Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Climate Tuesday--Fire and Water
Wildfires are raging in the west, with one in Alaska currently about the size of the entire city of Chicago. That isn't necessarily out of line for a wildfire in that area, but it is coming early, as conditions make it dry and warm enough to spark a conflagration sooner--and if that dry and warm pattern endures for a little longer it will make future wildfires for the season likely. What we know is that wildfires are liable to increase under climate change, as some areas become drier and more drought-prone, but the sad kicker to that is that wildfires themselves contribute to the conditions that spur climate change. Some areas are going to be drier because they will lack the snow pack that once lent much needed-moisture to the otherwise combustible terrain. In any event, we've a situation where fires will happen--and forest management in terms of controlled burns comes with risks.
But another problem we are facing, long-term, is water. I very recently chided "where does one think the water will go?" regarding the very real acceleration of rising waters with the illogical-sounding addendum--it goes everywhere. Which sounds wrong, except it technically is true. See, among the problems of water rise in coastal areas is going to be inundation of habited cities which have sewage treatment, and homes made with modern materials, and maybe water treatment centers and oil/coal/nuclear energy processing as well. These will get their share of water. Salt water will enter freshwater aquifers. No small amount of moisture will wend its way into the atmosphere as water vapor and descend as hard rain. And then as we have witnessed with floods last year in Colorado and Nevada, not even elevation nor relative dryness will spare communities, however far inland from a Superstorm Sandy experience. While previously coastal cities become toxic underwater ghost towns (and the population of those areas goes--where?)and we lose the beaches we once had--for good, many communities may find themselves dealing with temporary, but very destructive, major flooding, landslides due to heavy rains, and sink holes.
Opinions regarding what to do about it all differ: some communities want to forge ahead with plans to adapt to a changing planet, others seem to be deep in denial. The Pentagon is ready to make changes to deal with a more volatile future, the US House is not ready to let them. Even though it may well be time to view climate change as a weapon of mass destruction.