Thinking Citizen Blog — The Nightmare Drought in the Southwest — So Much Worse Than Last Year
Thinking Citizen Blog — Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day
Today’s Topic: The Nightmare Drought in the Southwest — So Much Worse Than Last Year
Thank you Sean for the graphics which tell the tale of how bad this year’s drought is compared to last year’s. If this doesn’t scare you to death, well I’m not sure what will. Today, a few notes on this nightmare, sometimes called a “megadrought” as well as a little historical perspective. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
DROUGHT : 2020 — Remember last year’s “Western United States Wildfire Season”?
1. 10 million acres were burned in California, Oregon, and Washington.
2. 10,000 buildings were razed.
3. At least 37 people died and $20 billion of costs incurred.
NB: Three causes of last year’s disaster : a.) fire policy — not enough controlled burning as in the past, b.) climate change, c.) arson. Other factors: severe thunderstorms triggered the blaze and the Covid pandemic thinned the ranks of fire fighters.
DROUGHT: 2021 — worst in 1200 years?
1. “The heatwave gripping the US west is simultaneously breaking hundreds of temperature records, exacerbating a historic drought and priming the landscape for a summer and fall of extreme wildfire.”
2. “Salt Lake City hit a record-breaking 107F (42C), while in Texas and California, power grid operators are asking residents to conserve energy to avoid rolling blackouts and outages. And all this before we’ve even reached the hottest part of the summer.”
3. “This current drought is potentially on track to become the worst that we’ve seen in at least 1,200 years. And the reason is linked directly to human caused climate change.” (Kathleen Johnson, Associate Professor of Earth Science, University of California)
NB: “The ground is burning like a hot plate.” (Simon Wang, Professor of Climate Dynamics, Utah State University, “So hot that actually three out of five students’ computers overheated and broke.”
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES — Texas 1950–1957, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, China 1928–1930
1. Texas 1950–1957: “the most severe drought in recorded history. By the time the drought ended 244 of Texas’s 254 counties had been declared federal disaster areas.”
2. Dust bowl of the 1930s: “millions of acres of farmland became useless, and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes; many of these families (often known as “Okies,” since so many of them came from Oklahoma) traveled to California and other states, where they found economic conditions little better than those they had left.” (Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men” tell their tale.)
3. The most deadly droughts in human history: China (1928–1930) casualties estimated to be between 3 and 10 million; Bangladesh (1943), 1.9 million; India (1942) 1.5 million.
NB: Some other devastating droughts: Soviet Union (1921) 1.2 million deaths, Ethiopia (1983), 300,000, Sudan (1983), 150,000.
FOOTNOTE — Why humans left Africa
“DNA research suggests a series of megadroughts between 135,000 and 75,000 years ago may have been responsible for the first migrations of early humans out of Africa.”
Click here for the last three years of posts arranged by theme:
Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to climate change or the environment. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to climate change that the rest of us may have missed. Your favorite chart or table perhaps…
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.