Sunday, March 05, 2006

Dust Bowl/Firestorm Drought Grips Midwest

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

Americans don't want to fix the global warming stuff so we get to suffer. The latest news doesn't surprise me. Terrible heat/drought is going to devastate the Midwest this year and for several years to come. This does affect me here on my own mountain. It is way too dry. And it is March. Hurricane Rita couldn't even penetrate Houston but was driven up the Mississippi due to the long term high over the Colorado Rockies.

From the Morris Daily Herald: meteorologists have warned oceanic conditions similar to those that triggered the ruinous "Dust Bowl" drought again appear to be in place.

The exceptionally warm Atlantic waters that played a major role in the record-breaking 2005 hurricane season, coupled with cooler-than-normal Pacific waters, are weakening and changing the course of a low-level jet stream that normally channels moisture into the Great Plains.

Effects are starting to be felt in "America's breadbasket," as the southern Great Plains region is already suffering from higher temperatures and a prolonged lack of precipitation.
Never in my life did I see firestorms sweeping the plains in the middle of winter. Absolutely never.

The fantasy that we can grow stuff like switchgrass and continue to tool around in big SUVs forever is plainly silly. The reason the dust bowl happened was because the harvest failed. Cows were turned loose to graze on the stubs of the wheat fields because there was no more grass to graze, the land was plowed up and dust storms started.

Today, there isn't dust storms. There are firestorms! Is this an improvement? When the fire sweeps through, usually in nature, this happens ONLY during thunderstorms, it rains and the grass regenerates only these fires are manmade and happen when it is bone dry and no rain on the horizon.

Already, shipping on the tributaries of the Mississippi valley system are drying up so badly, farmers are being told they can't irrigate using these waters. Even so, boats are grounding. The Mississippi itself is still going strong thanks to the snow and rain that has pulled us out of the summer drought last year, barely. Thanks to some pretty big hurricanes. We got over 7" of rain in one day, here, an amazing amount, so the stats look OK for the year but it was definitely a bone dry/soaking wet year, not a good thing, not at all.

The ideal is rain or snow at least once a week!
The Dust Bowl, which lasted from 1931-1939, was a severe drought that struck a wide swath of the Great Plains.

It was a catastrophic blow to the U.S. economy, which was already staggering under the weight of the Great Depression.

The Dust Bowl was the worst drought in U.S. history, eventually covering more than 75 percent of the country.
And some of the worst hurricanes, thanks to the warm water! And many people forget, our country's problems began when the Mississippi had the Great Flood. That and hurricanes flattening Florida hammered the economy of "the little people" and despite the housing/stock bubbles, regular people couldn't pay their mortgages and loans in the Midwest and the drought finished off the survivors who weren't hit by the floods and voila, total bank failures compounded, coast to coast.

Already, the Midwest reels from the blows from Mother Nature. The coast isn't nearly so bad off thanks to huge infusions of futile government funds but this isn't working since Mother Nature's belly already swells with the embryoes of a whole lot of hurricanes. Eventually the government program of encouraging and lavishing funds on futile pleasure housing in places Nature intends to put under water will fail, after bankrupting the government, of course.
"The agricultural practices at the time, combined with a long period of drought, caused severe damage to farmland in the region. Eventually the topsoil dried up to the point where it was swept away as great clouds of choking dust that stretched for miles."

Continued Mohler, "Today's agricultural practices, such as crop rotation and improved irrigation, as well as drought-resistant hybrid crops, would likely prevent the landscape from being as ruined as it was during the 1930s.

For example, Illinois endured a terrible drought in 2005, but the state's corn yield was close to normal. However, a multiyear drought in the Great Plains would still be devastating for the nation."
The first two years of a drought, the soil still has moisture. It is when year three and four come into play that the drying out means reduction of harvests. And crop rotation? What is that? I see little of that, most simply use fertilizer to keep the money flowing, if you let fields go fallow, the money drops off and no one wants that, it used to be, the government paid farmers to rotate crops thanks to the Dust Bowl lessons but hark, what happened?

OH! The GOP ended this program and said, "Freedom to farm as you wish!" and so of course, there is no crop rotation anymore.

Meanwhile, New Orleans has an obvious problem, termites. From Reuters:
An emptied New Orleans is seeing the return of one long-time resident it could do without: the termite.

Scientists had predicted the dirty salt water that flooded New Orleans in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina would spell the demise of the voracious Formosan subterranean termites that have plagued the city for more than 50 years.

But Formosans, unlike native termites, can establish colonies in trees or buildings and probably fled to higher ground when Katrina's rains started, insect experts said.
I was told by the Tohono O'odham at Kitt Peak that if you suddenly notice all the ants running around frantically, this means the Thunder Gods are near. Ants and termites can sense barometric changes with esquisite ease. And they act, frantically, on the information. They are very vulnerable to flooding.

Anyone who thinks floods will eliminate them is nuts. They are the Elder Ones, been around was colonized and they survived the disaster of the Permian extinction, too! Something that killed of 90% of all living things couldn't kill them, nor cockroaches. If we nuke the world these three insect families will do just fine, thank you!

Termites love wet wood that dries out. They don't like wet wood that is wet, makes for a nasty home, the best is wood that is weak which they can chew up and digest easily and tunnel inside. This is why you only see them when they fly off to mate. I see them when people ask why a beam is weak and I poke a hole in it and see the buggers crawling around, inside.

New Orleans' flooded houses are doomed. Even if one strips the walls, the wood has been wet for some time and is now sauteed to the delight of these little bugs. Poisoning the wood might keep them temporarily at bay but they evolve rapidly, remember, they survived the Permian extinction! All the trees were poisoned by the salt water and the oil pollution. The salt didn't penetrate the deep wood of the trees, just the roots. So these trees are now totally yummy for the bugs and they will turn the entire ecosystem into pulp. Sort of human in their industry, no?

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Peculiar Story Of Dolphins Fleeing Florida Coastal Waters

By Elaine Meinel Supkis

I look for odd stories like this one. Last year we witnessed a number of strange water events when all the sea creatures would suddenly migrate out of deadly water territory. This is always a bad sign. Just this winter, we see bottom feeding fish in North Carolina rush to the shore because the water was unihabitable lower down.

From Ecoenquirer:
Marine researchers who have been observing the same pod of dolphins off Florida's eastern coast for three years have now, for the first time, photographed the dolphins swimming directly northward.

"These bottlenose dolphins, possibly the smartest creatures on Earth, were observed swimming directly northward", said Prof. Bonita Krillman. "Given the recently observed warming of the tropical oceans, we theorize that this pod is heading poleward in search of cooler waters".

Underwater listening devices, used to pick up the normal playful squeals of the fun-loving dolphins, recorded squeals with a noticably different timbre, the researchers reported. "They sounded more terrified than playful", claimed Crystal Dearing, a graduate student working toward a degree in Anthropogenic Environmental Disasters at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. "They sounded distressed and fearful".
The article goes on to suggest hyper warm waters caused the flight. Thre are no water temperature measurements within the article. But what struck me was the story is similar to quite a few other stories this last year all of which features sea animals very suddenly stopping normal foraging behavior and just taking off as fast as possible.

The "dead zones" were a serious problem last August, the Gulf in particular. That body of water rapidly becomes a hot tub and resembles more and more the way the ocean was at the beginning of the great Permian extinction.
It's not clear why the various kinds of sea turtles are washing ashore.

"It may or may not be associated with red tide," said Cianciolo. "They tend to show symptoms of what's called a red tide intoxication, but you have to take a lot of samples and they must go through testing to actually determine that."

Dive instructor Michael Miller took underwater video to try to figure out the mystery.

"Right now, anywhere we go from shore to 20 miles offshore, from Sarasota to Tarpon Springs, we can't find a single creature alive on the bottom right now," said Miller.

Miller says he's never seen such death and devastation under water in his 20 years of diving.
Here is yet another, earlier posting about die-offs.
The marine and land and air worlds seem embroiled in changes due to global warming. So many odd things in just a few days!

Just the other day, I wrote about the dead sea on the coast of Florida. Nothing, absolutely nothing above the single cell creatures, is alive there. Now there is more news from that area. From the Sun Herald:
A bizarre freeway of fish swimming by the thousands along the shore of Englewood Beach Thursday morning left crowds of beach-goers agog and marine biologists bewildered.

"I've lived her for 10 years, and I've never seen anything like this. It's incredible," said Bob Ricci of Englewood.

Beach-goers reported that a wide variety of sea creatures came swimming south in a narrow band close to the beach at mid-morning.
It is a lot scarier than mere warm water. These mass diasporas are a warning sign. Humans can avoid thinking about or doing things about the messes we are making because we live in energy bubbles.

Each summer, the ozone alert areas have grown. I remember in my youth, one had to do to the LA valleys to find unbreathable air or visit Pittsburgh when it was an industrial giant. The pollution was mostly local. Over my lifetime, the number of powerplants and cars have multiplied hugely and it is quite noticable. Each summer, now, we get ozone alerts that cover the entire eastern half of the continent!

I stagger around my forest, watching the trees literally struggle to filter the carbon dioxide. Most humans here simply shut themselves off from the bad air they are creating. Their cool, pleasant environments let them laugh at the hazy brown muck outside. As this process accelerates global warming the need to use more energy to create bigger bubbles makes things worse and worse.

I have noticed the sea life alarms are starting at a ridiculously early time this year, it isn't even springtime yet! I expect many stories of suffering wildlife fleeing this summer.

Then there are the arctic lifeforms. From Reuters:

The Antarctic ice sheet shrank significantly during the past three years, according to the findings of a NASA study released on Thursday.

Using data from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), scientists concluded that Antarctica's ice sheet decreased by about 152 cubic kilometers annually from April 2002 to August 2005.

The estimated loss was enough to raise global sea level about 1.2 millimeters (0.04724 inch) during the study period or about 13 percent of the overall observed sea level rise for the same period, according to the study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

That is about how much water the United States consumes in three months and represents a change of about 0.4 millimeter (0.01575 inch) per year to global sea level rise, the study concluded.
Like watching the water flow into the hull of the Titanic. The meltoff of the Antarctic and Greenland land masses won't be slow and steady but rather, as it reaches a tipping state, sudden.

We already know the glacial melt that started our latest interglacial was extremely swift. The coastlines changed very rapidly and rainfall patterns shifted swiftly, too, human ability to migrate mitigated the difficulties of dealing with these rapid changes but this is certainly not true today.

We are as vulnerable as the polar bears, in this regard, for the greater mass of humanity has chosen to live on the edge of the sea or on flat places easily flooded by rising oceans.

We know that vast floods relandscaped the Pacific Northwest when the glaciers melted rapidly forming huge lakes that suddenly gave way. If we think this won't happen in Antarctica we are nuts. Already we know there are lakes of ancient water under the glaciers there. This could rapidly become a problem if they grow and grow.

Meanwhile, Africa is going dry. From the BBC:
Africa could be faced with 25% less water by the end of the century because of global warming, scientists have warned in a new report.

The research, published in the journal Science, shows geographical factors will amplify changes in rainfall patterns resulting from climate change.

Semi-arid areas such as southern Africa would be the most vulnerable.
Africa has no body of water like the Great Lakes. And even here, we have increasing problems in the desert communities where many people are moving in. The Colorado river is a mere stream by the time it reaches Mexico. As the Rockies heat up, there is less and less year round snow to feed the streams feeding into the Colorado River, for example.

In Africa, it is even worse. The larger, none-rift zone lakes are rapidly drying up like Lake Chad, for example. The Indian Ocean on the east side of Africa is becoming nearly as hot as the Gulf of Mexico. Between overfishing and die-offs, life forms are suffering more and more.

Many years ago when the UN decided to drill lots of wells in Africa, I was against this because it would cause overgrazing. I knew what would happen next because this was happening back then, in America. The government made water available and then cattle ranchers would then beef up their herds to infinity and destroy the land causing desertfication. The spread of cholla cacti is a vicious reminder of what happens next. Namely, inedible, thorny, harsh plants colonize the former grasslands.

In Africa, all the tribes wanted as many livestock as possible because this represents wealth and power so they overwhelmed all the wells which went dry, anyway. Around the wellheads, deserts bloomed as animals stripped the landscape of all plant life.

The desire to preserve elephants in parks had the same effect. Elephants are like my ox team; they can uproot or pull down fairly big trees, they can strip the bark or tear off the tree's branches to eat the leaves. Elephants are very destructive if they are confined. Like us humans.

The balance of nature means no species should be allowed to dominate.

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