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Climate Change: US Drought More Costly Than Hurricane Sandy?

The current drought pattern may be the costliest U.S. natural disaster of 2012 and 2013, according to experts with Harris-Mann Climatology.

If the drought pattern continues, its damage estimates could be near $200 billion, making it the country’s costliest natural disaster of 2012 and 2013– even more costly than Hurricane Sandy.

Harris-Mann points out, “major solar-induced drought patterns, often lasting nearly a full decade, have recurred across the midsection of the U.S. approximately every 80 years since at least the early 1600s. . .The last 80-year drought occurred in the Dust Bowl Era of the so-called ‘Dirty 1930s.’ This was one of the worst environmental disasters of the entire 20th Century anywhere in the world.”

Is this time different?

Likely yes. A study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research predicts that the drought in the southwest which started in 1999 will be permanent.

The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory of NOAA confirms that globally the Wet Will Get Wetter and the Dry Drier? and in the following diagram shows how precipitation will increasingly decline in the US southwest in the coming century.

Canadian precipitation on the other hand increases, by as much as 30 percent according to some estimates.

As Statistics Canada points out, “heavy precipitation events may lead to greater flood damage”, and this runoff will be too fast too recharge aquifers, will be more damaging than beneficial to crops and often contaminates drinking water sources. 

The dichotomies of drought and torrential storm damage are likely to be writ large in the annals of 21st Century disasters if the past year is any indication.

Another disaster in the making however is sea level rise. The Earth is warming which drives thermal expansion and the melting of land-based ice. Another factor is aquifer mining which is increasing in the effort to produce crops on land that is more and more desiccated by drought.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab points out; the largest contributor to the year-to-year fluctuation in sea levels is the temporary exchange of water mass between the land and the ocean.

In 2011 sea levels declined 5mm due to torrential rainfall in Australia, Brazil and the northern latitudes of the northern hemisphere.

Since mid-2011 however, the global oceans have risen approximately 10 mm per year, which is over three times the observed rate of  3.18 mm per year from 1993 to the present.  Water drainage from, and the drying of the continents are the explanations given for this increase.

As was pointed out in, Climate Change and Anthropogenic Sea Level Potholes, there can be a perpetual sea level rise benefit derived from moving water from areas of excess to areas of drought to supplant aquifer pumping, which is compounded if some of this water is then used to recharge depleted aquifers.

The New York Times article, Safe Storage of Water? Go Underground, asserts that, “experts are urging cities to build reservoirs below the ground, where the water cannot evaporate and many of the difficulties associated with above-ground water storage are avoided.”

“It just makes so much more sense,” said Jim Lester, president of the Houston Advanced Research Center, a nonprofit research group. Among other advantages, he said, underground reservoirs are cheaper than their above-ground counterparts.”

It also makes sense as a sea level rise counter measure.

Before you can store water however, you have to find it where it is plentiful.

As was suggested here and here, that place vis-a-vis the US southwest is Canada.

Each of the Canadian major diversion projects have a hydro electric component, which is the renewable energy source with the highest energy return on investment (EROI). In fact it has the highest EROI of any energy source according to a recent Stanford thesis.

Responses to this proposal have ranged from, “we need all of our water and have none to spare” to “just because we aren’t STUPID enough to overuse and divert natures bounty, as the US has done in many places such as the Colorado not even reaching the sea anymore, doesn’t mean Canadians will be as stupid.”

It seems to me, the solution to a $200 billion catastrophe that indication are is likely to perpetuate isn’t something a friendly neighbour has any moral or justifiable right to withhold.

Doing so is also a case of cutting off one’s nose to spite their face, considering Canada derives much of its off-season food supply from the very same regions experiencing drought.

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Discussions

Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on Jun 2, 2013 12:18 am GMT

Selling water to those states would be the same as destroying our ecosystem.  In a word, NO!  Morally and ethically stop denying climate change and boot your GOP in the balls to get them off their butts to work on the problem instead of trying to say it doesn’t exist.  There is an old saying about helping those who help themselves.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Jun 2, 2013 3:37 am GMT

Dear Max (mk1313),

How do you know anything about Jim’s Politics.

James Thurer's picture
James Thurer on Jun 2, 2013 5:32 am GMT

Apparently you are unaware of the study by NOAA that was released recently.

“Last year’s huge drought was a freak of nature that wasn’t caused by man-made global warming, a new federal science study finds.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/11/climate-change-drought-2012_n_3...

Given the tone of your comment, I imagine that this won’t have any influence on you, but some of the other readers may benefit from it.

Edward Kerr's picture
Edward Kerr on Jun 2, 2013 2:09 pm GMT

James,

Confirmation bias can often lead one to misread (or misinterpret) an article. I find it interesting that climate change deniers often cite computer models as being deficient yet here, when it was a model that Hoerling used to come for his “not climate change” assertion, well that’s OK.

They state that the problem was caused by a change in the jet stream which has definitavely been linked to the warming that has transpired.

In the same article Trenberth points out deficiencies in the report and questions that reports validity.

If you’re going to try to deny climate change you might have chosen a better article…wait, there are no better articles that deny climate change because climate change is real, will increase in severity and some day you’ll be eating your beloved article.

Edward Kerr

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Jun 2, 2013 2:19 pm GMT

MAX (M1313)

Are you really a Professor/Teacher as per you TEC bio? Is this the way you teach students to debate?

I have read Jim’s articles for years, and I’ve never known him to be anything but persistent in his deisre to help ameliorate Earth’s AGW issues. He isn’t even an American, and probably (I am guessing) has no affiliations with the GOP.

Even if he were to have a GOP affiliation then, how low has “education” sunk in Western Civilization when the best thing a “professor” can say in a debate is to launch unfounded adhominem attacks based illogical assumptions.

If your broadside were aimed elsewhere other than at Jim, then your ability express opinion relevant to an ongoing discussion is lacking.

Pathetic!

Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on Jun 2, 2013 2:17 pm GMT

“We Canadians don’t have a hell of a lot to crow about on the climate front.”  On this we are in absolutely complete agreement and frankly it is sickening.

Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on Jun 2, 2013 2:20 pm GMT

Wasn’t a comment on “HIS” politics, was a comment on the politics of the US where the Tea Party idiocy controls the Republican side of things.  That was where he suggested sending the water was it not?

James Thurer's picture
James Thurer on Jun 2, 2013 2:38 pm GMT

Show me where I have denied climate change.

I do not deny climate change.  I am skeptical of attributing every weather anomaly to climate change uncritically.  If you have a problem with NOAA’s study because their conclusions don’t conform to you preconceived notions, take it up with them.

 

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Jun 2, 2013 3:13 pm GMT

Why then did you not state something to the effect that “sending water to the USA is a bad idea for x,y,z….reasons?”

 

The Kindest conclussions one might derive from your remark are that:

a) The GOP alone wants water from Canada

b) America should be denied water because it contains the GOP

c) The GOP alone is responsible for all the past decisions that May have led to a water crisis in the cities that want/need water.

d) The GOP is an EVIL entity and all its members think exactly alike, and you are willing to punish innocent people, just to hate on the GOP.

 

All we’ve learnt from you today is that You Hate the GOP, and you don’t care what Jim has said otherwise.

Edward Kerr's picture
Edward Kerr on Jun 2, 2013 5:10 pm GMT

Fair enough James,

If I’ve misinterperted your position I apologise. From my point of view, to suggest that climate change is disassoiated with the ongoing drough in the southwest is inaccurate. Obviously there have been droughts in that area before and being a desert it’s in a low moisture area to begin with. I just felt that the NOAA report (which is, in this case, the opinion of one researcher) hadn’t looked critically enough at the information when it discounted the situation.

Peace,

Ed

Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on Jun 2, 2013 8:19 pm GMT

Paul

This was not a debate.  It was a comment on the idea of supporting wrong action and thereby promoting it.  It’s called facilitation.  When the political deadlock in the US is broken and they start taking action, not as individuals but as a country, then and only then would helping out be a good idea. Until then Jim is wrong though his heart is in a good place.

If the “your” in the original post was misunderstood as personal instead of the collective “you, the people who are promoting climate damage” my apologies.  Much is lost in the written word.  And yes, with this post Jim, is inadvertantly promoting such damage!

As for PATHETIC you might want to examine the grammar of your final sentance

Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on Jun 2, 2013 8:28 pm GMT

No Jim, it is a statement that when we start seeing real action in recognising the problem of AGW and ACTING on it then I would be in favour of helping out.  Until then it would facilitate the continuance of the GOP “ain’t happenin'” Tea Party obstructionist BS!  I am not proposing hoarding but am not willing to see our resources damaged further to promote wrong headedness and support the attitude of entitlement.  Start seeing real progress on the acceptance of and action on the attitudes/reality of AGW then it is worthwhile helping out.

Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on Jun 2, 2013 8:36 pm GMT

If that is your idea of “kindest” your not very charitable yourself.  If you want to be that kind of extremist thinker then go for it.  As for the GOP, it is evil in it’s current incarnation of obstructing acceptance and action on AGW.  They are directly threatening the future of all our children, that is evil!  When I see the membership of the GOP dethrone those supporting that world view and start working on the problem then it will be time to help out, not until!  If all you learned was what you stated it’s little wonder the US and Canada are going to hell in a handbasket rather than being the leaders we were in the past.  Take the blinders off!

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Jun 3, 2013 12:21 am GMT

Max, I don’t really care what might say or think about my grammar since:

a) I am not a professor like you, and:

b) English is not even my native tongue,

So I am confident that I am doing very very well with my grammar,  and yes your bewildering attempt to link an apolitical post to the GOP is definitely pathetic indeed.

For a start, You never made any point that any reader/observer who’s unfamiliar with the issues can relate to. Personall,y this posting was the first time I ever heard of purchasing and storing water underground, from Canada, by cities in the USA. I was hoping to learn something from the debates that would ensue.

People who act the same as you do have made it sometimes virtually impossible to discuss, debate, and learn anything rationally on the Web. I still haven’t learnt why purchasing said water from Canada is bad for the environment, perhaps I would have sided with your agument had you made one, instead all you did was to launch an irrelevant attack on the GOP.

If you did think Jim’s view contributed to the problem, you failed to make the case, you wrote/said absolutely nothing to illustrate to anyone of why his views are wrong. All I learnt from you is that you hate the GOP, and possibly Jim, since this was his thread.

MAX, you should just admit you were wrong, apologize to Jim, and lets move on.

Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on Jun 3, 2013 3:21 pm GMT

We actually have some agreement here. Yes, population reduction programs, such as family planning in high reproductive regions, are the highest ROI for mitigating greenhouse gases.  Unfortunately there is such a tremendous lag period in doing this that something else needs to be done in the meantime and that means getting off fossil fuels and onto renewables in a big way.  The other downside is that population control is if anything a bigger landmine than global warming and politically “ain’t gonna happen!”

Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on Jun 3, 2013 3:52 pm GMT

Agree on the ROI on hydro.  Would have some concern regarding development and it’s impact on species habitat.  That said there are newer run of river technologies that can be deployed with much less environmental impact.

Paul Ebert's picture
Paul Ebert on Jun 4, 2013 6:30 pm GMT

I think your position with respect to withholding water has merit, but I think your assessment of our politics (I’m an American) is a little off.

The GOP’s position and actions regarding AGW are a result of their being beholden to the purse strings of the fossil fuel industry.  The way corporate influence works here has been in development much longer than the Tea Party has been around.  The Tea Party is more of a (delusional, in my opinion) symptom than it is a cause.

Also, the Dems aren’t all that much better.  Sure, they don’t typically engage in denial, but they are still beholden to the industry.  If Canada is, as you suggest, going to hold back water until action is taken by the US, it should look for clear and ongoing commitment to action by both parties.

Unfortunately, the state of democracy in the US is exceedingly poor.  This is unlikely to improve without the reversal of Citizen’s United through a constitutional amendment.

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