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Global Warming Winners And Losers
By Ernest Stewart

Scientists have been warning about global warming for decades. It's too late to stop it now, but we can lessen its severity and impacts. ~~~ David Suzuki

The climate deniers still don't get it. Global warming may mean more snow in the winter; but not for everyone. For example, while the East Coast gets buried in snow, the West Coast gets a drought. That's the trouble with global warming; there are winners and there are losers!

A new study just out in Nature Climate Change looks at the long-term changes to snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains. This region is very important because these mountains act as a water storage system for California, where rain doesn't fall during much of the year. You may recall that Los Angeles is built in a desert?

They estimate the "Snow Water Equivalent," which is a measure of the amount of water stored as snow. While they noted that this spring it was only 5% of its historical average, what they really wanted to know is, how often does it get this low? They noted other low-snow years such as 1934 and 1977. Was this episode like those? Is it just a natural fluctuation?

The authors found this current episode was unsurpassed in the record, and exceeded the 95% confidence interval for a 500 year period. The authors combined instrumental measurements (back to about 1930) with measurements from tree-growth records. The tree records allowed them to obtain information back to 1500. The current drought exceeded their entire 500-year record!

The record decrease in snowpack coincided with very warm temperatures in California, which has been shown to be a primary cause of the current drought, of which the lead author Soumaya Belmecheri said:
"The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains plays a critical role in water resource management. It serves as a natural water storage system. In our study, we put the 2015 snowpack low in a longer-term context and demonstrate that it was unprecedented over the last 500 years. We estimated the return interval for the 2015 record low and found it be beyond 1000 years (95% interval) at low elevations in the Sierra Nevada, where temperature plays an important role in the snowpack variability.

With ongoing human-caused warming, this kind of hot drought is likely to occur and the return interval (frequency) of the snowpack low in 2015 might become shorter.

We are all anxiously awaiting this El Nino to bring rainfall relief to the Western USA. With hope, much of it will fall as snow so that it can melt throughout the year and provide a more consistent water source. If it falls as rain and in large events, the risk of mudslides and flooding will rise and the continuous availability of water will not occur. We are keeping our fingers crossed."
So far, all they've gotten out of El Nino is one single large event followed by mudslides and floods, which did nothing to stem the drought. At least the fires are out; of course, they've gotten to the point where there isn't a lot left to burn; so, if they get more downpours, a lot of the top soil will just slide off the hillsides and into the valleys and dry river beds!

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, especially in South Carolina, they've already gotten their normal yearly rainfall amount -- in spades. Some win, some lose; but in reality, we all lose!


12-1953 ~ 03-2016
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(c) 2015 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for 13 years was the managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter.

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Issues & Alibis Vol 15 # 42 (c) 10/16/2015