As of mid-June, nearly three-quarters of the US’s West has been experiencing “severe,” “extreme,” or “exceptional” drought conditions. In addition to the states above, it also includes northern states like North Dakota and Montana.
Overall, climate change is playing a role. But there are smaller factors at play that are tied to climate change as well. Including…
Not enough rain. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) said the Southwest’s 2020 monsoon season (read: ‘nonsoon’) was “the hottest and driest summer/monsoon season on record.” And the decrease in rainfall is having an impact on today’s drought (think: not enough water for crops, lakes, or reservoirs). And for the little rain that has fallen, it could dry up faster because of…
Warmer temps. The NOAA dubbed 2020 the second-hottest year on record. And in late June, a record-breaking heat wave hit the Pacific Northwest, with the temperature reaching up to 112 degrees Fahrenheit in places like Portland, OR. (Psst…if you’re dealing with hot weather, here are some tips to stay safe.) Hotter, drier weather creates a thirsty environment, which speeds up evaporation. Rising temps are also causing snowpacks to melt faster, and they’re reportedly producing less runoff – a vital water resource. All of which means there’s less water available for communities and ecosystems.
Experts are also worried that the current dry and hot conditions will have a ripple effect, which brings us to wildfires. Last year’s West Coast wildfire season was the worst ever. Fires in California killed 31 people, burned more than 4 million acres, and destroyed thousands of buildings and structures. And this year, states like Arizona have seen an early start to their wildfire season. But the effects of the drought stretch even further.
There is gold on Indonesia’s Sangihe island, and a Canadian-listed mining company has a permit to exploit it. Environmentalists say the gold mine threatens the island’s ancient forests, which are home to endemic birds. Locals fear it will affect their water supply. The BBC visited the remote island to see what’s at stake.
Italy’s Carrara marble quarries are a source of controversy, pitting nature against economic gain. Environmentalists warn of overexploitation, while others defend the jobs these Tuscan quarries provide.
Franco Barratini quarries marble blocks that sell for €4,000 per ton. The amount of marble that was once quarried in a month can now be extracted in just three days, and environmentalists are alarmed at the consequences. Marble dust leaks into groundwater, turns rivers milky-white and hangs in the air. The effects of this are still not completely clear.
Sandro Manfredi is fighting what he sees as severe overexploitation in the marble quarries of Tuscany’s Apuan Alps. In 2018, he filed a complaint against an illegal marble quarry, and afterwards was nearly killed when someone tampered with his car. Carrara has experienced four floods in the last nine years. Environmentalists blame marble quarrying, which has increased dramatically thanks to rapidly evolving extraction techniques, upsetting the region’s hydrogeological balance.
Watering the Country’s Food Basket Is Becoming a Challenge
Droughts are part of a natural cycle of water. But the drought currently gripping the Western U.S. has climate scientists concerned that the cycle may be shifting. This has major implications for those who rely on the water the most: farmers and the communities they surround. Photo Illustration: Carter McCall/WSJ
Each year, California and the Southwest break new records for droughts and high temperatures, leading to heat waves, wildfires, and even flooding. Learn how these catastrophes operate together—and how engineers are working on new technologies to help us survive.
The western US is in the middle of one of the worst droughts in at least the past 1,200 years. And as soon as this week, Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the country, could reach its lowest point since it was first created in the 1930s.
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Energy usage by large, old buildings like the Empire State Building represents a huge obstacle to cities’ dreams of carbon neutrality. New York City’s buildings account for 70% of its carbon emissions, for example, and half of those emissions are produced by the largest 5% of its structures. But retrofitting old buildings to make them more energy efficient represents a formidable challenge, both from an engineering perspective and in terms of convincing owners that doing so is in their financial interest.
With global temperatures rising the threat of a climate crisis has never been closer. From carbon capture to driverless cars, these cutting-edge technologies have the promise to help us fight the impending climate crisis.
In Kenya’s Rift Valley, climate change has brought an unprecedented increase in annual rainfall over the past several years, drowning pastureland, farms, homes, schools, churches, clinics and businesses.
The Great Rift Valley is part of an intra-continental ridge system that runs through Kenya from north to south. It is part of the Gregory Rift, the eastern branch of the East African Rift, which starts in Tanzania to the south and continues northward into Ethiopia. It was formed on the “Kenyan Dome” a geographical upwelling created by the interactions of three major tectonics: the Arabian, Nubian, and Somalian plates. In the past, it was seen as part of a “Great Rift Valley” that ran from Madagascar to Syria. Most of the valley falls within the former Rift Valley Province.