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News Severe drought and wildfires in the western US

  1. Aug 16, 2015 #1

    Astronuc

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    Early last year, I started a thread about the severe drought in the Western US.
    https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/western-us-in-severe-drought.736184/

    This year has been worse, and to compound the problems, we now have wildfires.
    http://news.yahoo.com/western-wildfires-wind-heat-dry-land-fueling-large-163106757.html#[/URL]

    The brush and trees are so dry, that brushfires climb into the forest canopies in areas where the brushfires usually just burn the brush. I've seen at least one brushfire up close, but otherwise, we just get smoke in the air from fires that that are 100 to 150 miles away.

    In our area, trees are stressed from the drought, and a recent wind/dust storm broke branches from trees and sent them flying across the area.


    In contrast, some are predicting more precipitation in the Pacific NW.

    Super cold, slew of snow in Old Farmer's Almanac forecast
    [PLAIN]http://news.yahoo.com/super-cold-slew-snow-old-farmers-almanac-forecast-155616699.html[/URL]
    [QUOTE]The Old Farmer's Almanac predicts it will be super cold with a slew of snow for much of the country, even in places that don't usually see too much of it, like the Pacific Northwest.

    Otherwise, look for above-normal snow and below-normal temperatures for much of New England; icy conditions in parts of the South; and frigid weather in the Midwest. The snowiest periods in the Pacific Northwest will be in mid-December, early to mid-January and mid- to late February, the almanac predicts.[/QUOTE] We really need the precipitation, and snow in the mountains. This past winter we have about 30-50% of normal snow in the mountains.

    Apparently California will not get much of a reprieve from their drought - or maybe they will.

    Developing El Niño could be strongest on record
    [URL='http://www.nature.com/news/developing-el-ni%C3%B1o-could-be-strongest-on-record-1.18184']http://www.nature.com/news/developing-el-niño-could-be-strongest-on-record-1.18184[/URL]
    [QUOTE]
    [SIZE=4][B]Could this end the drought in California?[/B][/SIZE]
    El Niño could offer some relief to the US state, which is now in [URL='http://www.nature.com/news/how-california-can-survive-the-drought-1.17265'][U]the fourth year[/U][/URL] of [URL='http://www.nature.com/news/native-ecosystems-blitzed-by-drought-1.15707'][U]a historic drought[/U][/URL]. Forecasters say that there is a good chance that southern California will receive more rainfall than usual throughout the winter. In the past, very strong El Niños have also soaked the central and northern parts of the state.

    Still, “one season of above-normal rain and snow is very unlikely to erase four years of drought”, says Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. According to a study published last month in the [I]Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmosphere[/I]s[URL='http://www.nature.com/news/developing-el-ni%C3%B1o-could-be-strongest-on-record-1.18184#b1'][U]1[/U][/URL], California's rain shortfall since the start of the current drought is roughly equal to the amount of rain the state would receive in a normal year.
    [/QUOTE]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 16, 2015 #2
    This would just be a temporary relief though right?
     
  4. Aug 16, 2015 #3
    Where do you live, Astronuc? I live in Tacoma, Washington and it's been the driest summer I can remember. I bought a lawn mower from Sears last year and got the extended 3 year warranty because I thought I'd be doing a lot of mowing this summer. Didn't happen. I think I used it once or twice during the spring but then my lawn turned into a yellow bed of straw. My immediate neighbor's of course, have a nice lush lawn, pretty enough to take out you golf bag and golf on. But guess why this is? It's becuase they are renters and utilities are probably included with the rent. So they got that sprinkler running all day and night.

    I, on the other hand, do not have free utilities, I own my house. Plus, we are in a drought and the Pierce county controller just issued a request that the citizens cut their water consumption:

    https://www.co.pierce.wa.us/index.aspx?NID=4242

    I am tempted to call out my neighbors on this, but the counterside is that they have to put up with my environmentally conscious yellow lawn, so I'm going to hold my mud for now.
     
  5. Aug 16, 2015 #4

    Astronuc

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    Yes, it would be more or less temporary, since it probably would not address the longer term water usage for irrigation and municipal usage. I believe California is a year behind. What is needed is several years of snows to get the water stored in the mountains over winter so that the summer periods have sufficient water supply.

    On the drier side east of the Cascades, but aside a larger river.
     
  6. Aug 16, 2015 #5

    SteamKing

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  7. Aug 16, 2015 #6

    Astronuc

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    I suspect that would be the case should predictions of the strongest El Niño on record prove true and if the precipitation would be heavier than normal.

    From fires to floods.

    Hopefully, the precipitation will be in the form of snow in the mountains - Sierra and Cascades, and Rockies - during the winter, and not so much as rain.
     
  8. Aug 17, 2015 #7

    mheslep

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    Why is new precipitation necessarily temporary relief?
     
  9. Aug 17, 2015 #8

    SteamKing

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    I think because of the severity and length of the current drought, the water levels in reservoirs have dropped to such a low level, it will take several years of above average precipitation to fully replenish them. The water problems in Cali and in much of the West are not going to disappear overnight, I'm afraid.
     
  10. Aug 17, 2015 #9

    SteamKing

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    This article in the LA Times points to how Cali has slipped into a "Never Let a Crisis Go To Waste" mode of thinking:

    http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-next-drought-20150816-story.html

    Currently, state and local officials believe that with a little belt tightening (never on the financial side, of course) and a few key projects targeted for certain areas, Cali can support 50 million residents in the mid-21st Century about as well as it can support the current population of fewer than 40 million.

    But when utility infrastructure, especially power generation, is currently operating at or beyond design capacity, how do you prevent it from aging and wearing out prematurely? What happens when a large power station can't squeeze out those few extra kilowatts and must be replaced from the ground up?

    It must look funny when someone from back east visits Cali now, seeing all these officials walking around with their fingers crossed behind their backs.

    (And, all this assumes that Cali will not be struck by any other natural disasters in the meantime, which unfortunately, Bay Area residents were reminded might be a tad optimistic, when they woke up to a Mag. 4.0 tremor this morning.)
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2015
  11. Aug 17, 2015 #10

    mheslep

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    It may be time to rethink water management in California, where for some time in any contest between new water infrastructure and opposition the default victor was opposition. See cancellation of capacity improvement to the Shasta Dam. See cancellation of construction of the Peripheral Canal, the large Ah Pah and Dos Rios reservoirs, and the smaller Los Banos and Temperance Flat dams.

    The current drought is severe with respect to recent history, but over the longer sweep of time such is to be expected in California. Apparently the average precipitation in the 20th century was one of the highest in many centuries. Time to (re)-adapt.
    20140127_031535_ssjm0126megadry90_500.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2015
  12. Aug 17, 2015 #11

    Astronuc

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    Attached Files:

  13. Aug 18, 2015 #12

    SteamKing

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  14. Aug 18, 2015 #13

    Astronuc

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    I used to fly to S. Cal several times a year for more than a decade, and it always amazed me to see hundreds of miles of irrigation canals stretch across the desert areas to patchworks of irrigated areas surrounded by desert. I've seen similar practices in other western states, who are now experiencing difficulties of insufficient water supply.
     
  15. Aug 19, 2015 #14

    Astronuc

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    I was listening to the radio this afternoon and heard that residents of two towns, Wintrop and Twisp in Washington State, were ordered to evacuate. Folks were told to go south. Folks from Winthrop were told not to drive to Twisp, because of the traffic. Well, there is little south of Winthrop except Twisp. Maybe the Winthrop folks are supposed to go west on US 20, and Twisp folks are supposed to go south. Both towns are north of the Chelan fire complex.

    http://nwpr.org/post/three-firefighters-killed-battling-wildfire-twisp

    Three firefighters killed in Washington state wildfire
    http://news.yahoo.com/sheriff-3-firefighters-killed-washington-state-wildfire-005836275.html [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  16. Aug 20, 2015 #15

    OCR

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    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
  17. Aug 22, 2015 #16

    Astronuc

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    A consequence of the drought is the increased use of ground water that is not being replenished by precipitation. Some areas are experiencing significant subsidence.

    California Sinking Faster Than Thought, Aquifers Could Permanently Shrink
    http://news.yahoo.com/california-si...ifers-could-permanently-shrink-140333912.html

     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2015
  18. Aug 23, 2015 #17

    OCR

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    Lol... actually, it was the Dunn Mountain Fire...... :redface:

    Oh, and another picture, our transport and dozer, plus other equipment, at the Skibstad Fire ... just waiting for a little storm to blow over.

    Dozer at Sklbstad.JPG

    Carry on... :oldsmile:
     
  19. Aug 25, 2015 #18

    Astronuc

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    Tonight, there were some raindrops for about 1 minute, if that. The cloud-to-cloud lightning was pretty cool. We really need rain. I can't see the hills for the smoke.

    Forecast - Scattered showers and thunderstorms, mainly before 2am. Partly cloudy, with a low around 62. Southwest wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%.

    .ELEVATED THUNDERSTORMS HAVE DEVELOPED ACROSS THE REGION OVER THE NEXT
    FEW HOURS. FREQUENT LIGHTNING...MAINLY ALONG THE CORES OF
    THUNDERSTORMS HAS OCCURRED AND IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE THROUGH THE
    OVERNIGHT PERIOD. NOT MUCH RAIN HAS BEEN REPORTED WITH THESE
    STORMS. FREQUENT LIGHTING COULD SPARK MULTIPLE FIRES IN A SHORT
    TIME.


    ...RED FLAG WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL 7 AM PDT TUESDAY FOR ABUNDANT
    LIGHTNING FOR FIRE WEATHER ZONES ...


    Record wildfire in Washington gets international, local help
    http://news.yahoo.com/im-alive-people-survey-damage-washington-fire-072854050.html [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  20. Aug 25, 2015 #19

    Astronuc

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    Dry thundershowers in the forecast. Maybe some rain on the weekend - I hope.
     
  21. Aug 27, 2015 #20

    Astronuc

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    http://news.yahoo.com/smoke-grounds-aircraft-battling-washington-wildfires-083016239.html [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
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