Yep, that's the National Mall today! Fall-blooming blossoms going strong in the warmth. https://t.co/VTxrTLH8En pic.twitter.com/OdHVZJCbrX— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) December 9, 2015
We are enjoying a particularly mild December here in the East Coast. Just yesterday my dad had to mow his lawn. Fall-blooming cherry blossoms are still going strong in DC. Buffalo, NY just had its first little bit of snow, the latest snow has started there since 1899. We're not alone. All of the lower 48 states have had higher-than-normal temps, and daffodils have bloomed in the UK. It's weird, but it's sort of a pleasant-weird for many of us. Looks like I'll be in shorts for Christmas Eve instead of dashing through the snow. I can deal with that.
But as you've probably guessed, I know this pattern is largely to do with current weather conditions, and isn't necessarily "proof" of global warming. (Although the last five years having all been records pretty much is.) And, as you've also probably guessed, I'm just starting on a pleasant note before launching into my weekly warnings and portents.
In a Iran, a seven-year drought has badly depleted groundwater supplies and threatens their famous pistachio trees. (There is no quick end in sight to the water troubles in the Middle East.) The water that is now being drawn to the surface is contaminated with salt. This is no good for trees or people. In Vietnam, salt water has trickled to the immature rice crop. This usually does not happen until spring. They, too, are pumping salt water. Salinity in freshwater supplies can occur both from drought (dryland salinity) and from sea-level rise. Both will be major issues during this century.
But some water fouling isn't climate-change related at all--just man-made short-sightedness and venal stupidity. The lead poisoning of the children of Flint, MI, though, is an example of the kinds of choices some municipalities will be making with respects to water supplies in areas where previous supplies are dried up or toxic. Replacing lead pipes in the infrastructure sounds like a solid investment as does looking for other ways to get the lead out.
Regarding creeping salinization, some communities are looking to desalinization plants. This sounds like a great choice for the Middle East--but there are always caveats. So, while we enjoy our cherry blossoms and daffodils and pistachios for now, we need to look ahead at how we will continue to have the freshwater needed globally to sustain plant life, and our lives.