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Arctic Ice and Southwest Drought

I’ve written several posts here at Hugg on the unprecedented melting of the Arctic ice this year.

Sun and cactus in a drought-ravaged southwestWhile computer models have predicted a complete melting of the ice by mid-century, the reality shows an acceleration of diminishing ice much faster than what these models have predicted. For the first time in history, the once-fabled Northwest Passage is no longer a fable, but a reality that came to pass this summer with the retreating ice. Some scientists say the Arctic could be entirely ice-free in summer in as little as one or two decades.

Some scientists are predicting the diminishing ice in the Arctic (including “permanent” ice not normally subject to seasonal melt) will alter weather patterns and increase drought in the American Southwest (California, Arizona, and Nevada). The science backing up this hypothesis is still unclear, but the conditions on the ground tend to bear it out. Los Angeles has just had its driest year on record, the wildfire season has been starting earlier with more virulent fires every year, Lake Powell and Lake Mead are shrinking, The Colorado River is being sucked dry; now at it’s lowest level in more than a century.

Scientists are not able to confirm the connection between Arctic ice melt and drought. But Climate models predict that less ice in the north means increased drought in the south. One problem with the models is their time frame. Things are happening faster than predicted.

It may be another decade or so before this connection can be scientifically confirmed, but we’re facing a serious drought in California right now, and it is likely that we won’t be able to alter what is apparently underway in any case. We need to think about our water supply right now.

The lessons here are numerous: the interrelationship of ecosystems in world climate, the idea of a “tipping point” after which unanticipated consequences happen at an accelerated pace, population centers built in arid climates where water must be transported in or rivers run dry, etc.

The one I’d like to stress here is water conservation. Whether we live in a region of drought, like I do here in California, or not, fresh water is a diminishing resource with ever-increasing demands made upon the supply available.

There are so many ways each of us can use less water, I think mostly through clear-headed common sense. But there are some ways to save water that might not be that apparent. The GreenOptions blog gives their three top water conservations tips. You might be surprised at tip number three – here’s a hint: less trips to the Burger King.


Sources and Further Reading:
The Daily Green



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