Sunday 28 June 2015

Global drought

Too often we see stories that are restricted to one area. Some of the big stories like drought in California and Brazil;wildfires in Alaska and Siberia; heatwaves in the Indian sub-continent are well documented.

Other areas are practically forgotten – such as the Middle East and Africa and countries like Sri Lanka

I have endeavoured to find stories from all the continents to illustrate that global warming is exactly what it says it is – global

Perhaps the only place less-effected by drought at present is continental Europe.

All the stories are from 2015 or (where indicated) 2014.

It's Not Just California, It's Worldwide
Drought: Death by a Thousands Cuts


10 April, 2015

Drought is like death by a thousand cuts. It steadily but slowly devastates the countryside long before people recognize an emergency at hand.

Excessive drought is but one symptom that climate change has turned vicious.
Worldwide drought conditions are more severe and much quicker to arise than in the past. Inasmuch as fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal emit evermore carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere with concomitant increasing levels of global warming, the outlook for escalating drought is clear and imminent.

According to scientific studies to better understand the matrix of global-warming-induced drought conditions: “Historical records of precipitation, stream flow and drought indices all show increased aridity since 1950 over many land areas… which suggest severe and widespread droughts in the next 30–90 years over many land areas resulting from either decreased precipitation and/or increased evaporation,” Aiguo Dai, Increasing Drought Under Global Warming in Observations and Models, Nature Climate Change 3, 52-58, doi:10.1038/inclimate1633, August 5, 2012.

However, when consideration is given to worldwide droughts as of today, the operative question should really be whether more “severe and widespread droughts” can be sustained.

There has been a general temperature increase (0.5−2C) during the last past 150 years, and climate change models predict a marked increase during the 21st century. It is expected that this will have dramatic consequences for drought conditions, with an increase in water demand due to evapotranspiration,” Sergio M. Vicentep-Serrano, et al, A Multi-Scalar Drought Index Sensitive to Global Warming: SPEI, Instituto Pirenaico de Ecologia, Spanish Commission of Science and Technology.

Droughts are not new phenomena. Droughts are part of nature’s course. Be that as it may, nowadays droughts are no longer just part of nature’s course. 

According to scientific studies, anthropogenic global warming is at the root of the problem, exacerbating drought conditions on a worldwide basis.

In fact, droughts have become a serious problem across the four corners of the planet.


Global warming is hitting California hard.

California’s drought is the result of a particularly steadfast blocking ridge over the Pacific, popularly known as the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, or ‘Triple R’, which prevents rain from reaching California. Blocking ridges consist of high atmospheric pressure zones that disrupt wind patterns, substantially altering atmospheric flow; as a result, regular Pacific storms are re-routed to the north.

A Stanford research team led by Noah Diffenbaugh, Ph.D. Senior Fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, issued a comprehensive study investigating the link between global warming and California’s drought published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, September 29, 2014.

According to Bala Rajaratnam, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Statistics and of Earth System Science, who collaborated on the study: “We’ve demonstrated with high statistical confidence that the large-scale atmospheric conditions, similar to those associated with the Triple R, are far more likely to occur now than in the climate before we emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases.”

The Stanford study points the finger at global warming as a significant cause of California’s severe drought condition.

Ironically, California is the 4th largest oil and gas producer in America, thereby contributing to its own drought by producing CO2-emitting GHG (Greenhouse Gas). As it happens, California “steps on its own foot.”


According to China’s State Forestry Administration, over 27 percent of the country now suffers from desertification, more than 1,000,000 square miles, or about one-third of the continental United States, impacting the lives of more than 400 million people (Source: Luan Dong, At the Desert’s Edge Gives a Glimpse of China’s Massive Desertification Challenge, China Environment Forum//Eye On, June 17, 2013).

Remarkably, China’s drought impacts as many people as live in all of North America.

Scientists claim global warming is changing China’s climate. Studies have found the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, not the Pacific Decadal Oscillation as previously thought, dominating its influence on China’s drought conditions. According to scientists, this oscillation shift, which is causing severe drought, is the result of global warming. (Source: Nadya Anscombe, Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation Dominates Chinese Droughts, Environmental Research Web- News, March 12, 2015).

Chinese “farmers and water-hungry industries have been wrestling with a long-term water crisis that has dried up more than half the country’s 50,000 significant rivers and left hundreds of cities facing what the government classifies as a ‘serious scarcity’ of water,” Drought Worsens China’s Long-Term Water Crisis, Science/Environment, NBC News, Sept. 24, 2014.

Twenty-five thousand “significant rivers drying up” and hundreds of cities experiencing “serious scarcity of water” is beyond belief, unimaginable but real.
As it happens, burning fossil fuel has dramatically affected China’s climate at the expense of water supplies for agriculture and for industry, meanwhile desertification steadily consumes the northern countryside as the drought threatens to overwhelm important areas of agriculture.

Over time, where will China turn for food staples for a population as large as the EU, North America and South America combined?


Global warming’s impact on India’s drought threatens the food supply for countless millions of people. Imagine this: A county of over one billion people with 25% of the land turned to desert. India is such a country.

Worsening droughts in India are having an impact on the desertification trend, as vegetation dries up and is often never replaced… India’s environment minister, Prakash Javadekar, said that up to 25% of the country was now desert,” Kenneth Rapoza, Worsening Droughts Add To India’s Desertification Problem, Forbes, June 18, 2014.

India’s drought in the “context of global warming” is explained, as follows: “In this study, changes in total dry days, prolonged dry spells, light precipitation, and risk of drought as indicated by Modified Palmer Index (MPI) over India during six decades (1951–2010) are examined quantitatively in the context of global warming. It is found that there are increases of 49% ± 21% and 33% ± 17% in prolonged dry spells and total dry days, respectively, over India for each degree Kelvin (K) increase in global mean temperature,” Anoop Mishra, et al, Changes in Precipitation Pattern and Risk of Drought Over India in the Context of Global Warming, Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 119, 7833-7841, doe: 10:1002/2014JDO21471, July 2, 2014.


In Taiwan drought conditions have forced a cut off of water supplies for two days each week in northern regions. Global warming is the problem.

Water supplies are now rationed for two days per week for an indefinite period of time. Rainfall across the island is the lowest since 1947. The vast Shihmen main reservoir is at only 24.5% of capacity. The dry spell is forecast to continue, and it is entirely possible the monsoon rains may not happen this year. Similar to China, Taiwanese climate is changing as a result of global warming.

The number of rain days has decreased significantly in Taiwan over the past 100, 50, and 30 years with the rate of decrease accelerating per decade as extreme dry spells have occurred more frequently in the past 30 years than in any other measured period. Furthermore, monsoons, a regular feature of Taiwanese weather systems, weaken from global warming (Source: Hsu, Huang-Hsiung, et al Climate Change in Taiwan, Scientific Report 2011, National Science Council, Taipei, Taiwan).

As water rationing spreads in Taiwan, up to three million people will be without water on given days (Source: Cindy Sui, Tackling Taiwan’s Water Shortages, BBC News, April 8, 2015).

The World’s Climate System is Changing because of Fossil Fuel CO2 Emissions
This pattern of intense rain and snowstorms and periods of drought is becoming the new normal in our everyday weather as levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere continue to rise,” Union of Concerned Scientists.

As the climate system changes in accordance to more CO2 we realize that by polluting our atmosphere we literally pull the carpet out from under our own feet,” Climate Change Impacts: Floods and Droughts, WWF Global.


Because the use of fossil fuel ultimately serves to aggravate as well as cause drought, simple logic says eliminating fossil fuel is one answer to the problem.
According to a thorough study of worldwide divestment movements, “The movement to divest from fossil fuels and invest in clean alternatives has gained remarkable speed. It was born in 2011 on just half a dozen college campuses where the students called on their administrations to divest endowments from coal and other fossil fuels. Today, a diverse group of students, philanthropies, and grassroots and environmental organizations from around the globe are driving the movement,” Arabella Advisors, founded by Eric Kessler in 2005 to provide strategic guidance for effective philanthropy.

Already, divestment commitments have shown remarkable growth in only four years represented by more than one-half billion people, or 7% of world population.

Recently, The Guardian, one of the world’s most influential news organizations joined’s divestment movement as a partner in the “Keep it in the Ground” campaign. Within 24 hours, over 75,000 people joined the effort.

Significantly, Stuart Scott, IESCO, Deputy Director General and member of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, is working on a key strategic agreement in Norway where it is hoped the entire country will commit to divestment.
Divest Norway” signature endorsements by individuals from around the world actively build support for the
Severe Drought Haunts the Planet on all Continents.

The chances of a 35-year or longer “megadrought” striking the Southwest and central Great Plains by 2100 are above 80 percent if the world stays on its current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions, scientists from NASA, Columbia University, and Cornell University report in a study,” Science Advances, February 2015.

Australia’s “Big Dry” sucked up $4.5 billion in federal government drought assistance from 1995 to 2012. Spain just experienced the worst drought since record keeping began 150 years ago, losing 54% of 2014 crops. Brazil’s drought is the worst in 80 years. Sao Paulo is rationing water for 22 million people. Istanbul’s (pop. 14 million) water reservoirs are at 22% of capacity. The list goes on, and on.

All across the planet drought continues with a relentlessness that chills to the bone. People are aware, and thus, divestment movements are the leading edge towards influencing governments to take corrective action by embracing renewable energy to replace fossil fuel subsidies. Something must be done!

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at

North and South America

Five Western Washington counties are in a "severe drought," according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, putting boths sides of the Cascades on course to become federal disaster areas.

The drought worsened Thursday in Washington, with 18 eastern counties declared federal disaster areas and the drought officially becoming more widespread and severe on the westside.

Saskatchewan will no longer be able avoid the consequences of scarce rainfall as it enters a week of hot weather.

Any bead of perspiration on your brow will be sucked up by the atmosphere. I mean this air is so bone dry,” said David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada.

Saskatoon is going through the driest March-to-June stretch on record, which Phillips said counts as a drought. Total precipitation in the city through that time has been 40 millimetres — about a third of the normal total of 134. The previous driest stretch — records date back to 1892 — was 61.9 mm in 1937.

Alaska is nearing the peak of its all-important tourist season, when the land of the "midnight sun" beckons cruise ship passengers and hiking enthusiasts with its mountains and abundant wildlife. Yet instead of sunny skies lasting late into the night, like June usually brings, the air over much of the state has been filled with eye-burning smoke, with more than 300 individual fires burning as of Thursday.

More than 428,000 acres have gone up in smoke so far this season, according to a report from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, which is an area larger than the city of Los Angeles.

After four years of low rainfall Brazil's commercial capital, Sao Paulo, is suffering from a grim combination of high temperatures and water shortages, writes Leila Carvalho. And now the drought has given rise to a lethal plague of dengue fever....

Citizens of one of the most densely populated areas in South America - the Sao Paulo metropolitan area (SPMA) in southeastern Brazil - are struggling with one of the nastiest water crises in decades.

With over 20 million people and the main financial and economic center of Brazil, this region is under the influence of the South American monsoon system and receives the largest fraction of its precipitation during the Austral summer, from October to March.

India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka

A killer heat wave left almost 2,000 people dead in India ahead of the annual monsoon season, but that kind of extreme heat isn't expected during the season which just got underway.

As the monsoon advances northward, there will be some relief, but there is still the threat for more extreme heat in central and northern India over the next week or two until the monsoon arrives, AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls said.

 In the arid Tharparkar region, locals pull water from deep in the ground and use camels and donkeys to transport the heavy jugs. Credit: Irfan Ahmed/IPS

Children are bearing the brunt of the drought in Tharparkar, often the first to fall victim to diarrhoea and pneumonia brought on by malnutrition

The Disaster Management Centre says that 1,150,728 persons have been affected by the drought in six provinces in the country.

People of drought hit areas, including Polonnaruwa and Medirigirya, are facing economic hardships as they have been made to purchase bottled water.

Europe and Russia

  • The grain belt in Russia and eastern Ukraine is suffering through drought and now below-normal cold.
  • Experts on Russian agriculture are now forecasting a substantial drop in winter wheat production in the 2015-16 crop year.
  • The drought is spreading in the region, which is supportive of higher wheat prices, already at 5-month highs.

June, 2014

Excessive dryness continues to be a concern for crops in the Volga Valley region of Russia and western parts of Kazakhstan, fuelling concerns that the wheat crop there could fall short of expectations.

Asia and China

Asia Summer Forecast: India Drought May Impact Over One Billion People; Active Typhoon Season Expected

30 May, 2015

A very active typhoon season, combined with drought in much of India, could have a significant impact on lives and property for more than a billion people in Asia during the summer of 2015.

According to Senior Meteorologist Jason Nicholls, "A phenomenon known as El Niño is forecast to strengthen over the summer."
El Niño is a warm phase of the fluctuation of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean and usually leads to an above-average number of typhoons and super typhoons.

How strong El Niño becomes along with other anticipated factors will determine the severity of impacts on the weather across southern and eastern Asia.

Significant Typhoon Threat to Target Eastern Asia Islands

According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Anthony Sagliani, "In addition to El Niño, we have warmer-than-average waters extending well north and west of the tropics in the Pacific, which will create lower atmospheric pressure and a favorable environment for tropical system formation."

There is no way to predict accurately the timing, strength and location of individual tropical systems months in advance. AccuWeather will provide updates on where individual storms may form farther along into the season and the forecast track after they have developed.

"In addition to the higher-than-average number of typhoons expected, we also anticipate more long-tracking typhoons, which will have a greater chance of being strong and impacting multiple land areas along their path," Sagliani said.
Some of the typhoons will turn east of the Philippines and Japan. However, because of the large amount of systems expected, a number of them could bring significant impact to the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan and perhaps mainland China.

A significant impact would be landfall or the remnants of a tropical system causing major flooding, damage and potential loss of life.

Drought to Grow in India as Monsoon Shuts Down

As the Pacific Basin churns out typhoons this summer and autumn, conditions over the Indian Ocean Basin will likely displace and disrupt the monsoon.
"El Niño conditions tend to lead to below-normal rainfall across much of India during the monsoon," Nicholls said.

An Indian farmer pushes his bicycle past a parched paddy field in Ranbir Singh Pura, about 34 km (21 miles) from Jammu, India, Tuesday, July 15, 2014. Delayed monsoon rains in 2014 raised fears of drought in some regions with India's meteorological department reporting an acute deficit in rainfall in many areas. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

According to a report by the European Commission, India has the second-largest plowable land area in the globe, after the United States and is one of the world's leading producers of paddy rice, wheat and sugar can.

"While there will be some rainfall on the region, the pattern could evolve into significant drought and negatively impact agriculture from central India to much of Pakistan," Nicholls said.

A key to how severe and long-lasting the drought may be in India may be water temperatures in the western part of the Indian Ocean.

"If water temperatures in the western part of the Indian Ocean warm more quickly than anticipated, then rainfall will be enhanced across India, thus alleviating drought fears," Nicholls said.

Limited rainfall is also anticipated in Indonesia.

Warmth to Grip Much of Asia

Much of the balance of Asia is forecast to experience near- to above-average temperatures this summer.

In addition to India and Pakistan being drier than average, a large area of dry conditions may develop from near the Black Sea and around Turkey to the Caspian Sea and into western Kazakhstan.

Near-average rainfall is forecast from Iraq to Iran and Afghanistan to west-central China and Mongolia.

Areas that are likely to be wetter than average include Japan, the northern Philippines and the Yangtze Valley of China.

"The Yangtze Valley is typically an active area for warm season showers and thunderstorms, but this summer will tend to be more active than usual due in part to El Niño," Nicholls said.

Locations that are likely to experience rounds of wet weather include Manchuria, as well as northeastern, southern and northwestern portions of China.


Chinese farmers have lost an estimated $1.2 billion due to drought


China's solution to the water shortage in the north is to take water from the south. In December, the central section was completed, and water started flowing to Beijing from Danjiangkou. The project is a controversial one that’s been debated for half a century, and has taken over a decade to build. The government believes it’s the best and only choice

The current dry spell sweeping across Afghanistan’s northern, northeastern and western provinces could lead to a large-scale food crisis and the humanitarian community should act quickly to ensure this does not degenerate into a disaster, government and aid officials warn.

"The issue is very serious. Every other year drought or other natural disaster puts millions of people into food insecurity," Abdul Majeed Qarar, spokesman for the Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Ministry, said.

As dry season begins drought expected in at least 30 provinces with water stored in reservoirs at lowest in 15 years. Affected farmers hired to work on state projects

A little more than three years after a flood of seemingly biblical proportions cut a destructive swathe through its agricultural and manufacturing industries the Thailand agricultural sector is again under threat, this time from drought.

Since late last year farmers in the north of the country have been warning (and been warned) of water shortages, up to six months earlier than normal, with one village headman at the time saying rivers were running dry. Rivers had not run dry for more than a decade. (See: Thai Economy Loses $12 billion in 2014 – What’s Ahead for 2015? (Updated))

As dry season begins drought expected in at least 30 provinces with water stored in reservoirs at lowest in 15 years. Affected farmers hired to work on state projects

Middle East

Climate change, with less rainfall each year, is blamed, but so too is human error and government mismanagement.

Iran's reservoirs are only 40 percent full according to official figures, and nine cities including the capital Tehran are threatened with water restrictions after dry winters.

The situation is more critical in Sistan-Baluchistan, the most dangerous area in Iran, where a Sunni minority is centred in towns and villages that border Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But make no mistake: The city is dry. Its underground water supplies are depleted, and officials have long warned that, one day, the trees will dry up and water might need to be rationed.

Outside Tehran the situation is much worse, and some experts predict that the south will become uninhabitable if the drought persists.

While Israelis water their lawns and swim in Olympic-sized pools, Palestinians a few kilometers away are literally dying of thirst.

Research provides first deep look at how global warming may already influence armed conflict


About thirty thousand people living on Kiribati's southern islands are having to carry water some distance for household use

The government says it will intervene if the current drought continues. Fruit trees including taro and coconuts are the worst affected. Coconuts for copra production is the only source of revenue for the outer islands. Director of Kiribati Meteorological Service Moreti Tibriano helped develop the government's strategic drought plans

Tonga working on drought response

A working group has been established in Tonga to respond to the current drought conditions.

18 May 2015

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The director of Meterology in Tonga, Ofa Faanunu, says Tonga is coming into its dry season, but has already been experiencing drought conditions for eight months.

He says some of the smaller islands, which depend entirely on rainfall, had to have water shipped out to them last year.

Mr Faanunu says the national emergency management committee met last week to discuss the conditions, and a working group was set up.

"We've recorded the driest April in our records here in Tongatapu. With the forecast as it is, we are taking precautions and trying to come up with measures and trying to mitigate the effects of this drought, if it will continue."

Ofa Faanunu says they expect drier than normal conditions during El Nino periods, and they will be preparing for the long term when when the working group meets this week

26 September 2014

Reports from Fiji say the country is rapidly approaching a state of drought, with no substantial rainfall since the 17th of May.

The director of the Fiji Meteorological Service, Alipate Waqaicelua, says there is no indication that rain will arrive soon.

He says hydro-electric power plants estimate another month before water levels reach critical levels and the government is already making supplementary diesel generators available.

A meeting today is expected to decide whether to declare a drought.

The Fiji Water Authority CEO, Opetaia Ravai, says the situation is under control and there are no official water restrictions in place yet.

But he says two of the three main water sources supplying Suva are below the critical level, and many in western residential areas need supplementary truck deliveries of water.

He says some rural villages and outer islands have also requested water deliveries and this is being barged to them by the Government.

Mr Ravia says the MET Service has reported the dry spell will continue until January next year.

Drought worsens in Queensland s central-west

Total area drought declared is 80.35% of state, eclipsing the previous record of 79.01% in March 2014 – during the same drought

Farmers in north Canterbury are facing a two to three year recovery as a result of the ongoing drought.

Concern about the financial implications of the drought is growing, because many farmers have had to sell capital stock, while others are worried about the winter feed situation


Reports from one of the most-effected, and most- forgotten parts of the world

Global weather system that plays havoc with weather across the world could exacerbate region’s dry spell and devastate Sahel as it did in 1972

A global weather phenomenon could cause a famine in the Sahel this year by combining with already dry conditions to create a “double whammy” for the region, scientists and aid groups have warned.

The impact is looking particularly serious for Zimbabwe, where the economy has been struggling for years.

The amount of water available is said to have dropped below 30% and the numbers could fall lower

The KwaZulu-Natal government on Thursday said drought conditions had reached a critical stage.

Dam water levels, which are said to be the lowest in 13 years, started to decline in October 2013 when the province received minimal rainfall for two seasons.

The WFP says severe drought is affecting the 'maize belt' of South Africa.

Southern Africa faces possible food shortages over the next few months due to a severe drought in the 'maize belt' of South Africa, where a lack of rain had caused crop failure rates of over 50 percent, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Monday

White and yellow corn in South Africa, the continent’s biggest producer of the grains, surged after the Crop Estimates Committee said this year’s drought-hit harvest would be the smallest since 2007.

In sub-Saharan Africa, drought spreads disease, including the still-rampant HIV virus. The phenomenon is more sociological than ecological: Slim harvests slash farmers’ incomes, forcing them to find new ways to earn money. Some turn to sex, according to a new study in The Economic Journal

Acting permanent secretary in Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development Halakangwa Mbulai on Friday said President Ian Khama has declared that the whole country is drought stricken.She said following the Drought and Household Food Security Outlook conducted from 23rd March to 10th April 2015, findings of the assessment indicate that there was a significant decline in the rainfall distribution.

Mbulai said the decline in rainfall distribution was coupled with scorching heat wave resulting in low hectarage ploughed/planted.

While researchers are working to stem diseases that attack the cacao trees, which produce the beans used to make chocolate, another problem is looming in a potential worldwide chocolate shortage: drought.

Meanwhile, the demand for chocolate is growing worldwide. Farmers are producing less cocoa than the world eats, creating a deficit, according to Bloomberg.

The chocolate deficit is expected to grow to 1 million metric tons by 2020 and to 2 million metric tons a year by 2030, Bloomberg reported.

Last but certainly not least....

Mega-Drought 2015: Worst In 1000 Years?

NASA scientists used tree rings to understand past droughts. While current droughts are set to last longer today,and for the future, than in the past 1000 years.

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