Earth, Fire and Water

The headlines shriek that  the national treasure that is Yosemite is threatened by wildfires.

This is July, when it’s fairly early in the fire season here in the Western U.S.  But look at the Drought Severity map at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/regional_monitoring/palmer.gif

The precipitation is way below normal in large swaths of the United States.  In a word, there is NO WATER.

Most of the Old South, the Mountain West and the Pacific Coast (including ALL of California) are tinder-dry — and we can’t expect much rainfall relief for months yet, perhaps not until October or November.

In the meantime, wildfires have charred homes and burned timber throughout the West.  Yet the worst may still lie ahead.

The fire season has not even peaked yet.  So we can expect more news reports of homes lost to out-of-control wildfires.  We will have more reports like the current wildfires threatening Yosemite National Park at the height of the summer vacation season when many families head there to experience the wonders of Half-Dome and Yosemite Falls.

The underlying problem is the lack of water in the American West.  In good years the inland West is dry — in bad years like this one the Inland West is parched and burning.  The aquifers have been drained by the demands of burgeoning populations in states like Nevada, California and Arizona as more and more Americans migrate into sunny regions, leaving winter snows behind.

There is just not enough water to support these sun-seeking Americans in their new homes, particularly if they demand sprinklered green lawns and well-manicured golf courses to maintain their lifestyle.   The mighty Colorado river exits the Grand Canyon and is drained to a mere trickle by the time it enters the  Sea of Cortez.  In the long term, this is not sustainable.

Climatologists are predicting that the inland West and South will become even drier in the future as the long-term effects of global warming are felt.  The Northwest is likely to become wetter, they say.

Meanwhile 2008 may be seen as a harbinger of years to come — increasing drought in certain areas of the country accompanied by devastating wildfires.  Homes in towns across the West and wilderness areas alike will burn.

The earth is parched.  There is not enough water.  Fires will rage.

Some things are beyond the control of humans.

Mother earth is angry, showing us the limits to our power.   Let us learn from her.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Climate Prediction Center, drought, environment, global warming, wildfires, Yosemite fire

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