Wildfires in the plains leave behind drought


A section of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas have been suffering from either near-drought conditions or drought for the past 6 months. Then, with the additon of the March fires that bruned nearly 2,100 square miles in those four states. The fire also burned more than 20,000 livestock and cattle and destroyed $500 million worth of property during that time. The threat of drought is omnipresent in this region, but these recent ones have been so extended that the winter wheat crop is now threatened.

The June forcast is for the drought to persist in a crecent-shaped region from northeastern Colorado, across southwestern Kansas and into central Oklahoma. The drought is also expected worsen the most in the Texas Panhandle. If it continues as it, then the catt;e and livestock will not have any grass to graze in, causing mass losses with the farmers.

Ethiopian’s Facing Massive Hunger Due to the Drought

Overall the number of Ethiopian’s needing food aid has surged to more than 2 million from 5.6 million solely because of the drought. Previously the United Nations fought to get $900 million in aid for the horn of Africa to help them especially due to lack of food and water. In many of the areas of agriculture in Ethiopia the crops are failing during each harvest season. The reason the crops are failing is a lack of water and is becoming is severe problem now being looked into by the head of National Disaster Risk Management Commission. The number of people in need of water and food has now risen to 7.7 million people, requiring 432,000 tonnes of food solely until the end of the year. Ethiopia’s economy is on the rise currently but its economy still relies heavily on agriculture and if so many crops are failing what is to happen to the people that rely on their crops for money? The agriculture industry in Ethiopia employs over three quarters of the population so if these drought continue, it could really change the country as a whole.

After reading the article I was curious to know the causes of the drought. Does it have to do with global warming or is this just a characteristic of the region? I also wonder if this my change the focus of the economy and begin to create different things that are more suitable to the location.


Reports of Dangerous Levels of Water Scarcity Due to Drought and Other Factors

This article discusses a recent UN report that estimated that by 2040, one in four children will live with water scarcity worldwide. What I thought was most interesting in this article is that it discusses linkages between ongoing droughts and other hazards as well as how the humans in certain areas are exacerbating the problem of water shortage.  Linkages between hazards can be seen in places like Iran, which is undergoing such a severe drought that the soil is eroding; this soil erosion leads to damage to forests, an increase in dust storms, and increased air pollution. The human effect on hazards can be seen across the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. The article names constant conflict, increased industrialization, and large numbers of people flocking to certain areas as factors that are rapidly depleting water in areas already under drought. It also mentioned an instance where efforts to conserve water actually ended up harming the environment; Lake Urmia, a large water resource for Iran, has reportedly shrunk to 12% of its size since the 1970’s due to droughts and bad water management policies upstream.

In this article, it can be seen that certain hazards in this situation are fixed; people cannot get rid of the drought or the hazardous events that are following it. However, governments can take steps to reduce some of the exacerbating effect that humans are having on the environment as well as implement techniques to mitigate the effects of the drought.

Article: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/mar/22/world-water-day-one-in-four-children-will-live-with-water-scarcity-by-2040-unicef-report


New South Wales Heat Wave Causes Massive Gas-Fired Power Plant Failure

At the end of last month, gas-fired power plants in NSW failed as temperatures soared during a massive heatwave. Authorities immediately began to take steps to prevent outages, including cutting demand from the Tomago aluminium smelter. The record breaking heat wave put enormous strain on the electricity supply starting around February 10th and continuing through the rest of the month. State government urged the public to reduce energy use during the time frame; however, several area-wide outages still resulted.

Media reports found gas generation failed at EnergyAustralia’s Tallawarra power plant due to the immense pressure as a result of the heatwave. Another plant, the Colongra gas-fired plant, was unable to start due to low gas pressure in its supply lines. Output was also significantly reduced from “two of AGL’s 500MW coal-fired power units at the Liddell power station.” The mass failures left over 2,000MW lacking during peak periods of demand. Additionally, thermal generators also suffered a decrease in their outputs, while solar and wind generation “reduced by 300MW in line with forecasts for that time of the day.” Tomago aluminium smelter was also asked to reduce its demand by 290MW for just one hour to cope with the losses, and the action was described as a “last resort.” As a result, three pot lines were shut down and workers toiled in 80 degree Celsius heat within the smelter to restore its equipment.

Another quote from Aemo’s Report stated that “these factors… combined to overload the New South Wales interconnections with Queensland and Victoria, creating an insecure operating state.” Fairfax Media reported to residents in Victoria that they may suffer blackouts to allow for the “transmission lines between two states to operate at full capacity.”


Pictures and quotes: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/23/gas-fired-power-plants-failed-during-nsw-heatwave-report-reveals


Humanitarian Effect of Drought in Somalia

Authorities estimate that one third of Somali children may be forced to drop out of school as the country suffers through its most recent drought. Many families with livestock require extra help from their children to keep their animals alive and feed their families during these difficult times, which means that children must stay at home during school hours. Other families are migrating in hopes of finding more habitable land, taking children out of school in the migration process. Already, 3 million children are missing school and the UN expects more to soon join them. With the worsening drought and impending famine also comes the increased spread of waterborne diseases such as cholera. Approximately 5.5 million people are at risk for such diseases.

Beyond the obvious danger that is involved in lacking water and food, this article highlights the various side effects that will affect generations to come that a natural disaster can bring about.

Read the Al Jazeera story here.

California’s Oroville Dam Threatens Floods

For the first time in its history, California’s Oroville Dam was damaged yesterday, February 12th, and nearly 200,000 local residents were ordered to evacuate.  Since California has gotten over 200% more rainfall than usual during the past year, water was overflowing from the spillways.  The Oroville Dam is the tallest dam in the nation, and even its structures meant to hold the overflow could not contain the excess water.  The crisis is considered stabilized for the moment as the water flow over the spillways stopped yesterday evening; however, with storms being forecast in the upcoming week, officials warn the structure could by further damaged and are unsure of when residents should be able to return to their homes.


Extreme heat brings health, fire and power cut warnings across south-eastern Australia

After several days of record breaking heat waves in South Eastern Australia. Government officials have released warnings about the possibility of dangerous bush fires, and possible power cuts. Temperatures were as high as 48 Celsius (118 Fahrenheit). Fires were banned and severe fire warnings were in place for New South Wales. As a result, electricity demand has increased by more than 50% leading to some blackouts as the energy grid is put to the limit. There have been court hearings this week already in the Senate to discuss the energy grid and question representatives from the energy company. As a result of growing public discontent with the state of the power network. The heat wave is expected to last until Sunday of this week.








Michael Mumenthaler

Southern Africa Deals with Armyworm Infestation

Maize crops in southern Africa are being decimated by armyworms. This infestation has been particularly devastating as the maize crop was already suffering the effects of a severe drought that was brought on by last year’s El Niño. Zimbabwe has reportedly taken the worst damage with up to 70% of crops destroyed in some areas, while Zambia has resorted to using military planes to spread pesticides. Some are worried that if the armyworms continue to spread, the affected countries will be economically devastated. Many of these countries are making efforts to teach farmers how to identify and exterminate the worms to help combat this infestation.


Articles: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/24/africa/armyworm-invasion-africa/ and http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFKBN15I10C?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0


Mudslides force road closures in California

California experienced serious travel problems as heavy rain swept across the state. Multiple major roadways were shut down due mudslides. There were multiple motorists who had to be rescued after they had consciously avoided road barriers and driven into flooded roadways. One truck was even hit by a mudslide and flipped over. The Bay Area was hit hardest by the mudslides.



Mudslides shut down roads across California, including the corner of Redwood Road and Browns Valley Road in Napa County on February 7, 2017. (Photo/Twitter/@CountyofNapa)

Mudslides shut down roads across California, including the corner of Redwood Road and Browns Valley Road in Napa County on February 7, 2017. (Photo/Twitter/@CountyofNapa)

New South Wales Bush fires

A blaze in New South Wales is continuing to grow to over 3290 hectares in size and currently there are more than 250 firefighters involved in trying to control the blaze. The blaze started on Tuesday in the grasslands and has been burning since. As a result of the growing Bush fire, a nearby recycling plant had to be shut down as there are fears of a possible explosion, furthermore, local roads were closed. There was also a helicopter rescue of two people located in the area.




Michael Mumenthaler.