SciSun: Hanging out to Dry   Leave a comment

Throughout much of the United States, the past few years have been dry – very, very dry, with minimal rain, and snowfall much different than what’s expected or hoped for. But in recent studies, some scientists are saying that the dry periods we’re experiencing might actually be a return to the normal weather pattern, while the relatively lush weather we have all enjoyed for decades might be the exception, not the norm. And considering the lifestyle of much of mankind is based upon there always being enough clean, easily accessible water for all our needs, a dryer future could mean drastic changes for everyone.

Paleoclimatologists – scientists who research weather from thousands of years ago (because early man didn’t have the weather channel), are discovering the area that’s now the United States – particularly the western part of the United States – has historically been much dryer than anytime in recorded human history. By studying tree rings (the cross sections of trees) and soil conditions, there’s more indication of dry periods than times of abundant rain and snowfall; and even more troubling, evidence has been uncovered of ancient droughts lasting from 30 to somewhere between 100 and 200 years. Due to increasing temperatures, drier climate, more frequent wildfires and decreased rain and snowfall, most researchers agree this is the 13th year of drought in the West; but some scientists are already calling it a ‘megadrought‘, the beginning of low moisture not seen in the past 1000 years.

Oh, but what about the Ice Age, you say? When much of the world was covered in ice and snow, and sparkling crystals formed majestic ice palaces, and according to the movies Mammoths and odd little squirrels went on happy adventures together? And they never complained about drought. Ironically, a land covered in ice is actually a dry environment. For water to benefit most plants and animals, it has to be in the form of liquid or gas (fog), and when everything’s covered with ice, a frozen environment is little different than a desert. In fact, Antarctica is considered one of the most arid lands on Earth.

There have been many dry periods in man’s history, some as recent as the 1930’s and 1950’s. What’s most concerning today is what appears to be a permanent change in weather patterns and atmospheric conditions never seen and at an unprecedented scale. As the temperature warms, fires and insect damage reduce the amount of forest, resulting in less vegetation and a more arid landscape. Loss of sea ice, extended summer warm seasons in the Arctic and increased sea evaporation could be tipping points that will effect entire ecosystems.

Massive forest fires can destroy all plant life, leaving nothing but bare ground.

Massive forest fires can destroy all plant life, leaving nothing but bare ground.

None of this means the end of life as we know it (that would take a radioactive giant alien sea monster zombie attack); what it does point out is the need for each of us to make wise decisions and live so we don’t take more than we give. By eating food grown closer to our homes we can reduce carbon from transporting things long distances; using only landscape plants that are native to our regions will reduce water and make more homes for wildlife; and even reducing the amount of water we use when we take a bath or wash a car can make a difference. Don’t be a Drip – make every drop count.


Michonne Says: In the hot times when the sun is high in the sky, marmots sleep in our burrows. But when we wake up we’re very hungry and thirsty. If there wasn’t enough water to drink, I don’t know what we’d do. That’s too scary to think about. I need to get a drink right now so I’ll have enough.

Posted March 30, 2014 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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