Water Supply In the Colorado River Basin

Many of the people objecting to my challenge say it should be about why we need to worry about global warming, or even about what to do. They clearly have not paid attention to what the challenge is all about.

But, they are correct in one thing, we need to discuss the effects of global warming more. Is global warming good for us? Bad for us? Or, does it even make a difference? I will be spending more time addressing this issue in the future once I am done with the challenge (come on July 31st!).

In that vein, here is a NASA news release about a study of water in the Colorado River Basin. It paints a pretty bleak picture about what is going on with water in the Southwestern U.S. Using data from the GRACE satellite, scientist have been able to identify the amount of mass the basin area has lost since 2004 and determined it has lost about 53 million acre-feet of water. That is almost twice the total volume of Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S. What is really scary is that 41 million acre-feet of that amount came from ground water. Imagine you lost 75% of your income and you then started depleting your savings to maintain the same standard of living. Eventually, your savings are going to run out and you will be faced with a bad situation. That is where the Southwest is today in regards to water. The area has lost its water supply and has been relying on ground water to keep things going the same way instead of changing the way they do business. But, as they say in the new release, we don’t know how much ground water there is, so we have no idea how long it will last. If it starts to run out, then there will be a very bad situation in the Southwest.

So, what does this have to do with global warming? Well, there is growing evidence the on-going drought is the result of global warming, and there is growing evidence that the effects of droughts are made worse by global warming. Basically, rainy areas will see more rain while dry areas will see less. Additionally, precipitation that falls as snow on the mountains melts slowly over time and provides water into the summer. As the temperature goes up, it gets too warm for snow and the precipitation falls as rain, which runs off and is no longer available when the dry months of summer come along. To make it worse, the higher temperatures mean there is more evaporation and the area loses even more water. None of these scenarios are good for the future of anyone depending on the water of the Colorado River Basin.

Read this article on the effects of global warming on the area. Richard Seager, a climate scientist who studies water issues at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in New York does not believe the drought is caused by global warming, but he goes on to point out that the Southwest has suffered drought conditions in some form for 15 years, and warmer climates have resulted in winter precipitation tending to fall as rain rather than snow. With less snow melting during the spring there is a lack of water during the hot summer months.

“It all adds up across the Southwest to an increasingly stressed water system,” he said. “That’s what they might as well get ready for.”

So, even someone who doesn’t believe the drought is caused by global warming believes it has been made worse by global warming. He also believes this is the new normal for the area.
This is not good news. 
In regards to the debate on if global warming is good or bad for us, I think we can put a very firm check mark in the “Bad for us” column on this one.
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And, It Keeps Getting Hotter – June Was Hottest Ever

NOAA announced yesterday June 2014 was the hottest June since we started keeping modern records in 1880 with a global average temperature that was .72 degrees C (1.3 degrees F) higher than the 20th century global average. It was the 38th consecutive June and the 352nd month in a row that was higher than the 20th century global average temperature.

But, let’s not forget that May was the hottest May ever recorded.

And, April tied 2010 as the hottest April ever recorded.

And, March was the fourth hottest March ever recorded.

We got a break in February. It was only the 21st hottest February ever recorded. Although, that still qualified as being the 29th February in a row with temperatures hotter than the 20th century global average. 

But, that break followed the hottest January since 2007 and the fourth hottest January on record – the 38th January in a row hotter than the 20th century global average.

So, let’s see what the score is so far for 2014: one 21st hottest month, two 4th hottest months, and three hottest months ever.

What was that the deniers keep saying about how the temperature rise has stopped?

CO2 Has Maxed Out For 2014

A milestone passed in May – we reached the maximum level of CO2 for the year and it is now declining, which it will do for the rest of the year. In fact, it was the highest level measured for anytime in the last 800,000 years. The CO2 level increases during the winter when plants are dormant and that increase continues through the spring as plants become more active. The level will typically reach its maximum sometime around May then start declining as plants reach full vigor. The level will begin to rise again in the fall as the plants start to become dormant. This seasonal fluctuation is due mainly to land plants and is larger in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern. Measurements taken on Antarctica exhibit only a small seasonal fluctuation. The measurements are so precise that it has been possible to show spring is coming earlier every year. This is the plot of measurements for the last two years, ending on July 19, 2014:

https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/wp-content/plugins/sio-bluemoon/graphs/mlo_two_years.png
Source: SIO Keeling Curve

Last year (2013) the maximum monthly average came in just below 400 ppm and the highest weekly average was just a little over that level. That landmark level will be reached earlier every year from now on and April 2014 was the first year where the measurements exceeded 400 ppm for the entire month. With May and June added to the list, we now have three of those months. This year, the highest monthly average was better than 402 ppm and the highest weekly average was about 402.4 ppm. That was the highest level in the last 800,000 years and approximately 43.6% higher than pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm. This also continues a long-term trend where the level has increased by about 2 ppm per year.

https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/wp-content/plugins/sio-bluemoon/graphs/mlo_full_record.png
Source: SIO Keeling Curve

Orbiting Carbon Observatory Successfully Launched

NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) was successfully launched before dawn this morning.

It will go through a 10-day check out process and then it will take three weeks to maneuver it into the desired orbit. The science mission won’t start for about 45 days. The mission is scheduled to last two years. They are planning on releasing the initial results early next year (2015).

This is a wonderful mission and I am really looking forward to the results. The troposphere we live in is well mixed so the gas distribution  is very uniform, but not perfectly so. There are concentration differences and these will identify sources and sinks of CO2. OCO-2 has instruments sensitive enough to distinguish these concentration differences and help us understand where CO2 is coming from and where it is going. It will be very interesting to see the results.

Reaction to Supreme Court Ruling Shows How Polarized We Are

The Supreme Court issued its ruling on a case concerning the EPA extending it regulatory authority. The case concerned how the EPA extended its rules to new construction. The Court let stand most of the EPA’s authority and agreed with scientists that greenhouse gases are pollution, but said the EPA had gone too far.

So, what kind of headlines did it make?

From Fox News (with a heavy denier bent):

Supreme Court limits EPA global warming rules

The Supreme Court delivered a setback to the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday, placing limits on the sole Obama administration program already in place to deal with power plant and factory emissions of gases blamed for global warming.

The decision does not affect recent and highly controversial EPA proposals to set the first-ever national standards for new and existing power plants. One recent proposal would aim for a 30 percent emissions reduction by 2030.

Rather, at issue was a requirement that companies expanding industrial facilities or building new ones that would increase overall pollution must evaluate ways to reduce carbon emissions. The justices said Monday that the EPA lacks authority in some cases to force companies to do so.

While from the more liberal CNN:

Court slows EPA on emissions, but largely backed its rules

The Supreme Court on Monday took away some of the government’s power to tighten emission standards, but preserved the majority of its authority under federal law to regulate greenhouse gases.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices affirmed conclusions by much of the scientific community that greenhouse gases blamed for global warming are pollutants.
Quite a subtle difference. One stated the EPA was set-back, the other says the EPA was supported. The interesting thing is that both articles are correct.
And, that illustrates just how polarized we’ve become on the issue of global warming.

Climate Change Means Trouble for the GOP

I have previously posited about why the GOP is so anti-climate change. I have said before that I think part of the problem is that Republicans hate Obama and Gore so much they reject any evidence of global warming rather than agree with those two men on anything. I still think this is true, but I believe it goes much further than that and I am at a loss to understand why the GOP has become the party of science rejection. This is born out by some recent polls.

Take this survey by the Public Policy Polling. Yes, the Public Policy Polling is liberal, but that doesn’t mean the results are any less valid. What they found was that independent voters don’t support candidates that reject climate change. In fact, they found that only 29% of independent voters would be willing to support a candidate that is a climate skeptic (count this blogger in that group of independents). Independents support a 30% reduction standard by a margin of 59% in favor versus 29% opposed. When asked who they trust more on the subject of climate change, Senator Mark Rubio (a denier) or climate scientists, independent voters picked the scientists 57% to 27%.

Clearly, independent voters believe in global warming and support measures to counter climate change. And, it is the independents that determine the elections.

Unfortunately, independents don’t get to vote in primaries (I have never voted in a primary due to the fact that I have never belonged to any political party).  That means candidates are selected by the party faithful. For the Democrats, that means candidates are selected by a bunch of socialist progressive liberals that have rejected any kind of logic. For the GOP, that means candidates are selected by a bunch of fundamental Christian conservatives that have rejected science. It makes for a pretty poor set of choices for all of us in the middle.

The Pew Research Center in a survey released last fall found similar results. The bad news for Republicans is that it found even a majority of Republicans believe the climate is getting warmer (61% of non-Tea Party respondents). The good news for Republicans is that acting on climate change was ranked 29th out of 30 on the priority list.

So, things are not going the deniers way, but the GOP is still ignoring the facts. In a recent study, only about 3% of Republicans in Congress acknowledged there is a problem with climate change.

This has produced a certain crisis for the GOP. Their candidates are selected by people that reject science, but the election is decided by non-GOP voters. Clearly, the GOP is counting on voter dissatisfaction with ObamaCare to carry them to victory in November. But, as the primary loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor showed – Don’t take the voters for granted.