant ecosystems. “Longer dry season has been observed over the Amazon, and so we thought that there may be similar changes in the Congo. However, widespread lengthening [of the] dry season over the entire basin and the increasing rate were surprising to us.” If the trend continues, the Congo rain forest could rapidly lose ground to drought-resistant ecosystems and transform from a carbon sink to a carbon source. “Dry season length is one of the most crucial climate limitations for sustaining rain forest.” https://eos.org/articles/congo-rain-forest-dry-season-growing-at-accelerated-rate

Kenya drought: More than a million people face starvation in Western Africa. Months of rain have just ended but weather experts say it was not enough to prevent worsening food and water shortages. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/kenya-drought-million-people-face-starvation-190808101756682.html

There are many more. But this seems like a good one to end with: The weather over the Upper Midwest has been extremely dry and now a connection can be made to the climate crisis in Greenland. https://wqad.com/2019/08/07/connecting-our-current-drought-to-the-climate-crisis/

What can we do?

Learn how to reduce our carbon footprint, and do everything else that we can to slow down climate change. Consider reducing consumption of these 9 foods tha are making the drought even worse. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/drought-foods_l_5d388b6ce4b0419fd336e8b1

Learn more: https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-are-the-main-causes-of-droughts.html

Don’t forget to appreciate what we have.