Friday, October 13, 2006

Water At Risk For Millions Due To Melting Glaciers

Water At Risk For Millions Due To Melting Glaciers

Water for millions at risk as glaciers melt away ·
Crisis threatens parts of South America and Asia·
Decline accelerates as global warming takes hold

David Adam, environment correspondent
Wednesday October 11, 2006 The Guardian

The world's glaciers and ice caps are now in terminal decline because of global warming, scientists have discovered. A survey has revealed that the rate of melting across the world has sharply accelerated in recent years, placing even previously stable glaciers in jeopardy. The loss of glaciers in South America and Asia will threaten the water supplies of millions of people within a few decades, the experts warn.

Georg Kaser, a glaciologist at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, who led the research, said: "The glaciers are going to melt and melt until they are all gone. There are not any glaciers getting bigger any more."

Loss of land-based ice is one of the clearest signals of global temperature rise, and the state of glaciers has become a key argument in the debate over climate change. Last year, New Scientist magazine published a letter from the television botanist David Bellamy, a renowned climate sceptic, which claimed that 555 of 625 glaciers measured by the World Glacier Monitoring Service have been growing since 1980. His claim was quickly discredited, but the perception that glaciers are both growing and shrinking remains.

Dr Kaser said that "99.99% of all glaciers" were now shrinking. Increased winter snowfall meant that a few, most notably in New Zealand and Norway, got bigger during the 1990s, he said, but a succession of very warm summers since then had reversed the trend. His team combined different sets of measurements which used stakes and holes drilled into the ice to record the change in mass of more than 300 glaciers since the 1940s. They extrapolated these results to cover thousands of smaller and remote glaciers not directly surveyed.

The results revealed that the world's glaciers and ice caps - defined as all land-based ice except the mighty Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets - began to shrink far more quickly in 2001. On average, the world's glaciers and ice caps lost enough water between 1961 and 1990 to raise global sea levels by 0.35-0.4 mm each year. For 2001-2004, the figure rose to 0.8-1mm each year.

Writing in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the scientists say: "Late 20th century glacier wastage is essentially a response to post-1970 global warming." Dr Kaser said: "There is very, very strong evidence that this is down to human-caused changes in the atmosphere."
Emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide trap heat in the atmosphere, warming the surface. One of the first impacts of glacier melting is likely to be in South America. In August, a report from 20 UK-based environment and development groups warned that Andean glaciers are melting so fast that some are expected to disappear within 15-25 years.

This would deny major cities water supplies and put populations and food supplies at risk in Colombia, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina and Bolivia.

Other countries are noticing the effects. Studies show snow and ice cover in the eastern Himalayas has shrunk by about 30% since the 1970s. Melting glaciers have created lakes in the mountains which could burst and cause widespread flooding. Of 150 glaciers that once stood in Glacier National Park in the northern US, only 27 remain. The US Environmental Protection Agency says the biggest are a third the size they were in 1850. Continued warming could melt them completely by 2030.
Once again, the Chacaltaya Glacier in Bolivia:

Collapse of the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina
And this was over two years ago with melting continuing.

And from NASA:
South American Glaciers Melting Faster

Glaciers Melting At Their Fastest Rate For 5000 Years

Retreating Glaciers Of Patagonia

View from the top ...
Two images of the Upsala glacier in Argentina show the retreat of the ice (top: 1928; bottom: 2004).
Photograph: Greenpeace/Reuters

Water scarcity is simply not just the process of fixing leaky pipes. Although infrastructure is absolutely one of the top concerns and priorities regarding this global crisis, it has been proven that human behavior regarding the burning of fossil fuels is also contributing to the water crisis in our world. Weather patterns particularly regarding rainfall also show in some cases not just a shift in patterns, but a complete reversal, and snows are not coming where they are needed to reverse this melting process.

The effects of these glaciers melting completely will then be past crisis stage if the people who depend on the freshwater provided from them and a rain/snowfall they cannot depend on are left with nothing to use for farming and other needs. Higher elevation farming will only lead to soil erosion and deforestation which in turn will then lead to flooding of crops, and effect the very way of life for thousands of people who without water to survive would then have no choice but to migrate elsewhere.

WE MUST FACE THIS NOW or we will suffer the consequences even more than we already are now, and it will be the poor of this world who will suffer more than any other group.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hotter Planet Brings Chilling Outlook For Water In California

Hotter Planet Brings Chilling Outlook For Water In California

Earlier than usual Sierra snowmelt, along with expected greater rainfall, threatens to hamper the ability of reservoirs such as Hetch Hetchy to manage the runoff and keep valley flooding at bay.
A Look A Global Warming
Sunday's Water Works Stories
Monday's Water Works Stories

Last Updated: October 10, 2006, 07:26:03 AM PDT

Assuming the experts are correct, the day will come when there won't be enough water to go around in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, let alone the state. While no one can predict exactly when that day will arrive, a growing number of scientists and researchers insist it's an unstoppable force -- carrying with it any number of potentially devastating consequences.

A complex web of factors, including climate change, explosive growth and galloping urbanization, will reduce -- dramatically in some years -- the supply of clean surface and underground water. That could put the valley's ag-based economy in harm's way.

"We have droughts and floods," said Dennis Gudgel, Stanislaus County's ag commissioner. "It's always been that way. It's the availability of water that's more of a concern for farmers. It's a very serious issue." Experts say the competition for water will grow ever keener as the century pushes ahead. As for droughts and floods, the experts say they will become more frequent and harsh as temperatures rise.

Precipitation patterns also will change, but Michael Hanemann, director of the California Climate Change Center at the University of California at Berkeley, said that likely will prove to be far less significant than increasing temperatures.
Is this worth continuing to waste water filling your large swimming pools, and not giving a care for the ecosystems affected by your own waste and apathy? This isn't just a problem a world away, for those who think they can dismiss it and continue to waste water.

Improving Access To Water In Drylands

Desertification is environmental degradation caused primarily by human activity. Overgrazing, slash and burn techniques, deforestation, over population, climate change, and in varied instances drought that is prolonged leads to desertification. And in the case of the Aral Sea, the diverting of water resources:

Improving Access To Water In Drylands

UN Conference On Desertification

Policy Briefs

Once the fourth largest lake in the world, this is what human activity did to her.
The Aral Sea

And 2006 is the: International Year Of Deserts And Desertification

We can reverse this. We must reverse this. That is the hope.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Drought In The American West

The Darker the color, the more severe the drought

Western Warming Warning

Climate change will worsen droughts, wildfires and die-offs in the region, a report says.

By Robert Lee Hotz, Times Staff Writer
October 6, 2006

Rising temperatures in the 11 Western states due to global warming will cause more prolonged droughts, more widespread wildfires, and extensive die-offs in regional plant, fish and game habitats, according to a report Thursday from the National Wildlife Federation.

"The American West is truly on the front line," said Patty Glick, the federation's global warming specialist. "The latest science is painting a bleak picture."

To address climate change, the organization urged national limits on the greenhouse gases responsible for rising temperatures, such as carbon dioxide and methane. California recently adopted such limits.

The national appetite for energy, fed by carbon-rich coal, oil and natural gas, imposes a double penalty on the ecological well-being of the West, said the group, which has 1 million members. The search for more fossil fuels — drilling permits on public lands have tripled in six years — disrupts fragile habitats even as increasing carbon dioxide alters the regional climate in ways that will make it impossible for many species to survive.

The federation report, called "Fueling the Fire," brings a regional focus to climate research findings from federal agencies, academia and science journals.

The researchers cited growing evidence that rising regional temperatures had already caused warmer winters, earlier springs and less snow — increasing the likelihood of winter flooding and of diminished summer water supplies.

All told, the winter snowpack, which is the source of 75% of the West's water, has declined by up to a third in the northern Rocky Mountain region and more than 50% in parts of the Cascades since 1950, the federation reported.

Indeed, the West is in the middle of a prolonged drought that may be the worst since record-keeping began more than a century ago — the direct consequence of altered weather patterns caused by warmer temperatures in the Pacific and Indian oceans, other research groups have reported.

As the Western landscape becomes more desiccated, wildfires become more common, more widespread and harder to control, experts said.

This past wildfire season was the most severe on record, said ecologist Steven W. Running at the University of Montana College of Forestry and Conservation.

More than 9.6 million acres burned over the summer — twice the seasonal average — and at $1.5 billion, the expense to fight them was the greatest ever.

"The warming trend we are under is clearly accelerating and expanding the wildfire activity," Running said.

"There is no reason we can see that it will reverse anytime soon."

North American Drought Worst in 500 Years

How Drought Is Changing The American West

And if they run out of water, where will they get it?

Another World Water Day Gone

We see another World Water Day pass us by. The theme, Water For All, signifies that though some progress has been made we are woefully behin...