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Lake Mead – The Largest Reservoir in the United States – Drops to a Record Low

Lake Mead – The Largest Reservoir in the United States – Drops to a Record Low

Lake Mead August 2000 Annotated

August 7, 2000

Lake Mead August 2021 Annotated

August 9, 2021

The reservoir stands at its lowest level since the 1930s.

Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States and part of a system that supplies water to at least 40 million people across seven states and northern Mexico. It stands today at its lowest level since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president. This means less water will be portioned out to some states in the 2022 water year.

As of August 22, 2021, Lake Mead was filled to just 35 percent of its capacity. The low water level comes at a time when 95 percent of the land in nine Western states is affected by some level of drought (64 percent is extreme or worse). It continues a 22-year megadrought that may be the region’s worst dry spell in twelve centuries.

These natural-color images were acquired in August 2000 and August 2021 by Landsat 7 and Landsat 8. The tan fringes along the shoreline in 2021 are areas of the lakebed that would be underwater when the reservoir is filled closer to capacity. The phenomenon is often referred to as a “bathtub ring.”

The lake elevation data below come from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages Lake Mead, Lake Powell, and other portions of the Colorado River watershed. At the end of July 2021, the water elevation at the Hoover Dam was 1067.65 feet (325 meters) above sea level, the lowest since April 1937, when the lake was still being filled. The elevation at the end of July 2000—around the time of the Landsat 7 images above and below—was 1199.97 feet (341 meters).

Lake Mead Elevation

2000 – 2021

At maximum capacity, Lake Mead reaches an elevation 1,220 feet (372 meters) near the dam and would hold 9.3 trillion gallons (36 trillion liters) of water. The lake last approached full capacity in the summers of 1983 and 1999. It has been dropping ever since.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Dry Corn Belt Ahead Of Pollination May Spell Disaster For Farmers

Dry Corn Belt Ahead Of Pollination May Spell Disaster For Farmers

Kirk Hinz, a meteorologist with BAMWX, published an agriculture note Thursday which outlines “persisting rains” in some parts of the Southwest but “expanding dryness” in the north.

Hinz concentrates on the corn belt, which spans the Midwest. He said, “expanding drought into a crucial time of the year ahead of pollination.” This means that persistent dry conditions could affect pollination success – and if pollination is not successful this year because of drought and lack of water, then harvest yields this season could come under pressure.

“A lack of consistent rainfall across a big chunk of the US major corn production areas in the Midwest and northern Plains this year continues, with the expanding drought into a crucial time of the year ahead of pollination as well. Weather models have remained volatile recently in regards to how much of these major production areas will receive timely rainfall, but the trend recently has been to push previously forecast widespread nourishing rains further south that’s starting to be a growing concern (plus more heat building back in a mid-to-late month) ahead,” Hinz wrote. 

Here’s what happens to corn if pollination is unsuccessful. 

Here’s the US Drought Monitor, which shows much of the Western US is in some form of drought.

Some rain relief was seen in the week ending June 6, but worsening conditions continue in the corn belt (or Midwest area).

For the four weeks ending June 6, rains increased in west Texas and east New Mexico but expanding dryness in the corn belt.

Over the last two months ending June 6, significant increases in precipitation have been seen from Texas to New Mexico up into Colorado. However, most of the corn belt continues to experience worsening droughts.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Unprecedented Event” – Pacific Northwest Set To Shatter Heat Records This Weekend 

“Unprecedented Event” – Pacific Northwest Set To Shatter Heat Records This Weekend 

A “historic” heat wave is set to transform the U.S. Pacific Northwest into a furnace this weekend. It has the potential to shatter long-standing temperature records, according to Reuters.

“This will be setting the stage for the beginning of a potential historic heat wave for the Northwest this weekend,” the National Weather Service (NWS) said. Excessive heat warnings are in effect for much of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and northern parts of California. 

“High temperatures will still be 10 to 20 degrees above average and lead into the weekend when numerous record highs are likely,” NWS said. 

“A number of Portland Airport high-temperature records are in jeopardy this weekend. Not only will PDX likely set the warmest temperature for June 26th & June for that matter, but the all time record temperature of 107°F remains in serious jeopardy,” NWS Portland tweeted. 

NWS Portland added: the “extreme heat wave this weekend is expected to break several daily, monthly and possibly all-time records. This is an unprecedented event…have a plan in place to remain cool!”

According to Axios“the heat wave will affect a region where many people lack central air conditioning, raising the likelihood for public health impacts. In addition, power demand is likely to spike at a time when hydropower resources are running relatively low due to drier than average conditions.” 

Heat waves such as this one have been impacting much of the western half of the US this year, sparking a megadrought, fallow lands, and soon-to-be grasshopper plague that may decimate crops further.

One Shocking Chart That Has Farmers Trembling With Fear 

One Shocking Chart That Has Farmers Trembling With Fear 

Readers know by now that the Western US is facing one of the most severe droughts in years. We’ve documented (read here & here) this spring of a “megadrought” sweeping across states like California and Nevada as risks of a second Dust Bowl increase by the day.

But in this note, let’s dive deeper into the drought and how it’s impacting farmers and the potential consequences it could have on crops. Meteorologists at BAMWX have published data on surface soil moisture over 20 years. Surface soil moisture is the water that is in the upper 4 inches and available for various types of plants. They found that the 2021 moisture deficit for early June is the worst it has ever been in two decades.

BAMWX’s Vince Bryan says the moisture deficit in the soil is “a concern” as it may impact plant development. Soil moisture plays a crucial role in agricultural monitoring, drought and flood forecasting, forest fire prediction, and water supply management.

Soil moisture observations can alert of impending drought, such as what’s been underway in the Western US this year.

What this means is that soil moisture deficits can dry crops and make them more vulnerable to pests. Even short-term drought can cause damage to crops, mainly during critical stages of crop development, such as after planting or during flowering.

If the drought persists, crop yields could come underestimates this year and result in elevated agricultural prices.

Ranchers Sell Off Cattle And Farmers Idle Hundreds Of Thousands Of Acres As America’s Drought Emergency Escalates

Ranchers Sell Off Cattle And Farmers Idle Hundreds Of Thousands Of Acres As America’s Drought Emergency Escalates

In my entire lifetime, this is the worst that drought conditions have ever been in the western half of the country.  During the past 20 years, the amount of territory in the West considered to be suffering from exceptional drought has never gone higher than 11 percent until now.  Today, that number is sitting at 27 percent.  The term “mega-drought” is being thrown around a lot these days to describe what is happening, but this isn’t just a drought.  This is a true national emergency, and it is really starting to affect our food supply.

Just look at what is happening up in North Dakota.  The vast majority of the state is either in the worst level of drought or the second worst level of drought, and ranchers are auctioning off their cattle by the thousands

“Normally this time of the year, we’re probably looking at 400-600 head and a lot of times would be every other week,” said former auctioneer Ron Torgerson.

On Sunday and Monday, more than 4,200 head of cattle were sold at Rugby Livestock and Auction.

Needless to say, ranchers in North Dakota don’t want to get rid of their cattle, but the drought has pushed prices for hay and corn so high that many of them simply have no choice.

One of those that has already been forced to sell a large number of cattle is rancher David Bohl

As the drought continues, the price of hay and corn has gone way up. It’s more expensive for ranchers to try and supplement feed than it is to sell the cattle.

Bohl has already sold 200 of his head in the last month.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Worst Drought in 91 Years Turns Brazil Into Hot Spot for LNG

  •  State-run oil company is seeking liquefied natural gas cargoes
  •  Water crisis curbs hydropower supplies across South America

As hydropower output declines, South America’s most populous nation is turning to the super-chilled fuel to keep lights on for its 212 million people. Brazil has already imported a record number of LNG cargoes just from the U.S. this year while state-run oil company Petrobras SA is tapping the spot market for another four.

The drought comes as the nation — which boosted its ability to import LNG in 2014 to avoid blackouts during soccer’s World Cup — is facing declining gas production from major supplier Bolivia. The conditions are also affecting other countries in South America, with Chile seeking to buy LNG and traders speculating Argentina could be next.

Brazil's Thermal Power Rises as Hydro Slides

“South America is running out of hydropower because of dry weather, and I wouldn’t be surprised if buyers all across the region were buying more LNG,” said Henning Gloystein, global director of energy and natural resources at consultants Eurasia Group. “Besides Southeast Asia and India, South America is a growth area for gas demand.”

Hydropower currently accounts for about 70% of Brazil’s electricity mix, and the lack of rainfall has forced the country to import 34 U.S. LNG cargoes over the past six months to bridge the power-supply gap, shipping data compiled by Bloomberg show. That eclipses the 17 sent to Chile and four to Mexico, which has long been the top buyer of U.S. LNG in the Western Hemisphere. Brazilian imports are approaching levels typically seen only from buyers in Asia and Europe.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Extreme Drought Puts California’s Power Supply At Risk

Extreme Drought Puts California’s Power Supply At Risk

A more severe than usual drought in California has depleted reservoirs and lakes, including the ones feeding some of the largest hydropower facilities, putting the state again at risk of power outages during heat waves this summer.

Last year, residents in California went through rolling outages as there was insufficient energy to meet the high demand during the heatwave.

This year, the drought in California has reduced output of hydropower stations and could force the state with ambitious emission-reduction targets to rely more on its remaining natural gas-powered plants for baseload electricity supply.

Water levels at Lake Oroville, for example, are much lower than usual and could fall to below a threshold by August—one that could prompt state officials to shut down the Edward Hyatt Power Plant, the Associated Press reports.

The Hyatt power plant is the fourth largest energy producer of all the hydroelectric facilities in California.

North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) warned last month in its 2021 Summer Reliability Assessment that parts of North America are at elevated or high risk of energy shortfalls this summer during above-normal peak temperatures. California falls in the “high risk” category, as it relies on large energy imports during peak demand and when solar resource output retreats in the evening hours, according to NERC.

“California is at risk of energy emergencies during periods of normal peak summer demand and high risk when above-normal demand is widespread in the west,” NERC says.

California needs imports to the area to “maintain reliability when demand peaks in the afternoon and to ramp up even further for several hours as internal resources draw down,” the assessment notes, despite the fact that the state will have 675 megawatts (MW) of new battery energy storage systems online at the start of the summer that can continue to supply stored energy for periods when needed.

 

Not just another drought: The American West moves from dry to bone dry

Not just another drought: The American West moves from dry to bone dry

The American West is having a drought. So, what else is new? And, that’s just the point. The American West has been in an extended drought since 2000, so far the second worst in the last 1200 years. Here is the key quote from the National Geographic article cited above:

In the face of continued climate change, some scientists and others have suggested that using the word “drought” for what’s happening now might no longer be appropriate, because it implies that the water shortages may end. Instead, we might be seeing a fundamental, long-term shift in water availability all over the West.

That is what climate scientists have been warning about all along. The problems we are now experiencing are not just cycles or fluctuations—although those continue to be important—but rather, permanent changes in the climate (that is, on any timeline that matters to humans).

I wrote about this drought when it was only 10 years old. (For a sense of how bad it is now, see the U.S. Drought Monitor.) Back then it did not seem that residents and businesses were taking it seriously, even if some water officials were. There have been ups and downs in the intervening years, but mostly downs.

There is a reason that most major cities are located near water and not in arid regions. Water is heavy, fluid and not easily transported—though vast and expensive water projects do just that. Water cannot be easily created from its constituents elements, oxygen and hydrogen. Oxygen is abundant everywhere on Earth. But hydrogen in its elemental state is not readily available and must be extracted from other sources such as natural gas. The cost of manufacturing water is prohibative or we’d likely be doing it already.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

La Nina Turbocharges Drought In Brazil Putting World’s Coffee, Sugar, & Oranges At Risk

La Nina Turbocharges Drought In Brazil Putting World’s Coffee, Sugar, & Oranges At Risk

Global crop and food prices are skyrocketing to multi-year highs, and the culprit could be due to La Nina, a weather pattern characterized by the cooling of the equatorial Pacific and triggers atmospheric shifts that cause droughts in some regions of the world and wetter conditions in others. The prospect of a severe drought in the US has already be outlined in previous notes. Now it appears the worst drought in 20 years has struck agricultural rich Brazil.

Over the last month, Brazil has been faced with drought during its traditional rainy season.

“Soils are parched, and river levels are low in the nation’s Center-South region, a powerhouse of agricultural output. The drought is so severe that farmers are worried they’ll run out of the water reserves that help keep crops alive over the next several months, the country’s dry season,” said Bloomberg.

The cost of this year’s drought could severely impact coffee, sugar, and orange crop yields.

Coffee farmer Mauricio Pinheiro, 59, began irrigating his arabica-coffee crops in March, more than two months earlier than usual after his 131-acre farm received only half the rain it needed. He’s using so much water that his wells are running dry.

“My irrigation reservoir is drying up now — that usually happens in August,” said Pinheiro, who resides in Pedregulho in the Alta Mogiana region, in Sao Paulo state. “I’m concerned about running out of water in the coming months.”

One of the worst droughts to hit the country in decades is coming at a time when agricultural prices have rallied to multi-year highs, fanning fears of food inflation.

As much as the Federal Reserve is hoping for “transitory” inflation – La Nina altering weather patterns could exacerbate food inflation and make the problem global and last for years.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

California declares drought emergency across vast swath of state

Majority of counties now under emergency declaration as California faces extensive dry spell and dwindling water supply

Houseboats are dwarfed by the steep banks of Lake Oroville last month in Oroville, California.
Houseboats are dwarfed by the steep banks of Lake Oroville last month in Oroville, California. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California has expanded a drought emergency declaration to a large swath of the nation’s most populated state amid “acute water supply shortages” in northern and central parts of California.

The declaration, expanded by Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday, now includes 41 of 58 counties, covering 30% of California’s nearly 40 million people. The US drought monitor shows most of the state and the American west is in extensive drought just a few years after California emerged from a punishing multiyear dry spell.

Officials fear an extraordinary dry spring presages a wildfire season like last year, when flames burned a record 6,562 sq mi(16,996 sq km).

The declaration comes as Newsom prepares to propose more spending on short- and long-term responses to dry conditions. The Democrat last month had declared an emergency in just two counties north of San Francisco – Mendocino and Sonoma.

The expanded declaration includes the counties in the Klamath River, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and Tulare Lake watersheds across much of the northern and central parts of the state.

The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which provides about a third of the state’s water, was at just 59% of average on 1 April, when it is normally at its peak.

This year is unique in the state’s recorded history because of extraordinarily warm temperatures in April and early May, the administration said. That led to quick melting of the Sierra Nevada snowpack in the waterways that feed the Sacramento River, which in turn supplies much of the state’s summer water supply.

The problem was worse because much of the snow seeped into the ground instead of flowing into rivers and reservoirs, the administration said.

A neighborhood sign in San Anselmo, California. State residents are being urged to conserve water.
A neighborhood sign in San Anselmo, California. State residents are being urged to conserve water. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Next on the List of American Catastrophes? A Western Megadrought

Next on the List of American Catastrophes? A Western Megadrought

I’ve written many articles for The Organic Prepper about the coming food shortages. Not just in the United States but all across the world. Food isn’t the only thing that is soon going to be in short supply.

Fresh, clean water appears to be one of the prime shortages facing humanity today. And this problem is only going to get worse in the future. The American West is facing a water crisis not seen since the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl days. Ironic, since we’re also seeing a lot of similarities to the Great Depression, too.

This past year saw drought in the American West deepen

According to research published in the Journal Science, portions of the United States entered the beginning stages of megadrought. From the Columbia University site:

All told, the researchers say that rising temperatures are responsible for about half the pace and severity of the current drought. If this overall warming were subtracted from the equation, the current drought would rank as the 11th worst detected — bad, but nowhere near what it has developed into.

“It doesn’t matter if this is exactly the worst drought ever,” said coauthor Benjamin Cook, who is affiliated with Lamont and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “What matters is that it has been made much worse than it would have been because of climate change.” Since temperatures are projected to keep rising, it is likely the drought will continue for the foreseeable future; or fade briefly only to return, say the researchers.

“Because the background is getting warmer, the dice are increasingly loaded toward longer and more severe droughts,” said Williams. “We may get lucky, and natural variability will bring more precipitation for a while…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Could Cover Crops Help Fight Global Food Insecurity?

Could Cover Crops Help Fight Global Food Insecurity?

Cover crops are grown to benefit the soil, not for harvest. Examples of cover crops can include peas, winter rye, sorghum and barley. The use of cover crops allows farmers to protect their soil before and after they harvest annual crops so that the ground is always covered. Cover crops are a sustainable technique, as they build healthy soil and conserve water, but could they help fight food insecurity?

According to experts, 26.4 percent of the world’s population faces moderate to severe levels of food insecurity, a percentage that amounts to 2 billion people. Global food insecurity is largely concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the rates are determined by factors such as income inequality, food prices and food distribution. Many food-insecure places are affected by droughts and dry seasons. The utilization of cover crops in food-insecure areas may help mitigate the effects of climate change, such as drought and extended dry seasons.

Environmental Protection

Building up organic matter in the soil is an integral part of protecting waterways since nitrogen and phosphorus runoff is the main contributor to water pollution and algal blooms. Utilizing cover crops can provide agricultural communities with long-term protection, building up healthy soil that is more resilient in the future. Additionally, certain types of cover crops do not require tillage, helping keep carbon in the ground. In some climates, farmers may also harvest cover crops without removing the roots, diversifying their operation while also protecting the ecosystem.

Current environmental disasters in food-insecure countries, such as the desert locust in West Africa and parts of India, are a result of climate change. Extractive farming methods, like tilling, only exacerbate the effects of climate change. Many farming methods rely on fossil fuels and technology to operate, a luxury that many communities do not have, and one that is not a sustainable solution. Cover cropping offers significant environmental protection, without reliance on external inputs.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Cheap, Simple DIY Water Catchment and Irrigation

Cheap, Simple DIY Water Catchment and Irrigation

Last year in foothills North Carolina, we had a hundred-year flood in June. Then we went three months without any rain at all. Some things produced well in spite of drought, but tomatoes really suffered and I hardly got any pumpkins. I was not able to keep things adequately watered by hand even before my catchment tank ran dry.

I know that the carbon footprint of tap water is pretty small compared to, say, tropical vacations. But I still have a philosophical problem with paying to have water cleaned so thoroughly that it’s drinkable, and then pumped for miles and miles, only to pour it on the ground. I like the idea of living within the rain budget of my area, which isn’t too hard because we usually get too much. I like the idea of having irrigation water even if I lost access to my local water utility for some reason (power outage, income outage, anything).

Most of all, I like the idea of my garden looking all big and lush like my mom’s. She waters constantly.

So, this spring I added a second catchment tank to our little house, and one to the new pole barn up by the orchard. Big irrigation tanks cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, but I can get a used IBC tank for about $45. I’ve now set up five of these tanks, and I feel it’s a relatively easy and cost-effective option for small-scale irrigation.

This is my Dad’s very nice setup, which I helped him install as a fun Mother’s Day project. Don’t worry, this photo was taken before completion, and the final installation does not include painter’s tape.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Heat Wave To Bake Significant Parts Of US Through Mid-July

Heat Wave To Bake Significant Parts Of US Through Mid-July  

Extreme temperatures, mostly in the mid/the high 90s, are expected for the first half of July for much of the U.S., reported The Weather Channel

These hotter-than-usual temperatures have already begun this week and will bake a significant part of the country this holiday weekend, with elevated temperatures forecasted through the midpoint of the month. 

Current weather models show a heat dome is expected for much of the country: 

A broad ridge of high pressure and a jet stream that will remain well to the north will allow heat to spread across large sections of the Plains, Midwest, Northeast, and Rockies.

This pattern will be supported by two domes of high pressure – one over the East and a second, stronger dome over the Southwest – that will cause air to sink and warm over their respective regions. The domes will also bring warmer air northward on their western and northern sides and diminish rain chances. – The Weather Channel 

North America Temperature Anomalies: 4-Week Average 

The epicenter of the heat will be centered initially around the Great Lakes area, then spread to much of the Midwest, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast. Temperatures will be 20 degrees above average in the Upper Midwest on July 4. 

“The first half of July looks to have well-above-normal temperatures, at pretty high probabilities, beginning around the Fourth of July or slightly before,” Jon Gottschalck, chief of the Operational Prediction Branch at the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, told NBC News

Many large metropolitan areas in the Midwest and Northeast will be +10 degrees above average through the holiday weekend – an indication that energy demand will surge. 

The most common use of degree days is for tracking energy usage – so we will examine cooling degree days (CDD) in several U.S. regions to determine a spike in energy usage is imminent. 

Midwest CDD

Central CDD

Northeast CDD

Southeast CDD

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How to Recognize Desertification and Drought Day

How to Recognize Desertification and Drought Day

More than 2 billion hectares of previously productive land is degraded. For Desertification and Drought Day on June 17, DW spoke with Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

DW: What do you want people to know about this year’s desertification day?

Ibrahim Thiaw: Despite COVID-19, we still need to eat. We still need to have clothes. We still need to feed our animals. And we still need the planet. The planet does not need us.

More than a third of the world’s land is vulnerable to exploitation that can lead to desertification. Where are some of the worst-affected areas?

If you consider the size of the land that is affected by desertification, Africa. But if you consider the number of people that are affected by land degradation, it is Asia. If you include the Americas, both north and south, 40% of land is affected by desertification or susceptible to be affected by land degradation. Europe is not spared either — we still lose a lot of soil here. And Europe has been more vulnerable to drought in recent years because of climate change.

We have one planet, so therefore there is no region in the world that is immune to land degradation or drought.

What do those areas have in common, are there some patterns there?

When you cause land degradation, you are affecting people’s lives: their health, the economy, their security. Land degradation is also having an impact on migration — we will see more migration because people cannot produce anymore in their land. So therefore, it is not biophysical only. It is social. It is economic. It is health. It is our well-being.

What are some steps people can take?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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