drought
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By Bill McKibbenTrump Watch  10:58AM EST
Bill McKibben: How to Save the Planet From Trump

We're going to be dealing with an onslaught of daily emergencies during the Donald Trump years. Already it's begun—if there's nothing going on (or in some cases when there is), our leader often begins the day with a tweet to stir the pot and suddenly we're debating whether burning the flag should lose you your citizenship.

These crises will get worse once he has power—from day to day we'll have to try and protect vulnerable immigrants or deal with the latest outrage from the white supremacist "alt-reich" or confront the latest self-dealing scandal in the upper reaches of the Tower. It will be a game (though not a fun one), for 48 months, of trying to preserve as many people and as much of the Constitution as possible.

Apollo 17's Blue Marble.NASA

And if we're very lucky, at the end of those four years, we might be able to go back to something that resembles normal life. Much damage will have been done in the meantime, but perhaps not irreparable damage. Obamacare will be gone, but something like it—maybe even something better—will be resurrectable. The suffering in the meantime will be real, but it won't make the problem harder to solve, assuming reason someday returns. That's, I guess, the good news: that someday normal life may resume.

But even that slight good news doesn't apply to the question of climate change. It's very likely that by the time Trump is done we'll have missed whatever opening still remains for slowing down the trajectory of global warming—we'll have crossed thresholds from which there's no return. In this case, the damage he's promising will be permanent, for two reasons.

The first is the most obvious: The adversary here is ultimately physics, which plays by its own rules. As we continue to heat the planet, we see that planet changing in ways that turn into feedback loops. If you make it hot enough to melt Arctic ice (and so far we've lost about half of our supply) then one of the side effects is removing a nice white mirror from the top of the planet. Instead of that mirror reflecting 80 percent of the sun's rays out to space, you've now got blue water that absorbs most of the incoming rays of the sun, amping up the heat. Oh, and as that water warms, the methane frozen in its depths eventually begins to melt—and methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Even if, someday, we get a president back in power who's willing to try and turn down the coal, gas and oil burning, there will be nothing we can do about that melting methane. Some things are forever, or at least for geologic time.

There's another reason too, however, and that's that the international political mechanisms Trump wants to smash can't easily be assembled again, even with lots of future good will. It took immense diplomatic efforts to reach the Paris climate accords—25 years of negotiating with endless setbacks. The agreement itself is a jury-rigged kludge, but at least it provides a mechanism for action. It depends on each country voluntarily doing its part, though, and if the biggest historic source of the planet's carbon decides not to play, it's easy to guess that an awful lot of other leaders will decide that they'd just as soon give in to their fossil fuel interests too.

So Trump is preparing to make a massive bet: a bet that the scientific consensus about climate change is wrong, and that the other 191 nations of the world are wrong as well. It's a bet based on literally nothing—when The New York Times asked him about global warming, he started mumbling about a physicist uncle of his who died in 1985. The job—and it may not be a possible job—is for the rest of us to figure out how to make the inevitable loss of this bet as painless as possible.

It demands fierce resistance to his silliness—clearly his people are going to kill Obama's Clean Power Plan, but perhaps they can be shamed into simply ignoring but not formally abrogating the Paris accords. This is work not just for activists, but for the elites that Trump actually listens to. Here's where we need what's left of the establishment to be weighing in: Fortune 500 executives, Wall Streeters—anyone who knows how stupid a bet this is.

But we also need to be working hard on other levels. The fossil fuel industry is celebrating Trump's election, and rightly so—but we can continue to make their lives at least a little difficult, through campaigns like fossil fuel divestment and through fighting every pipeline and every coal port. The federal battles will obviously be harder, and we may lose even victories like Keystone. But there are many levers of power, and the ones closer to home are often easier to pull.

We also have to work at state and local levels to support what we want. The last election, terrible as it was, showed that renewable energy is popular even in red states—Florida utilities lost their bid to sideline solar energy, for instance. The hope is that we can keep the buildout of sun and wind, which is beginning to acquire real momentum, on track; if so, costs will keep falling to the point where simple economics may overrule even Trumpish ideology.

And of course we have to keep communicating, all the time, about the crisis—using the constant stream of signals from the natural world to help people understand the folly of our stance. As I write this, the Smoky Mountain town of Gatlinburg is on fire, with big hotels turned to ash at the end of a devastating drought. Mother Nature will provide us an endless string of teachable moments, and some of them will break through—it's worth remembering that the Bush administration fell from favor as much because of Katrina as Iraq.

None of these efforts will prevent massive, and perhaps fatal, damage to the effort to constrain climate change. It's quite possible, as many scientists said the day after the election, that we've lost our best chance. But we don't know precisely how the physics will play out, and every ton of carbon we keep out of the atmosphere will help.

And amidst this long ongoing emergency, as I said at the beginning, we've got to help with all the daily crises. This winter may find climate activists spending as much time trying to block deportations as pipelines; we may have to live in a hot world, but we don't have to live in a jackbooted one, and the more community we can preserve, the more resilient our communities will be. It's hard not to despair—but then, it wasn't all that easy to be realistically hopeful about our climate even before Trump. This has always been a battle against great odds. They're just steeper now.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Moyers & Company.

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By Lorraine ChowClimate  09:32AM EST
Unprecedented 'Super Fires' Devastate Smoky Mountains, Death Toll Climbs to 11

Wildfires have devastated eastern Tennessee. The blaze has claimed 11 lives, forced about 14,000 people to evacuate and destroyed hundreds of buildings in Sevier County.

The wildfires started Sunday from the Great Smoky Mountains and was carried by nearly 90mph winds into the city of Gatlinburg by Monday. Making matters worse, the strong winds also knocked over power lines, sparking even more fires. National Park Service spokeswoman Dana Soehn told CNN that investigators believe the fire started on a mountain trail and was "human caused."

As of Wednesday night, the main fire has only been 10 percent contained, fire commanders told NBC News.

More than 17,000 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains have been scorched, causing untold damage to wildlife and other natural resources.

"The Great Smoky Mountains are one of the most biologically diverse places in the United States, partly due to the geologically ancient nature of the landscape, as well as the wet and humid forests covering their slopes and hollows," Bruce Stein, associate vice president for conservation science and climate adaptation at the National Wildlife Federation, said.

"While fire is a natural phenomenon in Appalachian forests, these extreme, drought-fueled fires are not," Stein continued. "Rather, they are a glimpse into what many southeastern forests and communities will experience as climate change continues to intensify."

Indeed, much of the southeastern U.S. has been inundated by wildfires in recent weeks. Record-breaking drought and unseasonably warm temperatures have fueled the region's devastating wildfires.

As the New York Times pointed out, there's a clear connection between the wildfires and an ever-warming planet:

"The fires spread through Tennessee as much of the South has been enduring a crippling drought, even though rainfall this week offered some relief. The United States Drought Monitor reported last week that 60 percent of Tennessee was in 'exceptional' or 'extreme' drought, the two most severe ratings.

"Wildfires, once a seasonal phenomenon, have become a consistent threat, partly because climate change has resulted in drier winters and warmer springs, which combine to pull moisture off the ground and into the air."

A study in Nature Communications revealed that from 1979 to 2013, wildfire season has lengthened and the global area affected by wildfire has doubled. CNBC also reported that we are entering an era of "super fires" due to climate change causing hotter and drier weather.

"Based on what we know and in which direction the climate is going, yes, we can expect more frequent super fires," Marko Princevac, a fire expert at the University of California at Riverside, told CNBC. "There is scientific consensus that climate change will lead to much more intense fires, more dry areas."

The Tennessee wildfires have crept to Pigeon Forge, the home of singer and actress Dolly Parton's Dollywood. While the theme park was not damaged, Parton released a statement saying that she was heartbroken about the fire damage and had been "praying for all the families affected."

On Sunday, the Sevier County native released a public service announcement with Smokey Bear to promote wildfire preparedness amidst troubling drought conditions.

"This extended drought has resulted in high wildfire danger," Parton said. "As dry as it is, please help fire fighters avoid wildfires."

Update: This piece has been updated to reflect the raising death toll from the Tennessee wildfires, from seven to 11.

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By Climate News NetworkClimate  09:07AM EST
This Country Is Running Out of Water Amid Historic Drought

By Jan Rocha

The government of Bolivia, a landlocked country in the heart of South America, has been forced to declare a state of emergency as it faces its worst drought in at least 25 years.

View of El Alto from Chacaltaya ski resort, which closed in 2009 due to the disappearance of the glacier on its slopes. The shrinking glaciers and snow-line that provide up to 28% of water for El Alto pose serious challenges to this city of more than one million people.Mari Tortorella

Much of the water supply to La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, and the neighboring El Alto, Bolivia's second largest city, comes from the glaciers in the surrounding Andean mountains.

But the glaciers are now shrinking rapidly, illustrating how climate change is already affecting one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

Glacier and lake near villages in the Apolobamba region of northern Bolivia.Simon Cook/Manchester Metropolitan University

The three main dams that supply La Paz and El Alto are no longer fed by runoff from glaciers and have almost run dry. Water rationing has been introduced in La Paz, and the poor of El Alto—where many are not yet even connected to the mains water supply—have staged protests.

The armed forces are being brought in to distribute water to the cities, emergency wells are being drilled and schools will have to close two weeks ahead of the summer break

President Evo Morales sacked the head of the water company for not warning him earlier of the dangerous situation, but the changes produced by global warming have been evident for some time.

Shrinking Snowline

A recent report by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) says:

"Temperatures in the region have risen by 0.5°C in the period 1976 to 2006, and the people of La Paz and El Alto can observe evidence of climate change in the form of the shrinking snowline in the mountains above them.

"One glacier on Chacaltaya mountain—which rises above El Alto and which once hosted the world's highest ski resort—has already completely disappeared. And the two Tuni-Condoriri glaciers that provide water for El Alto and La Paz lost 39 percent of their area between 1983 and 2006—at a rate of 0.24 sq km per year."

The now-barren slopes at the world's highest ski resort on Chacaltaya mountain in the Bolivian Andes above La Paz.Ville Miettinen via Wikimedia Commons

The SEI said that if the regional and global climate models that predict a two-degree rise in temperatures by 2050 are right, many small glaciers will completely disappear, while others will shrink dramatically. It warns:

"Glaciers are estimated to provide 20-28 percent of water for El Alto and La Paz. Therefore, glacier loss will have a considerable impact, which will be felt particularly during the dry season, when glacial water provides the majority of urban water.

"The glaciers and mountain water systems also support agriculture, power generation and natural ecosystems throughout the region."

The problem is exacerbated in El Alto, a sprawling settlement of over a million people who have migrated from the countryside.

The city's population grew by at least 30 percent between 2001 and 2012, and the city's land area has rapidly expanded by 144 percent in the last decade, spreading into the flat open countryside to the south and west. By 2050, the population is expected to double to two million people.

The SEI believes that one of the causes of this increased influx into the city will be climate change.

It said:

"Evidence from El Alto's history indicates that the fastest periods of population growth coincided with droughts, floods and bad harvests associated with the meteorological phenomena of El Niño and La Niña.

"The years 1985-1987, when migration into El Alto reached heights of 65,000 new immigrants, were also years of poor harvests."

Supply Outstripped

By 2009, demand for water in El Alto had already outstripped supply, and that supply is now increasingly under threat as climate change melts the glaciers.

Bolivia cannot rely on new sources to resolve its water crisis, given both the costs and potential range of climate change impacts. So one of the country's most critical challenges in coming years will be to plan and implement strategies for managing water under uncertain climate conditions.

Conservation and recycling methods, the SEI said, will be needed to build the resilience of Bolivian cities' water systems to climate change.

The cities will also need to find ways of reducing water consumption, especially from industries and commercial enterprises, but also from the profligacy of a small number of rich domestic consumers.

The SEI paper recommends community participation in developing strategies and decision-making on the management of water resources. But, at the moment, the only role for those affected communities is that of protest.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.

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By Lorraine ChowClimate  12:46PM EST
This Photographer Has Amassed the World's Largest Collection of Climate Change Images

For the past 13 years, award-winning environmental photographer Ashley Cooper has traveled across seven continents, amassing the world's largest collection of climate change images.

His work can be viewed on Global Warming Images as well as his new 416-page photo book, Images From a Warming Planet, featuring 500 of his best images. A selection of photos is also on display at the Archive Gallery at the Heaton Cooper Studio in the UK. The exhibition will run until the end of the year.

"[Climate change is] quite simply, the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced," the UK-based artist told EcoWatch. "It has the potential to essentially wipe 80 percent of humans off the planet, and most of the biodiversity we depend on."

"I hope that the book will act as a wake up call to show folks the devastating impacts that climate change is already having at one degree of warming and motivate action so that we stand some chance of avoiding the worst excesses of climate change," he said.

In 2010, Cooper won the prestigious, world-wide Environmental Photographer of the Year award in the climate change category. His website, Global Warming Images, is sponsored by WWF International and he regularly works with the Met Office and United Nations Climate Change Program.

The self-taught photographer has captured climate change's impact on people, places and wildlife around the world, including the Middle East refugee crisis that has been exacerbated by drought, Canada's destructive tar sands in northern Alberta and a polar bear that starved to death due to sea ice melt on the Arctic island of Svalbard.

On a more positive note, Cooper has photographed renewable energy projects such as green buildings and environmental pioneers such as the founder of an ashram in India that's 100 percent powered by renewables.

"You have to remain optimistic otherwise there's no point continuing. This is an issue about which every one of us can do something to make a difference. We all have a carbon footprint; we are all responsible," Cooper said.

Environmentalist Jonathon Porritt, the co-founder of the sustainability nonprofit Forum for the Future, provided a forward for the photo book and describes Cooper's work as a call to action.

"Do not flick through this extraordinary photographic record as just another snapshot in time," he said. "Do not be tempted into any kind of passive voyeurism; do not allow the power of the images to come between you and the people whose changing lives they portray. See it more as a declaration of solidarity, and as the powerful call to action that it surely is."

"These striking and powerful images remind us what's at stake on the one planet we've got—and the duty we all have to try and preserve it!" Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, said.

Cooper, 54, currently resides in Ambleside with his wife Jill and Border Collie, Tag. The photographer graciously provided us with some samples of his work, which we included in the video above, and took the time to answer our questions via email.

What first motivated you to do it?

I first started reading about climate change around the turn of the century. I was already doing a lot of outdoor/environmental photography and I decided to organize a specific climate photo shoot to Alaska in 2004. I spent a month looking at permafrost melt, glacial retreat, forest fires and had a week on Shishmaref, a tiny island between Alaska and Siberia that was home to 600 Inuits. There homes were getting washed into the sea because the sea ice that used to form around their island around late September, even in 2004, wasn't forming till maybe Christmas time.

I saw for the first time something I have seen many times since: That those least responsible for climate change, are most impacted by it. I was blown away by the impacts that even in 2004, was blindingly obvious that the Arctic was changing very rapidly. Important to remember that in 2004, around 50 percent of people I talked to about my planned photo shoot, had never heard of climate change.

What is your photographic background?

I'm completely self taught. My hobby changed into my profession. Initially, I just started using a camera to document the stuff I loved doing in the outdoors, climbing, caving, cycling, walking, etc. About 20 years ago, I started selling images to outdoor magazines and it all went from there.

Any particularly interesting stories from your travels?

I nearly fell down a snow bridged crevasse on the Greenland ice sheet. I was arrested by the Chinese Army, when I unknowingly pointed my long lens at a Chinese army barracks that has a load of solar panels on the roof. I was marched inside and spent two hours being interrogated, and was made to delete all the files on my camera. As soon as I got back to my hotel, I put the card through a recovery package and pulled them all back up again.

In the Canadian tar sands I was told by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that If I so much as took one step off the highway they would arrest me for trespassing and lock me up for three months. I was tailed everywhere by police and security guards.

I was tailed for seven hours around London by four Metropolitan Police officers while documenting the protest against the third Heathrow runway. On my last photo shoot to Bolivia I was on my car hire when I had a head-on collision with an ambulance. I was on a section of road, where for reasons best known to the Bolivians, they decided on this one stretch you should change from driving on the right to the left, except they couldn't be bothered to put up any signs to tell you. After being recovered by the police, I was locked away in a hotel by my hire car company who constantly threatened me with arrest and jail, all while they tried to defraud my credit card of $50,000 USD for a car that even new was only $25,000 and was fully insured. I won't be using Europcar again. They did successfully take £7,000 off my card, which it took me 6 months to get my card company to agree that it was fraud.

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By Lorraine ChowClimate  02:36PM EST
102 Million Trees Have Died in California's Drought

California's six years of drought has left 102 million dead trees across 7.7 million acres of forest in its wake, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) announced following an aerial survey. If that is not horrendous enough, 62 million trees died in the year 2016 alone—an increase of more than 100 percent compared to 2015.

In the photo below, all the dead trees are grey or orange.

Dead and dying trees on forest lands in California, August 2016.USFS Region 5 Flickr

"The scale of die-off in California is unprecedented in our modern history," Randy Moore, a forester for the U.S. Forest Service, told the Los Angeles Times, adding that trees are dying "at a rate much quicker than we thought."

"You look across the hillside on a side of the road, and you see a vast landscape of dead trees," added Adrian Das, a U.S. Geological Survey ecologist whose office is located in Sequoia National Park. "It's pretty startling."

Most of the dead trees are located in 10 counties in the southern and central Sierra Nevada region.

"Five consecutive years of severe drought in California, a dramatic rise in bark beetle infestation and warmer temperatures are leading to these historic levels of tree die-off," the USFS said.

Forest Service experts believe that more trees will die in the coming months and years due to root diseases, bark beetle activity or other stress agents. The agency warned that tree deaths are on the rise in northern regions, especially in Siskiyou, Modoc, Plumas and Lassen counties.

The lack of rain and unseasonably high temperatures has added stress to the trees. These factors have made trees increasingly vulnerable to bark beetles infestations and disease.

Some have raised concerns that the staggering number of dead trees can fuel even bigger and more destructive wildfires in the Golden State.

Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack lamented that not enough resources are being invested into forest health and restoration.

"These dead and dying trees continue to elevate the risk of wildfire, complicate our efforts to respond safely and effectively to fires when they do occur, and pose a host of threats to life and property across California," Vilsack said in a statement.

Not only that, researchers from the University of Washington found that large forest die-offs—from drought, heat, beetle infestations or deforestation—can significantly impact global climate patterns and alter vegetation on the other side of the world. The study was published this month in PLOS ONE.

"When trees die in one place, it can be good or bad for plants elsewhere, because it causes changes in one place that can ricochet to shift climate in another place," said lead author Elizabeth Garcia. "The atmosphere provides the connection."

In October 2015, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared the state's unprecedented tree die-off a state of emergency. He formed a Tree Mortality Task Force to help mobilize additional resources for the safe removal of dead and dying trees.

However, some experts have suggested leaving the dead trees in the forests. Douglas Bevington, the forest program director for Environment Now, wrote that dead trees are vital to forest ecosystems.

"Dead trees can remain standing for decades or more and a standing dead tree—known as a 'snag'—provides great habitat for wildlife. Birds and mammals make their homes in openings carved within snags, while wood-boring insects that feed on snags provide the foundation of the food chain for a larger web of forest life, akin to plankton in the ocean," he wrote.

"From the perspective of the timber industry, a snag in the forest is a waste, so timber companies and the Forest Service have spent decades cutting down snags as quickly as possible," Bevington continued. "As a result, there is now a significant lack of snags in our forests and this shortage is harming woodpeckers, owls and other forest wildlife. For them, the recent pulse of snag creation is good news."

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By Weather UndergroundClimate  09:39AM EST
Record-Breaking Drought and Wildfires Plaque Southeast

By Bob Henson

The atmospheric spigots have been turned off across most of the U.S. over the last several weeks. According to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report from Nov. 10, more than 27 percent of the contiguous U.S. has been enveloped by at least moderate drought (categories D1 through D4). This is the largest percentage value in more than a year, since late October 2015.

The upward trend of the last month is worrisome given the outlook for the coming winter: Drier-than-average conditions are projected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration across the southern half of the contiguous U.S., a frequent outcome during La Niña winters.

Figure 1. U.S. Drought Monitor released on Nov. 10, valid for the week ending Nov. 8. National Drought Mitigation Center

Where's the Western Snow?

It's common for parts of the mountainous U.S. West to take until late autumn or early winter to build up a proper snowpack, but such a delay seldom extends to the entire region. This month, nearly all of the high country of the Western U.S. is running far below the seasonal average for the amount of water held in snowpack. Ski areas are feeling the pain, especially since temperatures have rarely been cold enough this autumn for snowmaking to supplement nature. Several of Colorado's major resorts have already postponed their opening dates, including Keystone, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain.

The paltry snowpack is especially striking in the Pacific Northwest, which just experienced its wettest October on record. Most of that precipitation came in the form of rain, leaving all but the highest mountains snow-free. "Still early in winter but snowpack is terrible," tweeted Brad Udall, senior water and climate scientist at the Colorado Water Institute. Outside the Pacific Northwest, precipitation has been scanty and temperatures have been consistently warmer than average.

Figure 2. The amount of water held in western U.S. snowpack (snow water equivalent) as of Nov. 13, shown as a percentage of average for this date relative to the 1981-2010 median. Values are well below 50 percent over most areas.USDA / NCRS National Water and Climate Center

Figure 3. Temperatures are running well above average over nearly all the U.S. for the first 12 days of November 2016. Shown here are the departures from average (anomalies) in degrees Fahrenheit. NOAA / NWS Climate Prediction Center

East of the mountains, the Plains and Midwest have been especially mild this month (see Figure 3 above). The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has yet to see a temperature below freezing, breaking the city's all-time latest-freeze record of Nov. 7, 1900. La Crosse, Wisconsin and Peoria, Illinois, have also broken their latest-first-freeze records as they wait to dip to 32 F. All three locations should finally get a freeze this weekend in the wake of a potent storm system swinging across the central U.S. The storm will bring high winds and widespread snow to the northern Great Plains and Upper Midwest—perhaps a foot or more in parts of the Dakotas. The Central Plains could see an inch or so of rain, but prospects for rain further to the south and east are looking dim.

Weeks on End Without a Big Southeast Rain

It's been more than a month since parts of the Southeast have seen a drop of measurable rain. Birmingham, Alabama, is on a record dry streak: 56 consecutive days without measurable rain as of Sunday, beating the previous record of 52 days set in 1924.

"Nine minutes of sprinkles Nov. 4 and another bout of sprinkles on Oct. 16 has been the entirety of Birmingham's rainfall so far this fall," observed Jon Erdman in a Weather.com roundup on Sunday. The most widespread rain since Hurricane Matthew in early October fell from eastern Georgia across northern South Carolina and southern North Carolina on Sunday, with widespread 0.5" - 1.0" amounts (Wilmington, North Carolina, picked up 1.77"). However, nearly all of the significant rain fell east of the drought-stricken areas. Assuming no major rainmakers arrive over the next couple of weeks—and none are on the horizon right now—large parts of the Southeast have a shot at their driest autumn on record (September-November).

In a region where rain is usually plentiful and frequent, a drought this prolonged has major consequences. In northwest Georgia, "our dirt is like talcum powder," ranger Denise Croker (Georgia Forestry Commission) told Insurance Journal last week. Smoke from wildfires across the southern and central Appalachians has poured across the Southeast, especially where inversions have kept the smoke confined near the surface, as explained by Marshall Shepherd (University of Georgia) in Forbes.

Figure 4. Streamers of smoke can be seen blowing northwestward from wildfires across the southern and central Appalachians on Nov. 7.NASA Earth Observatory

Figure 5. Enhanced infrared satellite image of Tropical Storm Tina at 1430Z (9:30 a.m. EST) Monday, Nov. 14, just before Tina was downgraded to a tropical depression.NOAA / NESDIS

Tropical Storm Tina Pops Up and Fades Out in the East Pacific

A cluster of showers and thunderstorms gained just enough organization over warm waters (above 30 C) off Mexico's Pacific coast to become Tropical Storm Tina on Sunday night. Tina was the 21st named storm of this year's busy East Pacific hurricane season. Located about 200 miles west of Manzanillo, Mexico, Tina didn't last long as a tropical storm. Christened at 11 p.m. EST Sunday with top sustained winds of just 40 mph, Tina was downgraded to a tropical depression at 10 a.m. EST Monday. High wind shear will continue to degrade Tina's circulation as it decays into a remnant low by Tuesday, remaining well west of the Mexican coast.

Potential Late-Season Tropical Cyclone in the Caribbean

Long-range computer models have suggested for several days that a broad circulation over the far southwest Caribbean east of Nicaragua might evolve into a tropical cyclone over the next week or two. Sea surface temperature remain very warm in the region: around 29 - 30 C, about 1 C above average for this time of year. In its latest Tropical Weather Outlook, issued at 7:00 a.m. EST Monday, the National Hurricane Center gives a near-zero chance of a tropical depression forming in this area by Wednesday morning, but a 60 percent chance by Saturday. Ensemble model runs from 00Z Monday provide support for the idea of very gradual development, with low odds of formation on any particular day but higher collective odds over a multi-day period. About a third of members of the ECMWF ensemble produce a tropical cyclone in the 3-5 day period (Wednesday to Friday night) and about half do so in the 6-10 day period. The GFS is more bullish, with nearly all of its ensemble members developing at least a tropical depression by the coming weekend. Steering currents will be extremely weak for some time, so any tropical cyclone that does develop could pose a threat for heavy rain if it lingers near the east coast of Central America.

Figure 6. Enhanced infrared satellite image of an area of disturbed weather in the southwest Caribbean Sea at 1515Z (10:15 a.m. EST) Monday, Nov. 14.NASA / MSFC Earth Science Office.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Weather Underground.

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By Dan ZukowskiClimate  11:52AM EST
Shocking Photos Show China's Largest Freshwater Lake Is Drying Up Fast

China's Poyang Lake, which was swollen by El Nino rains earlier this year, has dried up dramatically since mid-September as the region's dry season arrived 54 days ahead of schedule.

The freshwater lake, which can grow to 1,737 square miles—big enough to cover an area larger than Rhode Island—sees regular seasonal variations but has started receding earlier each year since 1952. Xinhua, China's official news agency, said that diversions from the Yangtze River, a prolonged dry season and industrial activities are responsible.

This year, the water level in Poyang Lake dropped from 39.4 feet on Sept. 19 to 34.8 feet on Nov. 3, according to Xingzi Hydrological Station, which monitors the lake. Cattle are now grazing on the exposed lakebed. Tourists can walk large portions of the dried-up lake, while a large ship sits stranded on the bottom.

The largest freshwater lake in China, Poyang provides critical habitat for half a million migratory birds each year, including Siberian cranes. Less than 3,000 Siberian cranes remain in the wild and they are considered a critically endangered species.

The highly intelligent finless porpoise also calls the Poyang Lake home. Eight animals were removed from the lake in 2014 to secure habitats as the declining lake posed a threat to their survival. A healthy population also lives in the Yangtze River, under a conservation project led by WWF.

Uncounted numbers of dead fish lie on the dry Poyang lakebed. Local fisherman have seen their catch decrease and the fishing season shortened by two months due to the extended dry season.

In early 2012, the size of the Poyang Lake reached a low of 124 square miles. China Topix surmised that it "might soon share the fate of the Aral Sea." Once the world's fourth-largest salt-water lake, 60 percent of the Aral Sea disintegrated after decades of water diversion began under the Soviet Union.

Learn more here:

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By Climate NexusClimate  10:55AM EST
Last 5 Years Hottest on Record, Human Footprint 'Increasingly Visible'

There is growing evidence that man-made climate change is contributing to individual extreme weather and climate events, according to the latest analysis by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Global five-year average temperature anomalies (relative to 1961–1990) for 2011– 2015. World Meteorological Organization

The report, released at COP22 in Marrakech, finds that greenhouse gas emissions raise the probability of extreme heat events as much as 10 times or more. The report also noted that 2011-2015 was the hottest five-year period on record with 2016 on track to become the hottest year on record.

Among the worst extremes, a 2011-12 drought and famine in the Horn of Africa killed more than 250,000 people and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines killed 7,800 in 2013, the WMO said.

"The Paris agreement aims at limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts towards 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a press release.

"The effects of climate change have been consistently visible on the global scale since the 1980s: rising global temperature, both over land and in the ocean; sea-level rise; and the widespread melting of ice," Taalas said. "It has increased the risks of extreme events such as heatwaves, drought, record rainfall and damaging floods."

For a deeper dive:

AP, Reuters, Politico Pro, Mashable, Huffington Post, BusinessGreen

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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By LakePediaClimate  12:29PM EST
10 Satellite Images Show How California’s Reservoirs Are Drying Up

By Catalin Trif

California is drying up.

The ever increasing demand for freshwater has taken its toll and the state's reservoirs are only at 46.4 percent of their capacity. Now, by using imagery provided by the Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 satellites, we can also see how the reservoirs have changed during the 21st century.

Below are 10 reservoirs that have dwindled considerably since 2001. The "before" picture for each slide is from September or October 2001, while the "after" picture is from the same month in 2016. Move the slider over each image to see the changes.

1. Lake San Antonio

Lake San Antonio is located in Monterey County (used to cross the border to northern San Luis Obispo County) and covers an area of 8.9 square miles (23 square kilometers). The lake is formed by the San Antonio Dam on the San Antonio River. The dam was completed in 1965 and is 202 feet (62 m) tall.

2. Lake Cachuma

Lake Cachuma is located in central Santa Barbara County, on the Santa Ynez River. The reservoir was created by the construction of Bradbury Dam in 1953, which is 201 ft (61 m) high. At full capacity, Lake Cachuma has a surface area of 5 square miles (13 square kilometers), but it hasn't reached that since July 2011.

3. San Luis Reservoir

San Luis Reservoir is the 5th largest reservoir in California, approximately 9 miles (14 km) long and 5 miles (8 km) wide. It is located in Merced County, west of Los Banos on State Route 152. The dam that created the reservoir is called San Luis Dam, was completed in 1967 and is the 4th largest embankment dam in the U.S.

The last time the reservoir came close to reaching full capacity was in April 2011, when San Luis Reservoir was 99.3 percent full.

4. New Melones Lake

New Melones Lake is located in the central Sierra Nevada Foothills on the Stanislaus River and has a surface area of 19.6 square miles (51 square kilometers). The reservoir is formed by the New Melones Dam, which is 625 ft (191 m) high.

The water level in the lake has been in an almost continuous decline since July 2011.

5. Lake Berryessa

Lake Berryessa is located in Napa County and was formed by the Monticello Dam, a 304-foot (93 m) concrete arch dam that was completed in 1957. Lake Berryessa hasn't reached full capacity since April 2006.

6. Trinity Lake

Trinity Lake was formed by Trinity Dam, which was completed in the early 1960s and stands 538 ft (164 m) high. The lake, formed on the Trinity River, is one of the largest reservoirs in California. It came close to reaching full capacity in June 2011, but hasn't reached average historical levels since June 2013.

7. Lake Casitas

Lake Casitas is located in the Los Padres National Forest of Ventura County. It was created by the construction of Casitas Dam on Coyote Creek, 2 miles (3 km) before it joins the Ventura River. The dam was was completed in 1959 and is 334 ft (102 m) high.

The water level in the lake has been in decline since April 2011, when the reservoir was 87.3 percent full.

8. Lake Piru

Like Lake Casitas, Lake Piru is also located in Los Padres National Forest of Ventura County. It was created in 1955 by the construction of the Santa Felicia Dam on Piru Creek. Water level in the lake has been in a steep decline since August 2012.

9. Lake Perris

Lake Perris was completed in 1973 and is located in a mountain-rimmed valley between Moreno Valley and Perris, in what is now the Lake Perris State Recreation Area. The dam that impounds the lake is 128 ft (39 m) high. The lake hasn't reached its average historical level since September 2005.

10. Santa Margarita Lake

Santa Margarita Lake, also called Salinas Reservoir, is located several miles southeast of the town of Santa Margarita in San Luis Obispo County. The lake was created by the construction of Salinas Dam on the southern end of the Salinas River.

The dam was built in 1941, and the lake provides the city of San Luis Obispo with a portion of its drinking water. Water level in the lake has been declining since June 2011.

Reposted with permission from our media associate LakePedia.

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