|"The views expressed by others are not necessarily shared by me personally but all views and perspectives are respected"
|The Accelerating Consequences of Climate Change.
By The Day Fears Grow For How Far All This Will Go
By Colin Andrews
July 27, 2012
|More shocking signs of climate change including power shortages, food and water shortages
for some, villages washed away by sea rise for others and international concerns for global
food shortages within months. As water levels in rivers and reservoirs drop, questions about
the ability to cool Nuclear reactors (mentioned in our 2012 book, published four years ago.
Todays developments, first:
William deBuys: The West In Flames
By Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 25, 2012
The Oxygen Planet Struts Its Stuff - Not a “Perfect Storm” But the
New Norm in the American West
By William deBuys via TomDispatch
Dire fire conditions, like the inferno of heat, turbulence, and fuel that recently turned 346 homes in
Colorado Springs to ash, are now common in the West. A lethal combination of drought, insect
plagues, windstorms, and legions of dead, dying, or stressed-out trees constitute what some pundits
are calling wildfire’s “perfect storm.”
They are only half right.
This summer’s conditions may indeed be perfect for fire in the Southwest and West, but if you think of
it as a “storm,” perfect or otherwise — that is, sudden, violent, and temporary — then you don’t
understand what’s happening in this country or on this planet. Look at those 346 burnt homes again,
or at the High Park fire that ate 87,284 acres and 259 homes west of Fort Collins, or at the
Whitewater Baldy Complex fire in New Mexico that began in mid-May, consumed almost 300,000
acres, and is still smoldering, and what you have is evidence of the new normal in the American West.
For some time, climatologists have been warning us that much of the West is on the verge of
downshifting to a new, perilous level of aridity. Droughts like those that shaped the Dust Bowl in the
1930s and the even drier 1950s will soon be “the new climatology” of the region — not passing
phenomena but terrifying business-as-usual weather. Western forests already show the effects of this
If you surf the blogosphere looking for fire information, pretty quickly you’ll notice a dust devil of
“facts” blowing back and forth: big fires are four times more common than they used to be; the
biggest fires are six-and-a-half times larger than the monster fires of yesteryear; and owing to a
warmer climate, fires are erupting earlier in the spring and subsiding later in the fall. Nowadays, the
fire season is two and a half months longer than it was 30 years ago.
All of this is hair-raisingly true. Or at least it was, until things got worse. After all, those figures don’t
come from this summer’s fire disasters but from a study published in 2006 that compared then-recent
fires, including the record-setting blazes of the early 2000s, with what now seem the good old days of
1970 to 1986. The data-gathering in the report, however, only ran through 2003. Since then, the
western drought has intensified, and virtually every one of those recent records — for fire size,
damage, and cost of suppression — has since been surpassed.
New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains are a case in point. Over the course of two weeks in 2000, the Cerro
Grande fire burned 43,000 acres, destroying 400 homes in the nuclear research city of Los Alamos.
At the time, to most of us living in New Mexico, Cerro Grande seemed a vision of the Apocalypse.
Then, the Las Conchas fire erupted in 2011 on land adjacent to Cerro Grande’s scar and gave a
master class in what the oxygen planet can do when it really struts its stuff.
The Las Conchas fire burned 43,000 acres, equaling Cerro Grande’s achievement, in its first
fourteen hours. Its smoke plume rose to the stratosphere, and if the light was right, you could see
within it rose-red columns of fire — combusting gases — flashing like lightning a mile or more above
the land. Eventually the Las Conchas fire spread to 156,593 acres, setting a record as New Mexico’s
largest fire in historic times.
It was a stunning event. Its heat was so intense that, in some of the canyons it torched, every living
plant died, even to the last sprigs of grass on isolated cliff ledges. In one instance, the needles of the
ponderosa pines were not consumed, but bent horizontally as though by a ferocious wind. No one
really knows how those trees died, but one explanation holds that they were flash-blazed by a
superheated wind, perhaps a collapsing column of fire, and that the wind, having already burned up
its supply of oxygen, welded the trees by heat alone into their final posture of death.
It seemed likely that the Las Conchas record would last years, if not decades. It didn’t. This year the
Whitewater Baldy fire in the southwest of the state burned an area almost twice as large.
Half Now, Half Later?
In 2007, Tom Swetnam, a fire expert and director of the laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the
University of Arizona, gave an interview to CBS’s 60 Minutes. Asked to peer into his crystal ball, he
said he thought the Southwest might lose half its existing forests to fire and insects over the several
decades to come. He immediately regretted the statement. It wasn’t scientific; he couldn’t back it up;
it was a shot from the hip, a WAG, a wild-ass guess.
Swetnam’s subsequent work, however, buttressed that WAG. In 2010, he and several colleagues
quantified the loss of southwestern forestland from 1984 to 2008. It was a hefty 18%. They concluded
that “only two more recurrences of droughts and die-offs similar or worse than the recent events”
might cause total forest loss to exceed 50%. With the colossal fires of 2011 and 2012, including
Arizona’s Wallow fire, which consumed more than half-a-million acres, the region is on track to reach
that mark by mid-century, or sooner.
But that doesn’t mean we get to keep the other half.
In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast a temperature increase of 4ºC for
the Southwest over the present century. Given a faster than expected build-up of greenhouse gases
(and no effective mitigation), that number looks optimistic today. Estimates vary, but let’s say our
progress into the sweltering future is an increase of slightly less than 1ºC so far. That means we still
have an awful long way to go. If the fires we’re seeing now are a taste of what the century will bring,
imagine what the heat stress of a 4ºC increase will produce. And these numbers reflect mean
temperatures. The ones to worry about are the extremes, the record highs of future heat waves. In
the amped-up climate of the future, it is fair to think that the extremes will increase faster than the
At some point, every pine, fir, and spruce will be imperiled. If, in 2007, Swetnam was out on a limb,
these days it’s likely that the limb has burned off and it’s getting ever easier to imagine the
destruction of forests on a region-wide scale, however disturbing that may be.
More than scenery is at stake, more even than the stability of soils, ecosystems, and watersheds: the
forests of the western United States account for 20% to 40% of total U.S. carbon sequestration. At
some point, as western forests succumb to the ills of climate change, they will become a net releaser
of atmospheric carbon, rather than one of the planet’s principle means of storing it.
Contrary to the claims of climate deniers, the prevailing models scientists use to predict change are
conservative. They fail to capture many of the feedback loops that are likely to intensify the dynamics
of change. The release of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost, an especially gloomy prospect, is
one of those feedbacks. The release of carbon from burning or decaying forests is another. You
used to hear scientists say, “If those things happen, the consequences will be severe.” Now they
more often skip that “if” and say “when” instead, but we don’t yet have good estimates of what those
consequences will be.
Ways of Going
There have always been droughts, but the droughts of recent years are different from their
predecessors in one significant way: they are hotter. And the droughts of the future will be hotter still.
June temperatures produced 2,284 new daily highs nationwide and tied 998 existing records. In most
places, the shoe-melting heat translated into drought, and the Department of Agriculture set a record
of its own recently by declaring 1,297 dried-out counties in 29 states to be “natural disaster areas.”
June also closed out the warmest first half of a year and the warmest 12-month period since U.S.
record keeping began in 1895. At present, 56% of the continental U.S. is experiencing drought, a
figure briefly exceeded only in the 1950s.
Higher temperatures have a big impact on plants, be they a forest of trees or fields of corn and
wheat. More heat means intensified evaporation and so greater water stress. In New Mexico,
researchers compared the drought of the early 2000s with that of the 1950s. They found that the
1950s drought was longer and drier, but that the more recent drought caused the death of many
more trees, millions of acres of them. The reason for this virulence: it was 1ºC to 1.5ºC hotter.
The researchers avoided the issue of causality by not claiming that climate change caused the higher
temperatures, but in effect stating: “If climate change is occurring, these are the impacts we would
expect to see.” With this in mind, they christened the dry spell of the early 2000s a “global-change-
type drought” — not a phrase that sings but one that lingers forebodingly in the mind.
No such equivocation attends a Goddard Institute for Space Studies appraisal of the heat wave that
assaulted Texas, Oklahoma, and northeastern Mexico last summer. Their report represents a sea
change in high-level climate studies in that they boldly assert a causal link between specific weather
events and global warming. The Texas heat wave, like a similar one in Russia the previous year, was
so hot that its probability of occurring under “normal” conditions (defined as those prevailing from
1951 to 1980) was approximately 0.13%. It wasn’t a 100-year heat wave or even a 500-year one; it
was so colossally improbable that only changes in the underlying climate could explain it.
The decline of heat-afflicted forests is not unique to the United States. Global research suggests that
in ecosystems around the world, big old trees — the giants of tropical jungles, of temperate
rainforests, of systems arid and wet, hot and cold — are dying off.
More generally, when forest ecologists compare notes across continents and biomes, they find
accelerating tree mortality from Zimbabwe to Alaska, Australia to Spain. The most common cause
appears to be heat stress arising from climate change, along with its sidekick, drought, which often
results when evaporation gets a boost.
Fire is only one cause of forest death. Heat alone can also do in a stand of trees. According to the
Texas Forest Service, between 2% and 10% of all the trees in Texas, perhaps half-a-billion or so,
died in last year’s heat wave, primarily from heat and desiccation. Whether you know it or not, those
are staggering figures.
Insects, too, stand ready to play an ever-greater role in this onrushing disaster. Warm temperatures
lengthen the growing season, and with extra weeks to reproduce, a population of bark beetles may
spawn additional generations over the course of a hot summer, boosting the number of their kin that
that make it to winter. Then, if the winter is warm, more larvae survive to spring, releasing ever-larger
swarms to reproduce again. For as long as winters remain mild, summers long, and trees vulnerable,
the beetles’ numbers will continue to grow, ultimately overwhelming the defenses of even healthy
We now see this throughout the Rockies. A mountain pine beetle epidemic has decimated lodgepole
pine stands from Colorado to Canada. About five million acres of Colorado’s best scenery has turned
red with dead needles, a blow to tourism as well as the environment. The losses are far greater in
British Columbia, where beetles have laid waste to more than 33 million forest acres, killing a volume
of trees three times greater than Canada’s annual timber harvest.
Foresters there call the beetle irruption “the largest known insect infestation in North American
history,” and they point to even more chilling possibilities. Until recently, the frigid climate of the
Canadian Rockies prevented beetles from crossing the Continental Divide to the interior where they
were, until recently, unknown. Unfortunately, warming temperatures have enabled the beetles to top
the passes of the Peace River country and penetrate northern Alberta. Now a continent of jack pines
lies before them, a boreal smorgasbord 3,000 miles long. If the beetles adapt effectively to their new
hosts, the path is clear for them to chew their way eastward virtually to the Atlantic and to generate
transformative ecological effects on a gigantic scale.
The mainstream media, prodded by recent drought declarations and other news, seem finally to be
awakening to the severity of these prospects. Certainly, we should be grateful. Nevertheless, it seems
a tad anticlimactic when Sam Champion, ABC News weather editor, says with this-just-in urgency to
anchor Diane Sawyer, “If you want my opinion, Diane, now’s the time we start limiting manmade
One might ask, “Why now, Sam?” Why not last year, or a decade ago, or several decades back? The
news now overwhelming the West is, in truth, old news. We saw the changes coming. There should
be no surprise that they have arrived.
It’s never too late to take action, but now, even if all greenhouse gas emissions were halted
immediately, Earth’s climate would continue warming for at least another generation. Even if we
surprise ourselves and do all the right things, the forest fires, the insect outbreaks, the heat-driven
die-offs, and other sweeping transformations of the American West and the planet will continue.
One upshot will be the emergence of whole new ecologies. The landscape changes brought on by
climate change are affecting areas so vast that many previous tenants of the land — ponderosa
pines, for instance — cannot be expected to recolonize their former territory. Their seeds don’t
normally spread far from the parent tree, and their seedlings require conditions that big, hot, open
spaces don’t provide.
What will develop in their absence? What will the mountains and mesa tops of the New West look
like? Already it is plain to see that scrub oak, locust, and other plants that reproduce by root suckers
are prospering in places where the big pines used to stand. These plants can be burned to the
ground and yet resprout vigorously a season later. One ecologist friend offers this advice, “If you
have to be reincarnated as a plant in the West, try not to come back as a tree. Choose a clonal
shrub, instead. The future looks good for them.”
In the meantime, forget about any sylvan dreams you might have had: this is no time to build your
house in the trees.
William deBuys, is the author of seven books, most recently A Great Aridness: Climate Change and
the Future of the American Southwest (Oxford, 2011). This post was originally published at
TomDispatch and was reprinted with permission.
|Bacteria outbreak in N. Europe due
to ocean warming, study says
LONDON, July 22 (Reuters) - Manmade
climate change is the main driver
behind the unexpected emergence of a
group of bacteria in northern Europe
which can cause gastroenteritis, new
research by a group of international
experts shows. The paper ...
See all stories on this topic:
More on warming: Power blackouts
Opinion: Watt's up? Alberta needs power
Last week, near record-high
temperatures contributed to rolling
in Alberta as residents turned up their
air conditioners. Six generators
— four powered by coal and two by
natural gas — tripped offline at the
same time as power demand reached a
See all stories on this topic:
Greenland free of Ice:
….from July 8 to July 12, the ice melt
expanded from 40 percent of the ice
sheet to 97 percent, according to
scientists who analyzed the data from
satellites deployed by NASA and India's
space research institute.
“I started looking at the satellite imagery
and saw something that was really
unprecedented” since the advent of
satellite imaging of the earth's frozen
Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.
|Climate Change This Week: Hot
Halloween, Global Basket Cases
Better Get Used to It: A new study
shows that both population growth and
climate change will increase water
scarcity globally, but to varying
degrees, reports Jessica Orwig at the
AGU Blogosphere. In the Andes,
population growth will contribute much
more to ...
See all stories on this topic:
Leaders say climate is changing Native way of life
Published July 19, 2012
WASHINGTON – Native American and Alaska Native leaders told of their villages being under water
because of coastal erosion, droughts and more on Thursday during a Senate hearing intended to
draw attention to how climate change is affecting tribal communities.
The environmental changes being seen in native communities are "a serious and growing issue and
Congress needs to address them," Tex Hall, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation of
New Town, N.D., said Wednesday.
Mike Williams, chief of the Yupit Nation in Akiak, Alaska, said in the informational Senate Indian Affairs
Committee hearing, that villages are literally being wiped out by coastal erosion. Williams said he can
cast a net and catch salmon at his childhood home because the home is under water, he said. He also
described how the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, in which he participates, has been moved because of
lack of snowfall and that dogs must run at night to stay cool.
"We've always lived off the land and off the waters and continue to do that. But we're bearing the
burden of living with these conditions today," Williams said.
Sen. Daniel Akaka, committee chairman, acknowledged that environmental changes are widespread,
but the Hawaii Democrat said native communities are disproportionately impacted because they
depend on nature for traditional food, sacred sites, and for cultural ceremonies. Several tribes already
are coming up with plans to adapt to the changes and federal agencies are assisting with resources,
Source Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/07/19/climate-change-affecting-native-
Denial And Methane Are
The Silent Invisible Killers in
Denial And Methane Are The Silent
Invisible Killers in Climate Change
By Colin Andrews
|Water that is too warm
or not enough of it
pose a threat to
Thanks to Climate Central
Heat and Drought Pose Risks for Nuclear Power Plants
• Published: July 18th, 2012
Compared to coal and natural gas, nuclear power plants offer a significant advantage when it comes
to greenhouse gas emissions — they don't emit any. However, in an ironic twist, it seems that climate
change is increasingly causing problems for operators of nuclear plants.
Like coal-fired power plants, nuclear facilities use large amounts of water for cooling purposes. After
water has cycled through the plant, it is discharged back into a nearby waterway, usually a lake or a
river, at a higher temperature. State regulations prohibit nuclear plants from operating once water
temperatures go above a certain threshold, in part because it could compromise the safe operation
of the facility, and also because discharging very warm water can kill fish and other marine life.
According to the New York Times' Matthew L. Wald, the Braidwood Generating Station, located about
60 miles southwest of Chicago, was recently granted a waiver to continue operating despite the fact
that the unusually hot and dry summer had heated the water it was taking in to a toasty 102°F — 2
degrees above the legal operating limit for the plant.
Like much of the country, Illinois has had an extremely hot summer. In fact, Illinois had its warmest
January-to-June period on record.\
According to Wald's story, operators of the Braidwood plant have been hit by the combination of
extremely hot days and very warm nights. Nationally, thousands of daily high temperature records
and warm overnight low temperature records have been set this summer.
The Times quoted Craig Nesbit, a spokesman for Exelon, Braidwood's operator:
"Asked whether he viewed Braidwood’s difficulties as a byproduct of global warming, Mr. Nesbit said:
“I’m not a climatologist. But clearly the calculations when the plant was first operated in 1986 are not
what is sufficient today, not all the time.”
Climate Central's Alyson Kenward reported on the threat that climate change poses to electricity
generation in 2011, when she detailed problems that a 2010 heat wave caused for operators of the
Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama.
"With river water so warm, the nuclear plant couldn’t draw in as much water as usual to cool the
facility's three reactors, or else the water it pumped back into the river could be hot enough to harm
the local ecosystem, says Golden. But for every day that the Browns Ferry plant ran at 50 percent of
its maximum output, the TVA had to spend $1 million more than usual to purchase power from
somewhere else, he says.
Drought could shut down nuclear power plants
Southeast water shortage a factor in huge cooling requirements
updated 1/23/2008 2:54:19 PM ET
ORMAN, N.C. — Nuclear reactors across the Southeast could be forced to
throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying
up the rivers and lakes that supply power plants with the awesome amounts of
cooling water they need to operate.
Utility officials say such shutdowns probably wouldn’t result in blackouts. But they could lead to
shockingly higher electric bills for millions of Southerners, because the region’s utilities could be
forced to buy expensive replacement power from other energy companies.
Already, there has been one brief, drought-related shutdown, at a reactor in Alabama over the
“Water is the nuclear industry’s Achilles’ heel,” said Jim Warren, executive director of N.C. Waste
Awareness and Reduction Network, an environmental group critical of nuclear power. “You need a
lot of water to operate nuclear plants.” He added: “This is becoming a crisis.”
Thanks to Dave Haith (England)
|Updated July 31, 2012 - 600 Million hit by largest power failure in history - Why? below
NEW DELHI (AP) — Northern India's power grid crashed Monday, halting hundreds of trains, forcing
hospitals and airports to use backup generators and leaving 370 million people — more than the
population of the United States and Canada combined — sweltering in the summer heat.
The blackout, one of the worst to hit India in a decade, highlighted the nation's inability to feed a
growing hunger for energy as it strives to become a regional economic power.
The country's northern grid crashed about 2:30 a.m. because it could no longer keep up with the
huge demand for power in the hot summer, officials in the state of Uttar Pradesh said. However,
Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said he was not sure exactly what caused the collapse and had
formed a committee to investigate it.
The grid feeds the nation's breadbasket in Punjab, the war-wracked region of Kashmir, the
burgeoning capital of New Delhi, the Dalai Lama's Himalayan headquarters in Dharmsala and the
world's most populous state, the poverty stricken Uttar Pradesh. . . . .
|An Indian passenger sits as others sleep inside the compartment of
a stationary train following the power outage that struck in the early
hours of Monday, July 30, 2012 at a train station in New Delhi, India.
A major power outage has struck northern India, plunging cities into
darkness and stranding hundreds of thousands of commuters. (AP
|POWER GRID CRUMBLES UNDER DEMAND DURING HOT SPELL:
Major blackout hits northern Indian cities
|Updated: July 31, 2012. Second huge power failure hits India. 600 Million people effected - Climate changing. Bottom
|Infrastructure struggling as climate changes take effect. Over 600
Million hit by the largest power failure in history - second to effect
India in days.
Posted July 31, 2012
New Delhi (CNN) -- India suffered its second huge, crippling power failure in two days Tuesday,