After 20 years, the megadrought in the western US is just getting warmed up, with major lakes and reservoirs on the brink of crisis levels.
Most of the humans and businesses within the Colorado River Watershed, including well known major reservoirs Lake Powell and Lake Mead, as well as less famous Northern California reservoirs Lake Oroville and Lake Shasta have dropped to dangerous levels.
On the Nevada border, iconic Lake Tahoe water levels have fallen below the natural rim, which means water is no longer flowing into the Truckee River. As a result, kokanee salmon will be unable to spawn. Docks and boat ramps are now hundreds of feet from the new shoreline. The lake and surrounding area are just beginning to come to grips with the damage done by late summer’s Caldor wildfire, which has clouded the famous clear waters of the lake.
In the West, the water wars have never really stopped, but the conflict among “stakeholders” – agricultural businesses, tourism, fisheries and cities – is at crisis levels and guaranteed to intensify.
‘THIS IS A WAR WITHOUT BOMBS. NATURE IS HITTING BACK”
– Gunter Prybyia, flood victim, Rech, DE
AS WE ENTER THE VORTEX, don’t expect an official announcement that the global warming emergency has “started.” We have already moved well beyond that.
Tipping points have been tipped and pushed over as carbon in the atmosphere climbs in a logarithmic curve past 420 PPM and June 2021 is recorded as the hottest June in North American history.
EXPANSION AND EXPLANATION OF VIDEO TOPICS:
The events described here are happening virtually simultaneously, from June – early August 2021.
00:07: 420PPM: PERSPECTIVE ON ATMOSPHERIC CO2 LEVELS
The concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide climbed past 420 parts per million (PPM) for the first time in April 2021, the highest level since accurate measurements began 63 years ago measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory
The growth rate of CO2, the most common greenhouse gas but not the most powerful, has been accelerating as the 21st Century stumbles into its third decade. For perspective, consider that levels were at 280 PPM in the 1800s, and crossed 410PPM in 2019. Today’s CO2 levels today are higher than they have been in 800,000 years, by a lot. CO2 was never higher than 300 PPM during this time period.
CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere and does not dissipate for hundreds of years.
00:15: EUROPE: HEAT WAVES / FLOODS
In early July, Germany and the rest of Central Europe were sucker punched with a record breaking heat wave, followed by floods the slammed the area with little warning. Death toll is in the hundreds and damage to property and infrastructure will be in the billions.
New records were set in European capitals such as Glasgow and Catania Sicily (119F). Finland reported 93.2F in Saltdal on the Arctic Circle. July 2021 was one of the hottest Julys on record, trailing 2019 and 2016.
The floods that followed after the heat wave in Western Germany (and other countries) took the country by surprise, killing 180 and destroying billions of Euros worth of property and infrastructure. Rainfall records fell in the Rhine states, reporting 6 inches of rain falling within 24 hours.
In early August the heat returned, bringing new records and lethal wildfires in the southern Mediterranean. Greece broke it’s all time record at 115.3F.
00:36 HOW LONG WILL THE MIDDLE EAST REMAIN HABITABLE
A wide area including Pakistan, Jordan, Israel and the Gulf States experienced unlivable temperatures as part of a rapidly advancing upward trend.
01:35: SIBERIA: EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE”
Sweihan in the UAE broke its all time record (125.2°F) on June 6, 2021, Countries in Central and South Asia were also reported to have seen extraordinarily high temperatures for the time of year.
Water and cooling are increasingly unavailable to all but the wealthy as the electrical grids are pushed beyond their capacity. Approximately 600 million people live in the region. Temps above 120 F melt crayons, buckle pavement and affect aircraft performance.
00:53: ANTARCTICA SHEDDING ICE AT INCREASED RATES
The trillions of tons of land ice that make up the Antarctic continent are melting six times faster than during the 1990s. Antarctica has lost about three trillion tons over 30 years. The rate of loss is accelerating.
Of particular interest are the ice shelves that extend from the coasts and float on the warming ocean. The hybrid formations “hold back” or slow down the continental glaciers as they flow into the sea. Recent research shows that the shelves are melting from below, with the potential to rapidly raise global sea levels.
For a more detailed summary of polar ice (land, sea and shelf) and its role in global warming, visit polar ice primer.
01:06: HEATWAVES AND RECORD FIRES ASSAULT THE WEST
Pyrocumulonimbus Clouds or Fire Clouds can climb up to six miles high and spawn fire tornados. These systems create their own storms and may also bring lightning strikes that start more fires.
This summer is a game changer for many residents of paradise as they consider whether or not the region is viable. The number of temperature records broken is impossible to list, but the 121F temp recorded in BC more or less sums it up. That’s 121F in Canada, not Death Valley.
01: 28: GREENLAND ICE SHEET MELT RATE INCREASES
Greenland is experiencing intense heat waves that dump billions of tons of water into the ocean in a single say. Danish scientists monitoring the ice sheet reported that enough ice melted on August 2 to cover Florida in 2 inches of water.
Beyond the obvious consequences, consider that this is fresh water flowing into salt water, changing the salinity of the water, which in turn affects the AMOC (Atlantic meridional overturning circulation). The Gulf Stream is slowing as a result (see 01:30)
A heatwave in one of the world’s coldest regions has sparked forest fires and threatened the Siberian city of Yakutsk with an ‘airpocalypse’ of thick toxic smoke, atmospheric monitoring services have reported. Local authorities have warned the 320,000 residents to stay indoors to avoid choking fumes from the blazes, which are on course to break last year’s record. Officials have described this summer’s weather as the driest in the past 150 years.
1:45 SLOWING GLOBAL OCEAN CURRENTS:
Global Weather Patterns Disrupted
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a key global warming factor that most people have never heard of (the Gulf Stream is the best known component of the system). It is often described as a series of planet wide ocean conveyor belts.
The branch known as the Gulf Stream transports warm water north. It flows to the Arctic, cools and evaporates, increasing the salt content in that region of the ocean. As that water becomes colder and heavier it sinks and flows south, creating a second south-moving belt. These belts are connected by regions in the Labrador Sea, the Nordic Sea and the Southern Ocean. They are responsible for bringing mild, warm weather to Europe and keeping sea levels down on the United States’ eastern seaboard.
New research is indicating a significant loss of stability over the last century, with new analysis suggesting the possibility that AMOC may be nearing a shutdown. That would be very bad.
02:12: CATASTROPHIC FLOODS AND LANDSLIDES DISPLACE MILLIONS IN CHINA AND INDIA
So called “1000 Year” floods are becoming commonplace in China and South Asia as warming generates more intense and more sustained weather events. But that means they are no longer 1000 year floods.
02:36: HEATWAVE AND WILDFIRES IN TURKEY, SOUTHERN EUROPE
The ongoing climate emergency in Turkey and Greece has become a political liability for right wing governments. Nearly 200 fires remain out of control, with dozens dead and missing.
10,000 have been evacuated from coastal resorts.
In Bodrum, a group of tourists and hotel staff were evacuated by boat as flames spread and plumes of smoke filled the sky, footage showed.
A few hundred miles to the west, Sicily set a new all time record for Europe: 119.84F .
The continent of Australia is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet except the Arctic. Nowhere else is an industrialized nation experiencing the leading edge of global heating more intensely than the land down under.
KEY AND DETAILS TO EVENTS IN THIS VIDEO
A combination of geography, terrain and human exploitation drives the climate disaster unfolding in Australia. A series of far right administrations has blocked any serious efforts for mitigation or adaptation.
BLACK SUMMER 2020 (January – March 2020)
From September 2019 to March 2020, historically intense wildfires burned in New South Wales and Victoria, burning out of control for months. The fires destroyed 46 million acres, 6000 buildings and cooked and estimated 3 billion animals.
HISTORIC FLOODING (March 2021)
A little over a year after the wildfires, torrential rain led to catastrophic flooding, driven by extreme weather events in New South Wales. More than 20 inches of rain fell in one day in Queenland. Approximately 40,000 people were evacuated. inches. The floods affected about 40% of the population and 25 million acres. The floods brought invasions of mice, snakes and spiders that is described as “Biblical.”
THE BIG DRY / ONGOING DROUGHT
As the most arid continent on the planet, Australia has always experienced extended periods of drought. However, the New Normal brings an uptick in the frequency and severity of dry periods. Hundreds of years of reckless human activity is taking its toll: deforestation has resulted in intensified flooding and increased soil salinity on millions of acres agricultural land. Overgrazing sheep and cattle has been another factor in creeping desertification and depletion usable water. Aquifers are being drained faster than they can be naturally replenished, to the point that humans have resorted to recharging them with treated wastewater.
River flows are expected to drop by 10- 25% over the next decade, even as urban water demand spirals.
April 2021’s Cyclone Seroja was an unusual recent anomaly. Packing 105 MPH winds, the Cat 3 system struck the west coast of Australia, far south of normal patterns. Cyclones of such intensity rarely travel this far south in Australia, and towns outside the cyclone belt are not usually built to withstand the devastating conditions.
The storm flattened the unsuspecting town of Kalbarri, damaging 70 percent of the town’s buildings.
CO2 Levels At All Time High As Rate Of Increase Accelerates
2020 Tied With 2016 For Hottest Month Globally
Methane Levels Reach New Highs in 2020
NOAA’s renowned Mauna Loa Laboratory recorded a new record for daily average atmospheric CO2 on April 3, 2021. The 421PPM reading follows news that 2020 has been confirmed as the planet’s warmest year, tying 2016. And as a bonus, atmospheric methane (CH4) levels are blowing through all records in a way that climate scientists are struggling to understand.
The 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2005.The nine hottest have occurred since 2010. The seven hottest have been the most recent seven.
Long Term Perspective and Context:
The more context you have for this frightening GHG indicator, the scarier it should appear.
In the last million years, CO2 levels have cycled between about 180 and 280 ppm during cycles of about 100,000 years.
When the industrial revolution began to pump carbon into the atmosphere in ever increasing quantities, the cycle was dangerously disrupted, at first gradually and now accelerating rapidly. The pattern doesn’t require deep analysis for the trend to be obvious.
The new blow out number from April 3 confirms that a return of human economic activity is jolting CO2 concentration right back to the pre-Covid threshold and beyond. Levels had been dropping up until September of 2020 due to the pandemic.
to the proven relationship between carbon levels and global heating, there are
a number of other effects from the rapid escalation of CO2 increase. Among the most significant is the acidification of the ocean
chemistry, which has already begun to compromise the existence of a number of
marine species. People will finally “get it” when their favorite oyster bar
One of the first lines of pushback from global heating deniers who want to seem objective is “the climate has been changing for millions of years.” Which of course is true. In fact, science has documented these patterns rather predictably, particularly in a group of graphs known as the Milankovitch cycles.
HOWEVER! The current pace of CO2 concentration growth plots far outside of any normal cycle for millions of years. So yes, cyclical but juiced beyond any “natural” model by anthropogenic global heating. The highest levels in 3 million years. Us. Humans.
Methane: CO2s dark, surly shadow companion.
Methane, (a GHG about 20 to 30% more potent than CO2) also continues to increase rapidly in the Earth’s atmosphere. After a pause in the early years of this century, the accelerated growth resumed in 2008. In spite of the pandemic, the year 2020 showed the greatest increase in atmospheric CH4 in history.
The causes – which are likely a combination of natural and human induced – are not fully understood, but it is utterly clear that fossil fuel emissions and ranching are among them. Atmospheric levels of CH4 have essentially doubled over the past two hundred years, the cause behind as much as 25% of global heating.
The human species has got a lot going on these days, as the list of global warming challenges ticks up in an alarming curve that, if not technically exponential, is rising very rapidly. As is the case with most specific climate events, humans don’t fully engage with these hyperobjects until it affects them personally. The situation in the West will do that.
Even as the Covid pandemic appears to ease, the extended drought in the American West is showing every sign of expanding into a multi century slo mo catastrophe. While periods of drought are naturally cyclical, the evolving scenario in the West plots far outside of any geological variation graph. Furthermore, this disaster in progress is amplified by escalating global warming and humankind’s ever expanding footprint of foolishness. Climate scientists estimate that one third to one half of the effects of this dry period are due to anthropogenic warming.
According to recent research from Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory (published in Science Magazine), the Western US is already two decades into a long=term drought that shows every sign of being historically unprecedented. The region’s average temperature has risen by 2.2 F (1.2C) over the past two decades, accelerating evaporation and reducing soil moisture.
As summer 2021 looms, about 77% of the 10 state region is in severe drought or worse, with California at 90%. Last year in 2020, Utah and Nevada experienced their driest years of all time, while every other state in the watershed was in the top five. Even if rains come, dry soils soak up snow when it melts, preventing it from reaching rivers and reservoirs
Lake Powell and Lake Mead are at less than half capacity after 20 years of drought, with both projected to reach their lowest level since initial filling. Meanwhile, memories of water rationing in California are still fresh.
Til The Rivers Run Dry…
The region’s key water shed and source of water for 40,000,000 people, the Colorado River has been drying up for a long time. The basin has endured three D4 category droughts this century. Since the summer of 2020 things have gotten worse. The monsoon rains didn’t come. Record high heat continued into fall. Biologists have noted that even some desert plants – normally well adapted to the conditions – are showing signs of stress. Yet even as rainfall has decreased, the exhausted Colorado is drained by cities, agriculture and species that are slipping away for good.
NOAA predicts the Spring 2021 dry to affect 75 million citizens.
The long haul effects.
In terms of civilization, ongoing migration to the region and its
water starved cities has been exacerbating the disaster.
The opening stage of the imminent drought lines up perfectly with
the new century, extending from 2000 and 2018. This period ranks second in the
past 1200 years in terms of dryness. As 2021 moves into spring, there are
numerous signs that the past two years have been a pause rather than an end.
A 2016 study published in Science Advances magazine
predicted a 90% chance of a megadrought of at least 35 years. However,
megadroughts in the Southwest have sometimes lasted up to 90 years. Although
the current situation is the fifth megadrought of the past 1200 years, its
immediate and long term impact will be manifested in the context of a high tech
mechanized culture. While we have a rudimentary understanding of how droughts
destroyed ancient civilizations such as the Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde
Pueblo and Anasazi peoples, the North American iteration of white European
Western Civilization has not yet been tested to this degree (although we have
certainly had glimpses of what to expect after a couple of hundred years of
There is already plenty of upheaval and more is on the way. Will
our technology be up to the task? Probably. Will our wisdom? Not so far.
While the Trump Crime Family is breaking America, you can be
forgiven for missing the rapid acceleration of Planet Earth’s environmental
collapse. Global warming is a climate
emergency that is already changing our lives, some more than others, but no one
will be immune.
While most of us have some awareness of dramatic events such
as unprecedented hurricane swarms and the ever increasing fire apocalypse out West,
the true scale of the global situation is often beyond our ability to grasp. The
way information flows in the 21st Century, one can avoid large
chunks of reality if one chooses.
Among the most vulnerable places on Earth is Australia, where
the climate emergency is more obvious than anywhere else on the planet except
the poles (and perhaps the Middle East). As the world’s largest exporter of
coal (and methane) it is both ironic and fitting the continent down under is
also the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” for climate collapse.
As winter comes to the Northern Hemisphere, Australia is
experiencing the hottest spring in its history. November was the hottest
November on record – not surprising, as this fall was also the planet’s warmest
overall according to Copernicus Climate Change Service. This is a 20
With daily records falling in New
South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland, Thargomindah Airport broke
all time temp records by hitting 114°F (46°C) on November 30. Temperatures in
the town of Andamooka, South Australia, reached an all-time high for the spring
at 48°C (118°F) on November 28. Smithville, NSW hit 46.9°C (116°F) on November
28, the highest spring temperature ever recorded in New South Wales.
The Rise of the Pyrocumulonimbus: Fires
That Spawn New Weather
With heat and drought come apocalyptic wildfires, which –
like the US western states – have grown more frequent, violent and deadly over
recent years. Last summer’s bush fire season was the worst ever, destroying the
lives of tens of thousands of Australians.
Australia (and the US and Indonesia), the severity of the fires is capable of
generating its own “weather”, including firenados and stratospheric vortices
and extreme thunderstorms.
season’s bush fires threw plumes of toxic smoke way up into the stratosphere,
with smoke circling the globe several times. The emerging super stars of this phenomenon
are Pyrocumulonimbus (“pyro” as in fire) clouds,
an end of days meteorological effect that can mimic the effects and visuals of
extraordinary clouds form when an anomalous heat
source such as wildfires, nuclear explosions or volcanic eruptions generate an updraft.
When conditions are right, the result may be a particularly violent thunderstorm.
The most dramatic mimic a nuclear cloud.
Like the US, Australia has been in the grip of a right wing
regime that will hear nothing of the climate hoax. And in fact, they appear to
be doubling down with the approval and launch of a Adani Coal Mine, a particularly
irresponsible plunder fest on the northern coast, hard by the waters of the
Great Barrier Reef.
The mine will accelerate the demise of the Reef, which already
on life support. Rapidly warming oceans, acidification and extreme weather have
killed about half of the reef, which has just been designated as “critical” by
the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN. The
pollution and disruption from the massive new port will only hasten the demise
of this iconic World Heritage site.
Future historians? anthrolopologists? Friendly or unfriendly
alien races? wandering hunter gathers? will identify the period we now inhabit as
the opportunity the human species frittered away while fighting off the insipient
rise of right wing demagogues around the planet. When threatened, humans often
do the opposite of what they should.
Death Valley recorded a temperature of 129.9° F on August 16, 2020 which is highly likely the hottest temperature on Earth since humans have been measuring temperatures. Interestingly, this temperature is at about the threshold where the human body begins to break down. It isn’t possible to establish sharp boundaries for heat survival because other factors come into play, including relative humidity and availability of water, and especially duration. As humidity increases, for example, the body is no longer able to respirate in order to cool itself. Beyond the direct effects on the human body, the extended consequences for these areas include drought and wildfires, making it impossible for humans in these places to grow crops or otherwise make a living.
While all these variables inhibit development of a heat-driven mortality solid
rule set, the major takeaway is that the rate of temperature events is
increasing and the duration of heat waves lengthens, humanity is perched on the
cusp of a new level of emergency as a number of regions around the globe become
uninhabitable for humans. These areas include the Middle East, Central America,
Western Africa, India and the American Southwest. Some predictions set the
percentage of uninhabitable places as high as 20% by century’s end.
The Death Valley record comes as heat records are being broken all over the
Southwest, and all over the planet.
All Time Arctic Heat Record
The city of Verkhoyansk in
eastern Siberia set an all time temperature record for the Arctic Circle region
with 100.4F (38C). The measurement was but one example of an alarming trend in
the across Siberia this summer. The heat wave is accompanied by widespread wild
fires. The Arctic is the epicenter of the global climate meltdown as entire eco
systems change rapidly before our eyes.
Baghdad: 125° F
Phoenix: 118° F : Phoenix has also broken it’s record for number of days over 110° F, with 35 reported already this year.
Why Is the Arctic Warming So Much Faster Than the Antarctic?
I was asked this question the other day by a moderate climate skeptic and realized that while people may have read this fact in passing (generally called Arctic Amplification), the scientific reasons for it are not usually explained. The answer is fairly simple: it’s about geography.
The “top” of the planet is dark ocean – open water – while the “bottom” of the planet, Antarctica, is a continental land mass almost twice the size of the United States. The area around the North Pole is normally covered by sea ice, which reflects about 90% of the sun’s heat energy back into space. This reflectivity is called albedo.
The Arctic Ocean has lost about 40% of its ice in the past four decades. However, as the disappearance of sea ice has accelerated in recent decades, there is less ice in the Arctic ocean and more black open water to suck in the sunlight. The dark water absorbs significantly more incoming solar energy, which causes faster warming of the water, which in turn melts more ice, which opens more water up.
This is one of the primary Climate Feedback Cycles. It feeds on itself and it affects global weather. As the sea ice disappears, currents and prevailing wind patterns are massively disrupted, causing more extreme weather and prolonged meteorological events such as droughts.
In Antarctica, the scenario is different. Although the interior glaciers are melting and the coastal ice shelves that hold them back are virtually collapsing, there are trillions of tons of reflective snow and ice sitting on a vast land mass. At the South Pole, only about 30% of the solar energy is absorbed, with the remained reflected back into space.
Hence the disparity in warming rates at the two opposite ends of the planet.
All ice is not equal: Visit this page for more details on how the different types of ice (shelf, land and sea) affect global warming.
Just because coronavirus is currently ravaging the planet
doesn’t mean the climate emergency is taking a break.
The journal Science is reporting new research from Columbia
University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory confirming that the American
Southwest is in the midst of a historical global warming-driven megadrought.
The bad news is: this is likely only the beginning of something extreme and
The report states clearly that the worsening situation is in
part attributable to climate change, although that is not the sole factor. Yes,
there have always been a natural drought cycle in this arid region, but the
current variations are plotted well outside normal statistics. It is also the
first megadrought to be triggered and exacerbated by anthropogenic climate
This emergent megadrought traces back to the beginning of this
century, and growing intermittently yet persistently worse as time progresses.
And, as is the case with most climate crisis events, the degree and
consequences of the drought are aggravated by human activities. In particular,
short-sighted water management policies have changed the face of the land in
shocking ways. Rapid population growth has created pyrrhic water allocation
choices among cities, agriculture, wildlife and extractive resource plundering
operations such as fracking and mining..
During a particularly severe period of the current drought in
2015, about 12.5 million trees died in California forests. There is early
evidence that Sequoia stands in California are showing the first signs ever of
die off, after surviving thousands of years.
According to the research, this is the most recent and second
most severe of several extreme megadroughts that have taken place over the past
1200 years. Since the generalized global warming that began about 150 years ago
with the industrial revolution, the average temperature in this region has
risen about 2°F. The
higher temperatures combined with increased evaporation and early snowmelt all
contribute to a potential rolling catastrophe that affects California, New
Mexico, Oregon, Arizona, and Idaho.
Megadroughts are usually considered to be extreme dry conditions
that last for at least two decades. However, the recent report cites mega
drought events going back tens of thousands of years that have lasted hundreds
The research suggests that the addition of high octane climate
change into the mix could result in a disaster that may be irrevocable in its
consequences for human civilization.
Rapid Ice Melt on Eagle Island and Warm Rivers Converge Beneath the Thwaites Shelf
In an event similar to the massive one day Greenland melt last year, Eagle Island on the Antarctic peninsula lost about 20% of its ice cover in the space of a nine day heat wave in mid-February. As the NASA image shows, much of the land beneath the island’s ice cap was exposed as about 4 inches of snowpack melted in a fortnight. Pools of meltwater opened up on the surface of the surface remaining snow.
The continent recorded it’s all time high during this period, reaching 69.8 F. Climate scientists say they have seen this trend in Greenland and Alaska in recent years, but this is a first for Antarctic.
This February heatwave was the third major melt event of the 2019-2020 summer after similar events in November and January. Says Nichols College glacieologist Mauri Pelto “If you think about this one event in February, it isn’t that significant. It’s more significant that these events are coming more frequently.“
In a related story from science journal
Nature, a new expedition to Antarctica’s troubled Thwaites Glacier has
discovered three streams of warm water running beneath the ice shelf, melting
the glacier from below. Pine Island glacier, which has just calved an ice berg
the size of Manhattan, is sending a river of warm water south to the Thwaites,
while two other under-ice rivers are merging on the eastern side, once thought
to be the more stable region of the formation.