Friday, October 19, 2007

Slow Burn

As of yesterday, the Washington area had gone 34 days without any measurable rain at its official recording station at National Airport. That sets a new record, having beaten the old total of 33 days set in 1995 (the accompanying link is a little fuzzy on this point, but the record was tied on Wednesday and the new one set yesterday). While rain is forecast for today, it is not expected to put a dent in the drought. As a result, a number of local jurisdictions have recently instituted water restrictions.

Still the situation here is not yet as desperate as in the southeast. There, a major drought--the worst in 113 years--has left Atlanta's major source of water seriously depleted. Lake Lanier, which supplies 70% of the city's water, is in danger of drying up as early as January. Should that happen, it will fall to FEMA to begin trucking in emergency supplies of water. And given the agency's track record in New Orleans, that means that any survivors still alive will receive the first truckloads of precious water sometime next fall.

The dry weather is not confined to the eastern U.S. Much of the west has been in drought for several years now, increasing the risk forest fires. But that problem is not confined to us; you may recall that Greece was dealing its own rash of wildfires this past August.

Yet while many areas remain in the grip of drought, other regions have suffered through too much rain. Also back in August, parts of the midwest went through days of heavy rain, causing flooding. England, too, had similar problems over the summer as well. Add to that this list the record setting heatwaves that gripped much of Europe.

So is all this caused by global warming? Well, there are those skeptics who would argue that there's always bad weather somewhere, that we've always had floods, droughts, and heatwaves. This is true, but at what point do we realize that there's a lot more of this sort of thing taking place? There are a number of scientists who say that extreme weather events will become more common. That means more severe heatwaves, prolonged droughts, and intense rainstorms.

If you smell smoke in the kitchen, you may have just burned the meatloaf. But if smoke alarms start going off in every room of the house, then you may have a more serious problem.

0 thoughtful ramblings: