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NASA: Increasing Carbon Emissions Risk Megadroughts 264

An anonymous reader writes: Droughts in the western U.S. have been bad recently, but not as bad as they could be. Researchers from NASA, Cornell, and Columbia are now warning that if we don't slow the rate at which we produce greenhouse gases, then we're dramatically increasing our odds of a drought that lasts upwards of three decades. "The scientists were interested in megadroughts that took place between 1100 and 1300 in North America. These medieval-period droughts, on a year-to-year basis, were no worse than droughts seen in the recent past. But they lasted, in some cases, 30 to 50 years. When these past megadroughts are compared side-by-side with computer model projections of the 21st century, both the moderate and business-as-usual emissions scenarios are drier, and the risk of droughts lasting 30 years or longer increases significantly."
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NASA: Increasing Carbon Emissions Risk Megadroughts

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    while those poor old dark ages folk didn't and look what happened to them! They burned and burned and burned and, so, history shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.

    • Will someone explain to me what this troll post means? I can usually figure it out, but it seems like it's just tailor made to piss both sides off at the expense of reason or purpose. Bravo sir! Your post is truly a thing of savage beauty!
      • you're confused because this is a rare case of a reverse poe's law

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]

        The core of Poe's law is that a parody of something extreme, by nature, becomes impossible to differentiate from sincere extremism. A corollary of Poe's law is the reverse phenomenon: sincere fundamentalist beliefs can be mistaken for a parody of those beliefs.

        rather than fundamentalism though, what is being misunderstood is the sarcasm

        the troll is speaking sarcastically. his position is "like NASA knows shit, and we should all bow down before mighty NASA, what a joke"

        but since the position he is speaking sarcastically about is extreme (that NASA doesn't have anything useful to say), he sounds genuinely earnest about not heeding NASA's warnings. he sounds earnest, by accident

        so i guess a follow up observation to poe's law would be "a sarcastic troll is unintentionally useful and perceptive"

  • Climate models (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @08:46PM (#49052095) Journal

    When these past megadroughts are compared side-by-side with computer model projections of the 21st century,

    How about we fix the climate models [ed.ac.uk] before using them to predict things? If they can't predict things, they can't predict things.

    • Re:Climate models (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @09:07PM (#49052251)

      How about we fix the climate models before using them to predict things?

      How about these guys take into account the rising temperatures in oceanic heat reservoirs instead of restricting their analysis to lagging indicators like air temperature?

      If they can't predict things, they can't predict things.

      Can't argue with logic.

      • How about these guys take into account the rising temperatures in oceanic heat reservoirs instead of restricting their analysis to lagging indicators like air temperature?

        Some scientists have started incorporating that into their models since the paper was written (it was only published last year, so things take time). I don't find the approach very promising, but you never know, it might work.

        • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

          I thought there was a paper out late last year saying they didn't find any heat reservoirs in the oceans - at least none that could account for the predicted increase in surface temperatures. I heard someone speculating that the reservoirs could be deep in the ocean, which would be really weird since warmer water generally stays near the top.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by BradMajors ( 995624 )

        How about we fix the climate models before using them to predict things?

        How about these guys take into account the rising temperatures in oceanic heat reservoirs instead of restricting their analysis to lagging indicators like air temperature?

        Because historical deep oceanic temperature records do not exist. There is no evidence of rising oceanic temperatures.

        • Well, then, very clearly, we need to start giving government contracts to your brother in law's company which manufactures deep oceanic temperature sensors. You know, "just to be sure"...

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      That is what climate scientists of course do and why the models have been adapting over the last century, when they could predict things like the intensity of the monsoons in 1900 but now can predict a lot more.
  • Build some Mega Projects; Infrastructure, dams, reservoirs, pipelines, desalinization plants, etc. We know the problem is coming, plan for it, that is what government should do, not tell us to stop flushing the toilet.

    Oh, wait, building stuff is so last century. It is so environmentally unfriendly to let people live in comfort.
    • Governments and corporations capable of doing this wont. There is no profit in planning for the future. Short-sighted, instant gratification is what drives most of society.
      • You're saying that corporations can't profit from building mega projects, infrastructure, dams, reservoirs, pipelines, desalinization plants, etc. on the pubilc dime? You'd think that the corporations that purportedly control all government decisions would be order them to open the floodgates of public money into these projects.
  • But then Correlation vs Causation doesn't often exist. Since mankind was not causing mega-droughts in the 1100-1300 era, what leads us to think it is now carbon emissions causing droughts? Could it be other long term Solar variation & then seawater circulation issues that reappear regularly on long cycles.

    Then when data appears to be tweaked in some field measurements or too sparse, it seems that unjustified claims are being made that can't be backed by solid science.

    • I believe the biggest factor that will make the droughts stronger in the near future is higher temperatures will cause more soil drying than in past droughts.

    • I see these two arguments being made over and over in these threads.

      This one: "Correlation is not causation. So if something correlates, it means it's being caused by something else."

      And this: "They're saying we're going to get more hurricanes? I guess they were driving SUVs and burning fossil fuels in 1667 when a hurricane hit Jamestown, Virginia, right? Huh? Huh?"

  • It's not necessarily less precipitation overall that will cause the megadroughts but higher temperatures that will cause the soil to dry our more than during past droughts. Also the precipitation patterns are trending toward more sudden big precipitation and less spread out in the past.

    • It's not necessarily less precipitation overall that will cause the megadroughts but higher temperatures that will cause the soil to dry our more than during past droughts.

      Not necessarily true. Droughts also occur because precipitation cycles move location due to geological or other natural causes, not necessarily because of a change in air/ground temperature or drop in average frequency or quantity, the rainfall location(s) just move(s).

      The present-day Kalahari Desert in Africa used to be a mega-lake named Lake Makgadikgadi.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

      Other prehistoric lakes here.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

      Significant changes in climate patterns have happened over

      • What you say is true. There were prehistoric lakes, several of them like Lake Bonneville and Fort Rock lake in my neck of the woods. But then the climate changed and they dried up.

        If you had read the NASA release on the study you would have seen that they explicitly called out soil moisture as a factor in the predicted droughts in North America. That's what I was pointing out in my post.

        In the Southwest, climate change would likely cause reduced rainfall and increased temperatures that will evaporate more water from the soil. In the Central Plains, drying would largely be caused by the same temperature-driven increase in evaporation.

        So what they're saying is in the Central Plains there won't necessarily be less precipitation but hotter temperatures w

        • So what they're saying is in the Central Plains there won't necessarily be less precipitation but hotter temperatures will cause the soil to dry out more exacerbating the drought situation.

          "They" have said many things in the past, and were flat out wrong. I see no reason to treat this any differently.

          Saying humans are significant sounds sciencey but you need to provide actual evidence for that statement, not just some hand waving.

          FTFY

          Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. So far, scientists can't even get their climate models to match previous known conditions and outcomes. I think more proof is required before radically lowering standards of living and destroying national and world economies while plunging the poorest into even deeper levels of Hell.

          Of course, for those to whom such results empower themselves

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @09:27PM (#49052369) Journal
    Everything develops by trial and error. You get something a little bit right and then fix the obvious errors. Then you get the product or process a little closer with each repetition of test and correct.

    Climate change science is kind of like that. Something bad is happening, and it is causally linked to our exponential spread over the earth's crust. Current indications are that we are impacting weather patterns to our detriment.

    You don't have to be thankful the work of your planet-saving scientists, but we'll not have a cross word from you neither.

    • by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @10:15PM (#49052563) Journal

      This. Science is a process of progressive refinement, with occasional revolutionary paradigm-changes. Newer, broader understandings of nature almost invariably extend previous work, instead of replacing it.

      A good example of the evolution of scientific thought can be found in this essay [tufts.edu] by Isaac Asimov. TL;DR:

      - We used to think the earth was flat. We found out this was an accurate view for short distances, but failed for longer ones.
      - Then we thought the earth was spherical. This also was an accurate view for many purposes, but more precise measurements revealed that the earth bulges at the equator due to its rotation.
      - Then we thought the earth was an oblate spheroid. This view held until satellites revealed irregularities in the earth's gravitational field due to very slightly larger bulging in the southern hemisphere.

      The point is that each successive refinement of our understanding of the earth's shape did not render previous concepts "completely wrong." Rather, it revealed limits on their applicability.

    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday February 13, 2015 @10:40PM (#49052649) Journal

      Current indications are that we are impacting weather patterns to our detriment.

      You think the people commenting on this story on a Friday night are going to be swayed by science? Read the comments above. These are people watching Fox News with the sound off hoping that blond hoo-er reading the news re-crosses her legs.

      We got a guy up there who just stated that there can't be no damn droughts in the future because he doesn't remember there being so much rain in years. I'm not joking. He said that.

      You might as well be making the case to your cocker spaniel. You're just as likely to be understood.

      • Not at all what that guy said.
        • Not at all what that guy said.

          OK, here's exactly what the guy said:

          I don't remember a year as wet as this one in 30 years.

          Now tell me how I misrepresented that statement. He's basing his critique on NASA's report on his memory of rainfall over 30 years. "I don't remember a year as wet as this one in 30 years" Come on. We've got a guy who's claiming NASA is engaged in "pseudo-science" and his refutation is based on his recollections of the weather.

  • ...in the absence of trees. We've removed half of them in the past 100 years. That's what's killing us here, we actually need the extra carbon or we'll starve, see the math here:

    http://www.liebertpub.com/MCon... [liebertpub.com]

    • Ziska was specifically talking about "heat islands" in very dense urban areas like Manhattan, which don't cover enough of the surface of the planet to make a difference globally. His conclusions are generally considered a little bit kookie.

    • I don't think that paper argues what you think it does. You might want to take another look.
  • Ironically, the places with the least amount of natural water today will do just fine, because they're already investing heavily in desalination. Since they're already investing in that infrastructure, as their demand for water increases, they simply build more plants.

    The places with abundant water and very little water end up fine, it's the places in the middle that will be screwed if they don't plan ahead.

  • Q: Is the heat generated by society affecting the total heat in the biosphere? A: There is no way it could not be doing so, therefore, AGW.

    Q: Is it possible to reverse this process? A: There is no current way to reverse this process, therefore the best we can possibly hope for is to slow the rate at which we descend into hell.

    Did I miss anything? It seems fucking elementary to me...

    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      There is no current way to reverse this process, therefore the best we can possibly hope for is to slow the rate at which we descend into hell.

      Or we can adapt and not turn it into a descent into hell.

  • What a mess (Score:3, Interesting)

    by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Saturday February 14, 2015 @06:42AM (#49053959)

    Reading the posts here saddens me. All this hate on climate research telling that NASA is only interested in more funding (sound like MY TAX DOLLARS!!!!), or that man made climate change is a hoax comments, or the science was wrong in the past. This only tells me that all this poster do not understand science or don't want to understand science. And that a deep conservatism has hit the US. So while we try to change our impact on climate and in general on natural resources, you will continue to pollute the world. Too bad that we have to life on the same planet.

Enzymes are things invented by biologists that explain things which otherwise require harder thinking. -- Jerome Lettvin

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