Drought Happens: US and China

Drought is the Impending Bummer of the Southwest.  We pay attention to La Nina and El Nino, the ocean currents whose temperature determines how much rain and snow we get in Santa Fe.  I think it was the summer of 2003 when we had a serious drought, pinon trees died, and the city went into water rationing. You got a ticket if you watered on the wrong days, or in the middle of the day!  There are still dead, barren pinon trees standing across the landscape, reminding us that drought happens.

A few weeks ago I was buying a replacement part for a storm door from the manufacturer in South Dakota and got to talking to customer service about the weather.  She was saying they had a wet fall which saturated the ground, and then a lot of snow fell this winter.  If the snow should melt rapidly, 1/2 of the upper US will be having serious flooding this spring.

Drought in China

Drought in China has parched 16+ million acres of farmland, threatening the livelihood of 50 million farmers. 20 million people without drinking water.

I shared with her we’ve had a really dry winter and spring.  In southern New Mexico, there have already been fires, and the fire danger remains high.

Today I came across this news report that China is having a similar occurrence; really wet in the north and severe drought in the South.

In 2007, NASA released a report that 17 out of 18 computer models predicted permanent, catastropic drought in the Southwest US and the Mediterranean by 2050.

My take on all this, is we had better get good at recycling water!

I’ll be talking about water recycling in future posts, but for now, here is some of the article about China’s Drought…

China debates whether human activity or nature is to blame for drought

An unusually long dry season, along with deforestation, pollution and dam-building, leaves farmers struggling. In some areas, people cannot even wash their hair regularly.

April 26, 2010|By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times

The images are heart-rending, farmers kneeling over the cracked earth that looks to be straight out of a post-apocalyptic movie, the dust swirling in the wind.

But what underlies China’s worst drought in nearly a century is a matter of great debate. Is it Mother Nature or human failure?

Beyond the official explanation of “abnormal weather,” Chinese environmentalists are pointing to deforestation, pollution, dams, overbuilding and other man-made factors. Scientists are searching for clues about why rain hasn’t come in some parts of the country.

Some scientists say the fault lies with the destruction of the natural forest and the replanting of cash crops that suck up too much water. Among the notorious water-guzzlers are rubber trees and eucalypts, which are used for paper and pulp production and are so vigorous that farmers sometimes claim to hear them growing at night.

“In the rainy season, the forest holds in the water and releases it slowly in the dry season. That is the natural ecological function of the forest,” said Ma Jun, a well-known water expert whose writings about China’s water crisis have been likened to Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring.” “The drought is obviously caused by lack of rainfall, but the deforestation hurts our ability to adapt to unfavorable climate.”

Yunnan, the hardest-hit province, is home to China’s last swatch of rain forest and many of its glaciers, which gives it an unusually fragile ecosystem. The largest lake in the province, Dian Chi, which used to supply drinking water to the provincial capital, Kunming, is now so polluted that the water cannot even be used for agriculture.

An unusually long dry season — which has stretched from September to the present — is at least part of the problem, but the underlying reasons are less clear. Some Chinese scientists believe that abnormally cold, wet weather in the north of the country is also linked to the drought in the southwest.

“The Earth is reacting to climate change,” said Kuang Yaoqiu, a professor with the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, who predicted the drought last year. “China’s mainstream meteorologists haven’t accepted these theories. It will take time.”

In Chinese government circles, many people still subscribe to Mao Tse-tung’s famous dictum that ‘’man should conquer nature,” but that’s proving difficult to accomplish.

‘’Man should conquer nature,”…good luck with that Mao!  Nature Bats Last…I’d rather spend my time learning to be a wise steward, and figuring out how to make sustainable real!



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