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Climate Change Is Already Affecting the West's Water

By 2020 Glacier National Park will be "Puddles National Park" and the rest of the west won't be much better off. So where's the concern?

It's said our primeval ancestors had a simple arithmetic system: "One, two, three, many." That describes the focus of many 2008 voters, whose concerns are the economy, energy prices, Iraq, and "those other problems." As we get closer to the presidential election, most Americans aren't worried about global warming. Maybe they will be when they turn the tap and no water comes out.

In early August we toured Glacier National Park with the Sierra Club, catching a glimpse of several of the humongous ice fields. In 1910 there were 150 glaciers in the park; now there are 25, which are losing 9 percent of their mass per year. Sometime between 2015 and 2020 they'll disappear. Locals joke the 1.4 million acres will be renamed "Puddles National Park."

Worldwide, most glaciers are diminishing. So is the ice pack in places like the North Pole and Iceland. While ice loss is generally regarded as compelling evidence of global warming, most Americans aren't losing any sleep over it. An April Gallup Poll found that "while 61% of Americans say the effects of global warming have already begun," only 37 percent are worried about it, roughly the same percentage that were concerned when Gallup first began asking the same question, nineteen years ago.

Why isn't global climate change seen as a more important issue?

Many observers believe the typical American is too busy to be bothered by more than a couple of national problems -- it's the "one, two, three, many" phenomenon. Social scientists report that average voters don't have a lot of leisure time; they're too busy struggling to make ends meet. Most Americans are worried about the economy -- paying their mortgage and health insurance -- and gasoline prices. The little news most of us have access to either comes from talk radio -- cultural issues -- or cable TV -- Iraq and terrorism. While we're aware of the threat posed by global climate change, we're too harried to be able to consider the consequences.

Unless it slaps them in the face, the typical American can't be bothered by an abstract threat. If there's a global warming event -- a mammoth hurricane, tornado, or forest fire -- in our neighborhood, then we get concerned. From this perspective, the loss of a few thousand acres of ice in a remote corner of Montana hardly seems significant. Most of us don't see it as a danger sign.

But it is. Disappearing glaciers is a harbinger of huge problems. In the West, the most obvious is drought.

During our tour of Glacier Park, local scientists explained the systemic effects of global warming. In addition to glacier melt there is less snow, more rain, and longer growing seasons. Over the past fifty years the average Montana temperature has risen six degrees Fahrenheit. This has caused longer dry periods, which have resulted in a massive loss of timber due to an infestation by the Mountain Pine Bark Beetle. This in turn, has fed catastrophic forest fires -- like hurricanes and tornadoes, it's not that these disasters happen more frequently, but that when they do they have greater impact. Warmer water coupled with loss of foliage threatens much of Glacier's wildlife. And, Montana's stream flow is decreasing; a state that used to have an abundance of water now has areas that don't have enough: eastern Montana suffers from a prolonged drought and last year Montana filed suit against Wyoming arguing the state was taking more than its fair share of water from the Yellowstone river.

If you live in an area with lots of water, you probably don't care about the west's water problems. But out here on the left coast, drought is an ominous fact of life. As the southwest was populated -- an area stretching from Los Angeles to Albuquerque -- water had to be transported from the north, because annual rainfall wasn't sufficient to supply local needs. The water problems in Montana illustrate an ominous reality for the west: global warming is reducing our regional water supply. If you live in the Los Angles basin, most of your water comes from the Owens River in the Sierras and the Colorado River; both are diminishing.

As the name suggests, the Colorado River is fed by Colorado mountain snow melt, which has dramatically decreased in the past few years. The 1400-mile-long river is the primary water supply for seven states. By 2012, due to increased demand and diminished supply, the Colorado River will no longer be able to meet it's contractual commitments. Meanwhile, there are signs of impending disaster all along the watercourse: Lake Powell has already gone dry and experts predict that Lake Mead will be disappear by 2021.

If Montana, a state with a population of one million, is beginning to run out of water, what does this suggest lies ahead for Southern California, an area inhabited by 23 million? Citizens of the southwest may have other concerns today, but at the end of the decade their collective cry will be show me the water!


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Organic Jen
post Aug 21 2008, 03:14 PM

Wow, this article really tells it like it is. I like the explanation about why Americans don't really give a crap, because it is so true. I wish it would change, but until Americans STOP WATCHING TV!!! it never will. Marketing should be shouldering a lot of the blame, because it has inundated people with the belief that only a new house, car, spouse, vacation, clothes, shoes, etc. will make you happy. And Americans have bought that lie, hook, line and sinker.

Hey when Bushy gives you $600-1200 hoping you'll SPEND rather than SAVE it, the government just backs up the advertisers. Business as usual. (sigh)

post Aug 21 2008, 04:55 PM

This is one topic I disagree with you on. It's not a matter of punishing people for causing the earth to suddenly warm, it's about convincing you that humans are evil and that the government should have a tax on your breathing.

Arctic Ice Grows 30 Per Cent In a Year

Predictions of �ice free?? summer for first time in history completely debunked

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet
Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Alarmist scientists who predicted that the North Pole could be �ice free?? this summer as a result of global warming have been embarrassed after it was revealed that Arctic ice has actually grown by around 30 per cent in the year since August 2007.

Back in June, numerous prominent voices in the scientific community expressed fears of a mass melting of the polar ice caps, including David Barber, of the University of Manitoba, who told National Geographic Magazine, �We�re actually projecting this year that the North Pole may be free of ice for the first time [in history].??

�This summer�s forecast�and unusual early melting events all around the Arctic�serve as a dire warning of how quickly the polar regions are being affected by climate change,?? adds the article.
In February, Dr. Olav Orheim, head of the Norwegian International Polar Year Secretariat, told Xinhua, �If Norway�s average temperature this year equals that in 2007, the ice cap in the Arctic will all melt away, which is highly possible judging from current conditions.??

As per usual, the reality has failed to match the hype of the climate doomsayers.

According to collated data from the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and the University of Illinois, Arctic ice extent was 30 per cent greater on August 11, 2008 than it was on the August 12, 2007. This is a conservative estimate based on the map projection.

Continue reading here:

Homo for Earth
post Aug 21 2008, 06:11 PM

"Lake Powell has already gone dry..."

Oh really? I know it's gone way way down, but there's still water in it!
Nonetheless, this is very important stuff.
We Coloradoans might want to sell our water based on how few babies all you breeders are making. Over-populating the planet--is that all you think about?

post Aug 21 2008, 07:46 PM

QUOTE (Homo for Earth @ Aug 21 2008, 01:11 PM) *
"Lake Powell has already gone dry..."

Oh really? I know it's gone way way down, but there's still water in it!
Nonetheless, this is very important stuff.
We Coloradoans might want to sell our water based on how few babies all you breeders are making. Over-populating the planet--is that all you think about?

That is the main thing we should be thinking about!!! More people breed more waste, need, etc. that are coming from where? What ever happened to zero population growth? Oh, yeah, Reagan was elected president, lol..

post Aug 21 2008, 08:03 PM


Editor's note:
Walt Meier, research scientist at the NSIDC, has contacted us disputing the validity of Steven Goddard's methodology, and of his use of University of Illinois data to question the NSIDC's charts. We accept that these two data sets are not directly comparable, and that the University of Illinois data does not provide support for Goddard's charge that the NSIDC data is incorrect. We reproduce Walt Meier's response below. Walt Meier as provided further detail on the calculation of sea ice area and extent in the comments to this article:

The author asserts that NSIDC's estimate of a 10% increase in sea ice compared to the same time as last year is wrong. Mr. Goddard does his own analysis, based on images from the University of Illinois' Cryosphere Today web site, and comes up with a number of ~30%, three times larger than NSIDC's estimate. He appears to derive his estimate by simply counting pixels in an image. He recognizes that this results in an error due to the distortion by the map projection, but does so anyway. Such an approach is simply not valid.
The proper way to calculate a comparison of ice coverage is by actually weighting the pixels by their based on the map projection, which is exactly what NSIDC does. UI also does the same thing, in a plot right on the same page as where Mr Goddard obtained the images he uses for his own analysis:

The absolute numbers differ between the UI and NSIDC plots because UI is calculating ice area, while NSIDC is calculating ice extent, two different but related indicators of the state of the ice cover. However, both yield a consistent change between Aug. 12, 2007 and Aug. 11, 2008 � about a 10% increase.

Besides this significant error, the rest of the article consists almost entirely of misleading, irrelevant, or erroneous information about Arctic sea ice that add nothing to the understanding of the significant long-term decline that is being observed.

Steven Goddard writes: "Dr. Walt Meier at NSIDC has convinced me this week that their ice extent numbers are solid. So why the large discrepancy between their graphs and the UIUC maps? I went back and compared UIUC maps vs. NASA satellite photos from the same dates last summer. It turns out that the older UIUC maps had underrepresented the amount of low concentration ice in several regions of the Arctic. This summer, their maps do not have that same error. As a result, UIUC maps show a much greater increase in the amount of ice this year than does NSIDC. And thus the explanation of the discrepancy.

"it is clear that the NSIDC graph is correct, and that 2008 Arctic ice is barely 10% above last year - just as NSIDC had stated."

post Today, 03:19 PM

Just yesterday (August 27, 2008) the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that the ice-covered section of the Arctic has gone below the level of 2005, which was the second-lowest level recorded. It appears that even though 2008 started off with the ice covering a larger area than the same time last year, the ice has melted quicker because it�s thinner. I gleaned this information from reading the BBC News, which I think is a reliable source.