Drought: A Creeping Disaster

November 7, 2011 • Climate Change & Mitigation, Daily Email Recap

From the NY Times. See: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/17/opinion/sunday/17drought.html?_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss


Drought: A Creeping Disaster


Published: July 16, 2011

FLOODS, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and other geological phenomena have left a trail of destruction during the first half of 2011. But this could be just the start to a remarkable year of bad weather. Next up: drought. In the South, 14 states are now baking in blast-furnace conditions – from Arizona, which is battling the largest wildfire in its history, to Florida, where fires have burned some 200,000 acres so far. Worse, drought, unlike earthquakes, hurricanes and other rapid-moving weather, could become a permanent condition in some regions.

Climatologists call drought a “creeping disaster” because its effects are not felt at once. Others compare drought to a python, which slowly and inexorably squeezes its prey to death.

The great aridification of 2011 began last fall; now temperatures in many states have spiked to more than 100 degrees for days at a stretch. A high pressure system has stalled over the middle of the country, blocking cool air from the north. Texas and New Mexico are drier than in any year on record.

The deadly heat led to 138 deaths last year, more than hurricanes, tornadoes or floods, and it turns brush to tinder that is vulnerable to lightning strikes and human carelessness. Already this year, some 40,000 wildfires have torched over 5.8 million acres nationwide – and the deep heat of August is likely to make conditions worse before they get better.

Climatologists disagree about what caused this remarkable dry-out. But there is little disagreement about the severity of the drought – or its long-term implications.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/17/opinion/sunday/17drought.html?_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss

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