Climate Photo of the Week
"The corn is as high as an elephant's eye" ... not this year, as drought takes its toll.
More then three quarters of the lower 48 states remains in a state of abnormally dry to very extreme drought past the middle of September, continuing to mark 2012 as comparable to some of the worst droughts in the past century. The year is on track to be the hottest ever recorded since 1888 in the United States. The areas of extreme and exceptional drought -- the worst two dry conditions in the US Drought Monitor -- cover more than 20 percent of the nation, despite rains from Hurricane Isaac and other storms. Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and parts of the Rockies remain brutally dry, and one result is a 13 percent reduction in US corn crop.
Powerful droughts have raged across North America for centuries, and the current drought is not as severe as some of those. But scientists studying the previous drought of 2000-2004 found it was the most severe in 800 years, surpassing the Dust Bowl days. Based on a research paper in the journal Nature-Geoscience, they write: "Planetary warming, in turn, is expected to create drier conditions across western North America, because of the way global-wind and atmospheric-pressure patterns shift in response. Indeed, scientists see signs of the relationship between warming and drought in western North America by analyzing trends over the last 100 years. ...The current drought plaguing the country is worryingly consistent with these expectations." Other scientists are actively investigating the link between global warming and drought. Also see our previous post, which reports on a study linking the severity of last year's Texas drought to climate change.
This month, World View of Global Warming witnessed drought effects across Iowa, NW Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas. During late summer when corn should be high and dark green, heavy with the large uniform ears of corn for which the region is famous, we saw instead vast landscapes colored brown, yellow and light green. Farmers complained of lack of any rain after May, or too little rain and too late for the corn kernels to develop well, not to mention record heat. The quality of the crop varied so much even within single fields that farmers couldn't guess what the yield would be. "We'll be lucky to break even," said a farmer in Adair, Iowa. The Department of Agriculture Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin reported that even though four percent more corn acreage was planted this year, total production will be 13 percent lower and the average yield will be the lowest since 1995. Please see more text and photo-story.
Arctic Ocean sea ice reaches lowest extent in satellite records, a Texas-sized loss of ice with vast implications for climate.
The floating ice which covers the Arctic Ocean, a major indicator of global temperatures and crucial factor in the world's weather and climate, has melted to its lowest extent since satellite measurements began in 1979. On August 26 it broke the previous low record set on September 18, 2007, continued to lose ice and reached its lowest extent this week. The area of sea ice broke the old record low by about 760,000 square kilometers (293,000 square miles), said the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). "This difference is larger than the size of the state of Texas." Sea ice on September 16 covered less than one quarter of the Arctic Ocean, compared to summer low cover of about half the ocean in the late 70s and early 80s when yearly satellite measurements began.
This comes as confirmation of scientific projections of the imminent loss of Arctic Ocean sea ice in summer months due to climate warming. The effects of a far more open Arctic ocean are already well documented, including warmer sea temperatures, less reflectance of solar heat from the ice, changes to Arctic ocean and land ecosystems including severe threats to polar bears, walrus and seabirds, alterations in weather and storm systems in the Northern Hemisphere, increased thawing of permafrost with more releases of CO2 and methane, and serious problems of health, subsistence and living for natives of the North.
In August, World View of Global Warming was in Barrow AK, the most northerly town in the U.S., and saw wind and currents pull the last of the sea ice away from shore and beyond sight to the north over the Arctic Ocean. Photos and reports on villages, forests, glaciers and updates on science in the rapidly changing Arctic are now available, and more will be posted soon.
Water, Land, Farming and Climate Change in the Himalaya
Sangita Gahle cooks on her biogas stove in the smoothed clay common room of her home, making chai for us while we enjoy talking about families and her joy in cooking with gas on her farm in Pairebensi, near Betrawati, Nepal. The simple technology is part of a worldwide drive to cut back on emissions of black carbon -- smoke and fumes from burning wood and fuels -- because of their ill effects on human health and large contribution to global warming. We are beginning a new series of photo-stories from our journey to Nepal and India earlier this year, beginning with stories about water, landslides, and cookstoves. Our travel in the Himalayas is thanks to generous funding from the Karuna Foundation - US to report on how climate change is affecting the lives of mountain people in Nepal, India and Bhutan.
Announcing a new engaging visualization of climate change in an App for the iPad and the iPhone -- Painting With Time: Climate Change. Available now at your Apple App Store. Created by Red Hill Studios and World View of Global Warming.
Locations documented by Gary Braasch in World View of Global Warming, 1999-2012
This project would be impossible without scientists and observers around the world who have provided hundreds of scientific contacts and papers. See Background, Advisors, and Reference for documentation, funders and major advisors, without whom I could not complete the work.
World View of Global Warming is a project of the Blue Earth Alliance, Seattle Washington, a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. The project is supported entirely by donations, grants, and license fees for the photographs. Please see information about how to contribute.
For other information about Gary Braasch's climate change projects and books, please see the books Earth Under Fire and How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate, and the exhibit "Climate Change in Our World" at the Books and Exhibits link on the left menu here.
Photography and text Copyright© 2005 - 2014 (and before) Gary Braasch All rights reserved. Use of photographs in any manner without permission is prohibited by US copyright law. Photography is available for license to publications and other uses. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. View more of Gary Braasch's photography here.