in CT 2012
As recommended in
Plan - http://www.ct.gov/opm/lib/opm/igp/org/adopteddroughtplan.pdf
"A drought is not a
distinct event that has a clearly defined beginning and end; nor does
it affect all water users equally."
The State of Connecticut is on top of the water status
Direct links here: http://www.ct.gov/waterstatus/cwp/view.asp?a=3233&q=397052&waterstatusNav=|
Always at the center of a story, "About Town" was in Milford
during this "Nemo" event - cameraphone pics.
Dumping plowed snow into
bodies of water raises a few environmental issues
Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
February 11, 2013
With huge quantities of snow lining Connecticut roads, the Department
of Energy and Environmental Protection is giving cities and towns an
option for getting rid of it -- dump it in the water.
"We're going to have to put the snow someplace," said Guilford Director
of Public Works Jim Portley, who figured they wouldn't start dumping
until next week, "and it's a great opportunity to get rid of the snow."
Environmentalists aren't up in arms. "This is an emergency," said Roger
Reynolds of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. "We understand
that the snow has to go somewhere."
But Reynolds said there are concerns. "It's similar to dumping
municipal solid waste in the waterway," he said. "When plows pick snow
up, there's inevitably some debris."
DEEP is aware of this and has established a fairly strict protocol for
dumping snow: It should be considered a last resort. All upland dumping
locations must be fully exhausted. The snow cannot contain anything
other than the road treatments used for melting snow. DEEP must be
notified first. And the snow must be kept away from drinking water and
sensitive areas such as wetlands.
"We have to strike a balance of protecting the environment with public
safety and emergency needs," said Oswald Inglese, director of DEEP's
water permitting and enforcement division.
In fact the state allowed the dumping of snow into bodies of water two
winters ago, when a series of closely timed storms resulted in even
more total accumulation than this blizzard did. While a few communities
said at the time they were considering water disposal, Inglese said
it's not clear any did. A few have expressed interest this time, though
none has yet.
What's in the snow?
The so-called water disposal of snow raises the question of just what
could wind up in there. The short answer is -- it depends on who's
doing the dumping.
About a half-dozen years ago, the state Department of Transportation
switched its road treatment from a 7:2 ratio sand-salt mixture to a
"salt priority" already in use nationwide. It's a mix of pure salt
(sodium chloride), which can melt snow and ice down to about 20
degrees, and magnesium chloride, which helps push that melting point
down to the single digits.
"The result is superior road conditions and faster more efficient
cleanup during and after these events," said DOT spokesman Kevin
Nursick. "It's not a silver bullet, but it's better."
He also said it's better for the environment, and there is general
agreement on that.
Sand can clog storm drains, cause water turbidity and it can bond to
contaminants like oil on roadways, transferring them into the water.
Sand remaining on the road after snow removal has to be swept up at the
end of the season and disposed of, since it can't be reused.
In DOT's case, that meant thousands of tons of spent road sand every
year. "You can't just dump it," Nursick said. "It's considered a
contaminated material, and fewer and fewer locations are willing to
accept road sand."
But there is also concern about its replacement.
"Chloride -- that's the environmental concern," Inglese said. Long-term
use can have toxic impacts, he said. "We see impairments in the health
of aquatic ecosystems."
But the biggest problem is if chlorides are dumped into inland fresh
water. Inglese said for large fast-flowing rivers or Long Island Sound
itself: "We're not as concerned."
While many municipalities are thought to have
switched to mixtures similar to DOT's, a few of those contacted by the
CT Mirror have not.
Guilford, which said it intended to dump its snow in the water, though
it had not yet notified DEEP, uses a 4:1 sand-salt mixture.
* New Haven told DEEP it might
dump snow in the water but later said, "We have no intention of dumping
in the Sound," said Public Works Director Doug Arndt. The city has been
using sand and salt to treat roads during this storm.
Milford, one of the hardest hit towns with nearly 40 inches of snow,
also uses a sand-salt mixture that is mostly sand. "We don't believe
it's going to get to that point," said Mayor Blake Benjamin of the
possibility of dumping snow in the water. "I think that's the last
resort. "You've got to be worried about if there's any kind of oil in
* Branford switched to pure salt
this year, which First Selectman Anthony "Unk" DaRos said is working
better than the old mixture on the nearly 3 feet of snow the town
So far Branford public works has not put snow in the water. But DaRos
said it could come to that in some of the tightly packed beachside
areas where, on Monday, payloaders were stacking huge piles of snow
along the edge of seawalls.
"It's a very, valuable option for us to be able to use," he said of
water disposal of snow. But even if he doesn't use it, he noted it
might not matter. "It all ends up in Long Island Sound sooner or
later," he said.
Connecticut Water To Solve Its Water Woes
Of Trustees To Vote On Proposal Wednesday
The Hartford Courant
7:20 PM EDT, August 5, 2013
The University of Connecticut has
chosen Connecticut Water Co.'s proposal to bring 2 million gallons of
water a day to the Storrs campus to solve its water woes, sources said
The selection eliminates a
controversial $51 million plan by the Metropolitan District Commission
to build a 20-mile pipeline from East Hartford that would have drawn
water from the Barkhamsted and Nepaug reservoirs. Opponents assailed
the plan, saying it would draw down the watershed of the Farmington
River, a popular recreation spot.
Connecticut Water's $21 million
proposal will use a five-mile network of pipes to bring water from its
reservoir in Tolland. A source familiar with the university's
discussions said that, pending approval of the plan Wednesday by the
board of trustees, the next step will be to negotiate an agreement with
Connecticut Water that could see water flowing to campus as soon as 18
months after permits are obtained.
"In the end, Connecticut Water's
plan was sound environmentally and prudent financially," the source
said. "It was significantly less expensive and the more attractive
A third option, by Windham Water
Works, offered a $44 million plan to upgrade its water treatment plant
and pipe water in from the Willimantic Reservoir. A source said that
although the university considered all three plans to be
environmentally safe and acceptable, it came down to costs, the
distance of pipeline and the environmental impact.
The Connecticut Water proposal was
also most consistent with the state Plan of Conservation and
Development and with local and regional plans, according to the source.
Its five-mile pipeline was the shortest of the three proposals, with
the lowest risk of environmental disruption, and mitigated the
potential for excess residential and commercial development along the
route. With the company bearing much of the capital expenses, it also
has the lowest costs and water use fees, as the university will pay
only for the water it uses.
In June, Eric Thornburg, president
and CEO of Connecticut Water, said his company's plan would bring a
"reliable supply of water" to campus and to Mansfield residents at no
cost to taxpayers, the university or the town. The company will not use
local funding to build the network of pipelines.
"There will be no tax dollars used
or special charges to Mansfield residents," Thornburg said.
"Connecticut Water's project ... will be far less disruptive as opposed
to other solutions, including the MDC's 20-mile plan. ... Taxpayers and
Mansfield residents should not be asked to bear those costs when
Connecticut Water is prepared to invest in the solution."
The university's environmental
impact evaluation process was one of the most closely watched and
commented on in recent memory, the source said. The university's office
of environmental policy and environmental compliance conducts such
evaluations when the complexity and scale of a proposed project could
adversely affect the environment.
If the trustees approve Connecticut
Water's proposal, their recommendation will be forwarded to the state
Office of Policy and Management for a more comprehensive review. The
university's final water solution would need a permit from the state
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
The 3,100-acre campus in Storrs,
with roughly 125 major buildings, uses 1.25 million to 1.3 million
gallons of water a day, according to university officials. On days when
there is high demand for heating or air conditioning, the demand can
reach 1.5 million gallons or more.
In summer 2005, a section of the
Fenton River in Mansfield was pumped dry in an effort to meet the
school's water needs. Since then, the university has implemented strict
conservation efforts and placed tighter restrictions on its river well
Connecticut Water serves about
300,000 people in 56 communities across the state.
http://www.envpolicy.uconn.edu/eie.html to review the Environmental
2013, The Hartford Courant
come home to Connecticut
Neena Satija, CT MIRROR
February 12, 2013
The controversy over the University of Connecticut's proposals to
quench its thirst shows that water isn't just the Southwestern states’
The Northeast has often been seen as a water-rich part of the country
and, in fact, the amount of rainfall in Connecticut has actually
increased slightly in the last century. But weather patterns have
become more erratic: In recent years, for instance, we've seen wetter
winters, but drier summers. The historic blizzard that Connecticut is
still digging out from this week is a perfect example.
"It's kind of like the difference between having a steady job where you
get a paycheck every week ... and being a consultant where you may have
feast or famine in your cash flow," said Pat Bresnahan, former
associate director of the University of Connecticut's Water Resources
Institute. "With climate change it might be something very similar."
Climate-change models further indicate this trend: that the Northeast
will experience more extremes when it comes to both droughts and
"That variability, that volatility, can happen within a year. It can
happen very quickly," said Virginia de Lima, chief of the U.S.
Geological Survey's Connecticut office. "You could have a dry period,
followed by a wet period, followed by another dry period."
The uncertainty surrounding the region's water resources has prompted a
firestorm of criticism over UConn's need for water. To accommodate a
$170 million new technology park and an increase in its student
population by a third, the university says it needs to pipe in 2
million more gallons of water a day to its main campus in Storrs. One
of its proposals to do so, involving the Farmington River, has been
Critics say that before UConn should be allowed to move forward,
Connecticut needs a comprehensive water strategy. The state created
various councils and committees for that exact purpose in 2001 but has
made little progress in developing an actual plan.
Karl Wagener, director of the state's Council on Environmental Quality,
said UConn's proposals raise serious concerns about how the university
could tap into various water supplies throughout the state. UConn
shouldn't necessarily hold off on its expansion, he said, but the state
does need to act.
"It's been recognized so many times that we need to have comprehensive
water planning. So maybe this ... controversy will make that happen,"
Two thirsty rivers
The increasingly unpredictable water availability in the state has
already posed serious problems in recent years. In 2005, the Fenton
River -- a small river that runs north-south near UConn's Storrs campus
-- was pumped dry as students returned to school after the summer
holidays, and demand for water skyrocketed after one of the driest
summers on record.
"It was not a good day for the university," recalled Tom Callahan, vice
president of infrastructure and investment planning for UConn.
And, he says, it was a wake-up call. UConn now regularly monitors the
flow of nearby rivers, and it has spent more than $45 million on water
But one of those efforts includes shutting down the Fenton River
wellfields when the water reaches the low flow rate of 3 cubic feet per
second. That leaves only the Willimantic River wellfield as a water
source. UConn has had to rely only on the Willimantic for several
months during recent summers and falls.
And when UConn adds its technology park, coupled with its planned
increase in student enrollment and a $2 billion investment in new or
renovated facilities, it will need 2 million gallons more a day in
water. That's in addition to the about 1.25 million gallons a day that
UConn uses now.
Since the Fenton River can't provide that, UConn has proposed tapping
into several reservoirs across the state, including two operated by the
Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) that draw their water from the
Farmington River. Residents in the Farmington Valley have vehemently
criticized the plan.
"The Farmington River is already under stress," said Mary Glassman,
Simsbury's first selectwoman. "And the MDC proposal would only make the
On a recent visit to the Pleasant Valley section of the Farmington
River's West Branch in Barkhamsted, four fly fishermen were braving the
bitter January cold -- an example of the river's attraction for
fishermen worldwide. Dave Sinish, who has lived in the Farmington
Valley since 1971 and is active in advocacy for the area, estimated
that its flow was 150 cubic feet per second that day; an average flow
for the river, though it varies throughout the year, is about 360 cfs,
Last summer, though, fishing was very nearly shut down throughout the
watershed. Riverflows were lower than 50 cubic cfs -- forcing the fish,
already under stress because of more exposure to unusually high
temperatures, to crowd into various deeper areas of the river.
"You could walk across the river," Sinish recalled.
MDC officials have insisted that the reservoirs UConn wants to tap have
plenty of extra water and would never need to draw any extra from the
Farmington River itself.
"We have 12 million gallons of water a day that is available for new
customers of the MDC," Chris Stone, assistant district counsel for MDC,
told WNPR's John Dankosky on the talk show "Where We Live."
But those attending a packed public hearing in Farmington last month
weren't buying it.
"Here's a suggestion," said Donald Rieger, who sits on Simsbury's
conservation commission. "If the MDC has [water] that it would be
comfortable committing to UConn, why not instead return it to the
[Farmington] river, in those seasons when the river needs the water?"
After his statement, the audience broke into applause.
A taste of things to come
As climate change takes hold, the controversy over UConn's thirst could
be just one of many future battles.
"Part of the problem is that we get so much rain, and we're perceived
as being a very water-rich area," said Pat Bresnahan, formerly of
UConn's Water Resources Institute. "But because of our development
patterns, the water isn't always where the development is."
UConn and the surrounding small, rural town of Mansfield is a prime
example. Virtually no water pipelines run into the area, and even
Mansfield's population is dependent on UConn's wells for water.
"I don't know that it's water-poor," said UConn's Vice President Tom
Callahan of the area. "But it is storage-short ... it's reliant on
wellfields and not reservoirs." The enormous storage capacity of
reservoirs makes it easier to plan for drier periods. Reliant only on
groundwater, UConn didn't have that option during the dry summer of
2005, and it still doesn't have it should another drought occur.
But the MDC proposal would require building a 20-mile pipeline from
East Hartford to Storrs. Many argued that this would encourage sprawl
along the pipeline and spur further development -- and the need for
even more water.
"I'm getting a very stomach-turning sense of deja vu right now," said
Susan Masino, who used to live in California, at the public hearing in
Farmington. She recalled a development at a university where "what
started as just a water line did not end up like that. It was a
complete sprawl-generating development in an area where there was no
After a severe drought in the late 1990s, the legislature created a
Water Planning Council that now produces annual reports on the state of
Connecticut's water resources. But the goal of the council -- to
develop a comprehensive water plan for the state -- is still far off.
Part of the problem is that developing a plan requires grappling with
very tough questions that the South and Southwest regions of the United
States have already struggled to answer.
"Who gets water? If there's competition over water or competition over
high-quality water, who gets it first? Or who has to cut back first?"
asked Virginia de Lima of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Those aren't questions many would want to ask, especially as UConn's
expansion plans promise tens of thousands of new jobs for the state.
From the Federal level:
Seven-day average streamflow compared to historical streamflow for the
day of the year (CT):http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?id=pa07d&sid=w__map|m__pa07d_nwc&r=ct
Map of real-time stream compared to historical streamflow for the day
of the year (CT): http://waterwatch.usgs.gov/index.php?m=real&r=ct&w=map
HOW DOES CT DECIDE WHEN TO SAY WE ARE IN A DROUGHT?
GROUNDWATER LEVEL NETWORK:
Active Water Level Network
Western drought starting to
Published 12:30 a.m., Tuesday, August 21, 2012
For Ben Freund, owner of Freund's Farm, Inc. in East Canaan, is
anticipating the worst for his farm and his ability to produce his
annual products in the coming months.
The cows on Freund's farm are fed by feed and supplements shipped in
from other parts of the country.
Freund does not typically make enough of his own corn or hay to feed
his cows. With 33 percent of the United States experiencing severe to
extreme drought conditions and 55 percent experiencing moderate to
extreme drought, the availability of feed for the coming months will
become scarce since regions greatly affected by the drought produce the
most feed. While most farms in Connecticut and throughout the Northeast
have yet to feel the impact, they are waiting for the effect to hit
"We are in the middle of a squeeze," Freund said. "Our price hasn't
adjusted to incorporate the increased cost of grains."
To make matters worse, without a farm bill in Washington, a wave of
uncertainty is sweeping across the nation, especially in the
drought-stricken Midwest and even in Connecticut. While the state grows
enough forage and corn for livestock, farmers here depend on grains
from the West to supplement the diet of their herds.
The House approved a one-year, $383 million in disaster relief plan for
farmers, but Congress went home before the Senate acted on the bill.
The Senate had previously passed a disaster aid package as part of a
five-year farm bill, but GOP leaders in the House refused to bring that
to a vote because they worried many Republicans would object to the
nearly $80 billion included in the bill for the food stamp program.
That means no aid is likely to be approved until Congress returns in
Northeast farmers and dairy farmers in particular are stuck waiting for
the disaster to strike here. Throughout the summer, milk prices have
David Kaseno, Northeast regional director for the National Farmers
Organization, said that in the summer of 2011, farmers would receive
somewhere between $20 and $21 per hundredweight for their milk. As of
July this year, farmers were only receiving $16.68 per hundredweight
for their milk. Hundredweight is a unit of weight measurement created
by U.S. merchants in the late 1800s. It is equal to exactly 100 pounds.
Dairy farming is often a losing proposition because it costs about $20
per hundred weight for the farmer to get the stuff to the various
co-ops for processing.
This price drop is magnified by the increasing price of feed. Freund
said that two years ago, farmers could have corn delivered at about $40
a ton but this year corn is sold at $99 a ton. To make costs worse,
farmers must pick up the corn themselves this year so they must find a
way to transport it back to their farm.
Kaseno said that farmers will face a choice. They either will need to
sell cows in order to cut back on their need to buy feed resulting in
less milk production or they will lose money buying feed at increased
"The choices are bad," Kaseno said. "This could put some dairy farms
out of business."
According to the Connecticut Department of Agriculture there are about
150 active dairy farms in the state. Connecticut's entire $72.7 million
dairy industry is minuscule compared to Midwestern states.
SAUGATUCK RESERVOIR IN AUGUST IMMEDIATELY BELOW.
BELOW - Saugatuck Reservoir from same spot in Redding (pulloff
view of island) in decending order (June, May, April 2012)
State In Minor Drought, But
Local Crop Prices Unlikely To Rise
The Hartford Courant
By KRISTIN STOLLER, email@example.com
5:45 PM EDT, July 21, 2012
Connecticut's dry summer has left many lawns brown but
farmers say it will have no effect on the state's crop prices. Despite
Friday's rain, greater Hartford has received only 28
percent of the normal rainfall through July 20, said Andy Mussoline, a
meteorologist at AccuWeather.com.
Typically, the area gets about 2.47 inches of rain at this
time of year, but has only received .68 inches so far, he said. For
Tony Botticello of Botticello Farms, the dry spell has
meant more work for him and his farmers. At his farm in Manchester,
farmers must continue to irrigate
and pump water from the nearby Connecticut River — resulting in some
farmers working as late as midnight.
"It's a lot more work," Botticello said. "If we didn't do
that, we wouldn't be able to harvest anything."
However, he said the dry weather has not affected his
season's crops, or forced him to raise prices. But Kevin Bassette, of
Killam and Bassette Farmstead, LLC,
said his crops have been affected by the weather, especially his corn.
"When it gets above 90 to 95 degrees, plants start shutting
down," he said.
If it had not been for the recent showers, Bassette said he
would have had to do more irrigating. As with Botticello, the extreme
heat has not caused Bassette to raise his prices.
"In this economy if you raise prices, people are going to go
somewhere else to get it," he said, laughing.
According to the U.S. drought monitor by the National
Integrated Drought Information System, the northern half of the state
is "abnormally dry," which is the lowest of five drought condition
But the state has not declared a drought advisory, said Bruce
Wittchen, an environmental analysts from the state Office of Policy and
Management. The state has an Interagency Drought Work Crew that meets
when necessary to discuss potentially dry and drought-like conditions,
he said. The month has been running dry, and the group will meet at the
end of the month to discuss these conditions, Wittchen said.
The group considers criteria such as reservoir and stream
levels to assess droughts, he said.Wittchen said he is also paying
attention to the Daily Forest
Fire Danger Report, because of situation in Colorado. The current
forest fire danger level is moderate, he said.
Currently, the state is experiencing high demands on the
water supply, said Dwayne Gardner, a spokesperson in the Department of
Energy and Environmental Protection
"When day time temperatures climb above 90F, usage goes up
also," Gardner wrote in an email. "It is difficult to quantify but
typically increases in water usage track with increases in power usage."
In the Midwest, the worst drought in a half century will
affect crops for at least the next 10 days, AccuWeather agricultural
meteorologist Jason Nicholls told Rueters on Thursday.
STILL WATERS RUN
DEEP - BUT HOW DEEP IS
THE QUESTION - CONNECTICUT LINK;
After no snow this winter, are we due for another drought?
Lack of infrastructure such as water and sewer lines is a hallmark in
Weston. Past history here.
ELSEWHERE...IN U.S.A. AND THE GLOBE
Avoiding Bioenergy Competition for Food Crops and Land, Creating a Sustainable Food Future, Installment Nine
WORLD RESOURCES INSTITUTE
by Tim Searchinger and Ralph Heimlich - January 2015
Installment 9 of Creating a Sustainable Food Future shows that any
dedicated use of land for growing bioenergy inherently comes at the cost
of not using that land for growing food or animal feed, or for storing
Working paper on biofuels...
Making Sense of Water
APRIL 14, 201
BERKELEY, Calif. — Almost every number used to analyze California’s
drought can be debated, but this can be safely said: No level of
restrictions on residential use can solve the problem. The solution lies
with agriculture, which consumes more than its fair share.
That doesn’t mean homeowners can’t and shouldn’t cut back.
But according to estimates by the Public Policy Institute of California,
more water was used to grow almonds in 2013 than was used by all homes
and businesses in San Francisco and Los Angeles put together. Even
worse, most of those almonds are then exported — which means,
effectively, that we are exporting water. Unless you’re the person or
company making money off this deal, that’s just nuts.
California produces more than 400 commodities in many different
climates, so it’s difficult to generalize about agriculture. Many
farmers are cutting back on water use, planting geographically
appropriate crops and shifting to techniques that make sense, like “dry”
farming. Others, however, are mining water as they would copper: When
it runs out, they’ll find new ways to make money.
So the big question is not, “How do we survive the drought?” — which
could well be the new normal — but, “How do we allocate water sensibly?”
California grows fruits and vegetables for everyone; that’s a good
thing. It would be an even better thing, however, if some of that
production shifted to places like Iowa, once a leading grower of
produce. That could happen again, if federal policy subsidized such
crops, rather than corn, on some of that ultra-fertile land...story in
Amid drought, water-use penalties hit Bay Area
Kurtis Alexander, SFGATE
Updated 10:45 pm, Saturday, May 17, 2014
Here comes the chapter of California's drought story where things get testy.
Asking people to conserve water? No problem. Ordering them to cut back
or else pay up? Those are fighting words...for full story, click here.
Holiday storms do little to help US drought, although rains ease
conditions some in Southeast
By Associated Press, Updated: Thursday, January 3, 10:58 AM
ST. LOUIS — Holiday storms that pounded much of the nation with snow
and rain did little to ease the overall grip of the worst U.S. drought
The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows that
about 61 percent of the continental U.S. remained in some form of
drought as of Tuesday, down less than a percentage point from the
previous week. That number has been above 60 percent largely since July.
More than 21 percent of the lower 48 states are in extreme or
exceptional drought, the two worst categories. That’s down slightly
from the previous week.
All of Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota are in drought.
But some areas in the Southeast are emerging from drought after heavy
rains since Christmas Day.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
A Record Worth Wilting For: Death Valley Is Hotter Than ...
By ADAM NAGOURNEY, NYTIMES
December 28, 2012
CREEK, Calif. — For Death Valley, a place that embraces its extremes,
this has long been an affront: As furnace-hot as it gets here, it could
not lay claim to being the hottest place on earth. That honor, as it
were, has gone since 1922 to a city on the northwestern tip of Libya.
Until now. After a yearlong investigation by a team of climate
scientists, the World Meteorological Organization, the climate agency
of the United Nations, announced this fall that it was throwing out a
reading of 136.4 degrees claimed by the city of Al Aziziyah on Sept.
13, 1922. It made official what anyone who has soldiered through a
Death Valley summer afternoon here could attest to. There is no place
hotter in the world. A 134-degree reading registered on July 10, 1913,
at Greenland Ranch here is now the official world record.
And while people were not quite jumping up and down at the honor, the
134-degree reading has inspired the kind of civic pride that for most
communities might come with having a winning Little League baseball
“For those of us who survive here in the summer, it was no surprise
that it’s the hottest place on the world,” said Charlie Callaghan, a
Death Valley National Park ranger who personally recorded a 129-degree
day here a few years back.
The opening wall panel in a new exhibition at the National Park Service
visitor center off Highway 190 has been unveiled with a burst of
superlatives: “Hottest. Driest. Lowest.” (Lowest refers to a spot in
Death Valley, Badwater Basin, which at 282 feet below sea level is the
lowest place in North America.)
Promotional leaflets that still boast of Death Valley as being merely
the hottest place in the United States are being rewritten, and resort
owners say they are girding for a crush of heat-seeking visitors come
next summer. There is even talk of having an official 100-year
celebration of the record-setting measurement next July.
“It’s about time for science, but I think we all knew it was coming,”
said Randy Banis, the editor of DeathValley.com, an online newsletter
promoting the valley. “You don’t underestimate Death Valley. Most of us
enthusiasts are proud that the extremes that we have known about at
Death Valley are indeed the most harsh on earth.”
Still, the designation was a momentous event among this nation’s
community of climatologists — or, as some of them proudly refer to
themselves, “weather geeks” — the climax of a long debate set off by a
blog item written by Christopher C. Burt, a meteorologist with Weather
Underground. Mr. Burt cited numerous reasons to be suspicious of the
Libyan claim, which he described in an interview the other day as
“The more we looked at it, the more obvious it appeared to be an
error,” he said.
Mr. Burt brought his blog post to the attention of members of the World
Meteorological Organization. Randall S. Cerveny, a geology professor at
Arizona State University who holds the title rapporteur of climate
extremes for the World Climate Organization, appointed a committee of
13 climatologists, including himself and Mr. Burt, to resolve what can
often be tricky disputes.
“There are a lot of places that do like these records,” he said. “It
can be a source of pride for that country or a source of contention for
other countries. Politics unfortunately is going to play a role
sometime in the determining of these records.”
It took a year to investigate the claim — the inquiry was hampered by
the revolution in Libya, which resulted in the temporary disappearance
of a Libyan scientist who was central to the work. The final report
found five reasons to disqualify the Libya claim, including
questionable instruments, an inexperienced observer who made the
reading and the fact that the reading was anomalous for that region and
in the context of other temperatures reported in Libya that day.
“The W.M.O. assessment is that the highest recorded surface temperature
of 56.7 degrees C (134 degrees F) was measured on 10 July 1913” in
Death Valley, the report said.
The announcement was made on Sept. 11, the same day as the attack on
the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, and thus drew little
Though it is easy to forget on days when it is so hot that people dare
not step out of their cars, part of the allure of Death Valley has
always been — besides the staggering beauty of its canyons, mountains
and sunsets — the sheer challenge of visiting it.
“I think there might be such a thing as a weather tourist,” Mr. Burt
said. “I may be one.”
Ben Cassell, who runs the Panamint Springs Resort on the west side of
Death Valley, said that even before the long-awaited official
recognition, his summer rooms typically were booked up by the spring,
mainly by Europeans seeking temperatures they cannot find back home.
“The Europeans love to visit in the summer when it is the hottest,” he
said. “The Americans tend to go in the spring for the flowers.”
The European tourists, he said, “definitely are looking for the
“We get people who get upset that today it’s 120, and the day before
they got here it was 121,” he said. “They want to have bragging rights.”
Mr. Callaghan, who would know, said there most certainly was a
difference between 115 degrees and, say, 125 degrees.
“You kind of get used to the 115s, the 120s,” he said. “Once it gets
above 120, 125, it’s just downright miserable. It’s just so
excruciatingly hot. You don’t walk outside your air-conditioned car or
your office. You don’t want to have jewelry on because you feel the
burning on the ears. Your eyes, your eyebrows, feel real hot.”
Truth be told, it was hard to think of Death Valley in all its hot
glory on a visit the weekend before Christmas. The thermometer outside
the Ranch at Furnace Creek — which measures up to 140 — read a chilly
55 degrees. People could be seen on canyon hiking trails clothed in
scarfs and parkas.
“There’s no normal or abnormal,” said Bob Greenberg, a ranger on duty.
“But if it gets anywhere near freezing, you hear a lot of whining
For what it is worth, Mr. Burt said he had issues as well with the
Death Valley claim of 134 degrees, and suspects it may be wrong. “It’s
anomalous, even for Death Valley,” he said.
But no matter. Even if 134-Death Valley goes the way of 136.4-Libya,
the temperature has most assuredly reached 129 degrees here in Furnace
Creek at least three times, one of them recorded by Mr. Callaghan. And
129 is just as much a world record as 134.
“Death Valley would still win, so to speak, even if the 134 was
erroneous,” Mr. Burt said.
Drought’s impact on food prices could worsen hunger in America
By Jason Sickles
21 August 2012
More than 18 percent of Americans say there have been times this year
when they couldn't afford the food they needed, according to a Gallup
poll released on Tuesday.
That plight could grow because of the country's worst drought in half a
century. The U.S. Department of Agriculture warned last month that
Americans should expect to pay 3 to 5 percent more for groceries next
year because of the drought.
"While Americans are no more likely to struggle to afford food thus far
in 2012 than in the past, more residents may face problems as the
drought-related crop damage results in a shortage of inputs in the food
supply and begins to affect retail prices," the Gallup report stated.
The Gallup findings come from telephone surveys conducted with 177,662
U.S. adults from January through June 2012. They asked 1,000 Americans
each day if there have been times in the past 12 months when they did
not have enough money to buy food that they or their families needed.
The worst responses came from Mississippi where one in four residents
reported struggling to put food on the table.
From the Gallup study:
Residents of states in the Southeast and Southwest
regions are the most likely in the country to struggle to afford food.
Those living in the Mountain Plains and Midwest regions are the least
likely to experience food hardship.
Gallup said the 18.2 percent of Americans who so far in 2012 reported
having problems is on par with the 18.6 percent who had trouble
affording food in 2011. Feedinghunger.org says one in six people in the
U.S. go without food for several meals or even days.
Financial lenders worldwide are also alerting countries to prepare for
a possible spike in food bills in the coming months, Reuters reported
"We are not saying that we anticipate a major crisis at this point,"
said Juergen Voegele, director of the World Bank's Agriculture and
Rural Development Department. "The world has enough food, but of course
we cannot predict the weather and if something extraordinary happens we
might find ourselves in a difficult situation again."
The opposite of this?
In Midst of a Drought, Keeping Traffic
Moving on the Mississippi
By JOHN SCHWARTZ, NYTIMES
August 19, 2012
ABOARD THE DREDGE POTTER, on the Mississippi River — This ship is
making sure that the Big River, shrinking under one of the worst
droughts in modern history, stays deep enough.
The Potter is scooping this stretch of the Mississippi River’s
navigation channel just south of St. Louis, the ship’s 32-foot-wide
head sucking up about 60,000 cubic yards of sediment each day and
depositing it via a long discharge pipe a thousand feet to the side in
a violent, muddy plume that smells like muck and summer.
The Army Corps of Engineers has more than
a dozen dredging vessels
working the Mississippi this summer. Despite being fed by water flowing
in from more than 40 percent of the United States, the river is feeling
the ruinous drought affecting so much of the Midwest. Some stretches
are nearing the record low-water levels experienced in 1988, when river
traffic was suspended in several spots...full
Lack of rainfall affects shipping lanes,
Vicksburg, Mississippi. Now
that is shallow! Wayne, Oklahoma cows search for shade - see the
color of the grass! Oakton, Indiana
corn crop shrivels.
Connecticut shown as "abnomally dry" this week...
Report: Drought Intensifies in Kansas, Nebraska
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
August 16, 2012
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A new report suggests that while recent rains
stabilized the devastating drought gripping Iowa and other key farming
states, the dry conditions intensified in Kansas and Nebraska.
The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map released Thursday shows the overall
expanse of land across the contiguous U.S. states weathering some form
of drought dropped less than 1 percent to 61.8 percent as of Tuesday.
In Iowa, the nation's leader in corn production, the amount of land
mired in extreme or exceptional drought — the two worst classifications
— dropped 7 percentage points to 62.05 percent over the past week.
But the amount of Nebraska in exceptional drought spiked 19 percentage
points to 22.5 percent, while that number in Kansas rose from 38.6
percent last week to 63.3 percent now.
US counties now considered disaster areas
By JIM SUHR | Associated Press
2 August 2012
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Nearly 220 counties in a dozen drought-stricken states
were added Wednesday to the U.S. government's list of natural disaster
areas as the nation's agriculture chief unveiled new help for
frustrated, cash-strapped farmers and ranchers grappling with extreme
dryness and heat.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's
addition of the 218 counties means that more than half of all U.S.
counties — 1,584 in 32 states — have been designated primary disaster
areas this growing season, the vast majority of them mired in a drought
that's considered the worst in decades.
Counties in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa,
Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South
Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming were included in Wednesday's
announcement. The USDA uses the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor to help
decide which counties to deem disaster areas, which makes farmers and
ranchers eligible for federal aid, including low-interest emergency
To help ease the burden on the
nation's farms, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday opened up
3.8 million acres of conservation land for ranchers to use for haying
and grazing. Under that conservation program, farmers have been paid to
take land out of production to ward against erosion and create wildlife
"The assistance announced today will
help U.S. livestock producers dealing with climbing feed prices,
critical shortages of hay and deteriorating pasturelands," Vilsack said.
Vilsack also said crop insurers have
agreed to provide farmers facing cash-flow issues a penalty-free,
30-day grace period on premiums in 2012.
As of this week, nearly half of the
nation's corn crop was rated poor to very poor, according to the USDA's
National Agricultural Statistics Service. About 37 percent of the U.S.
soybeans were lumped into that category, while nearly three-quarters of
U.S. cattle acreage is in drought-affected areas, the survey showed.
The potential financial fallout in
the nation's midsection appears to be intensifying. The latest weekly
Mid-America Business Conditions Index, released Wednesday, showed that
the ongoing drought and global economic turmoil is hurting business in
nine Midwest and Plains states, boosting worries about the prospect of
another recession, according to the report.
Creighton University economist Ernie
Goss, who oversees the index, said the drought will hurt farm income
while the strengthening dollar hinders exports, meaning two of the most
important positive factors in the region's economy are being undermined.
The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa,
Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South
Thursday's expansion of federal
relief was welcomed in rain-starved states like Illinois, where the
USDA's addition of 66 counties leaves just four of the state's 102
counties — Cook, DuPage, Kane and Will, all in the Chicago area —
without the natural disaster classification.
The Illinois State Water Survey said
the state has averaged just 12.6 inches from January to June 2012, the
sixth-driest first half of a year on record. Compounding matters is
that Illinois has seen above-normal temperatures each month, with the
statewide average of 52.8 degrees over the first six months logged as
the warmest on record.
"While harvest has yet to begin, we
already see that the drought has caused considerable crop damage,"
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said. In his state, 71 percent of the corn crop
and 56 percent of soybean acreage is considered poor or very poor.
In South Dakota, where roughly
three-fifths of the state is in severe or extreme drought, Vilsack
earlier had allowed emergency haying and grazing on about 500,000
conservation acres, but not on the roughly 445,000 acres designated as
Vilsack's decision to open up some
wetland acres in a number of states will give farmers and ranchers a
chance to get good quality forage for livestock, federal lawmakers said.
"The USDA cannot make it rain, but
it can apply flexibility to the conservation practices," Sen. Tim
Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, said Wednesday. The USDA designated
39 of his state's counties disaster areas.
Crops in India Wilt in a Weak
By VIKAS BAJAJ, NYTIMES
September 3, 2012
MURUMA, India — Vilas Dinkar Mukane lives halfway around the world from
the corn farmers of Iowa, but the Indian sharecropper is at risk of
losing his livelihood for the same reason: not enough rain.
With the nourishing downpours of the annual monsoon season down an
average of 12 percent across India and much more in some regions,
farmers in this village about 250 miles east of Mumbai are on the brink
of disaster. “If this situation continues, I’ll lose everything,” said
Mr. Mukane, whose soybean, sugarcane and cotton crops were visibly
stunted and wilting in his fields recently. “Nothing can happen without
Drought has devastated crops around the world this year, including corn
and soybeans in the United States, wheat in Russia and Australia and
soybeans in Brazil and Argentina. This has contributed to a 6 percent
rise in global food prices from June to July, according to United
India is experiencing its fourth drought in a dozen years, raising
concerns about the reliability of the country’s primary source of fresh
water, the monsoon rains that typically fall from June to October.
Some scientists warn that such calamities are part of a trend that is
likely to intensify in the coming decades because of climate changes
caused by the human release of greenhouse gases.
A paper published last month blamed global warming for a large increase
in the percentage of the planet affected by extreme summer heat in the
last several decades. And the World Meteorological Organization, a
division of the United Nations, recently warned that climate change was
“projected to increase the frequency, intensity and duration of
droughts, with impacts on many sectors, in particular food, water and
Scientists say that in addition to increasing temperatures, climate
change appears to be making India and its neighbors Pakistan, Sri Lanka
and Bangladesh more vulnerable to erratic monsoons.
Studies using 130 years of data show big changes in rainfall in recent
decades, said B. N. Goswami, director of the Indian Institute of
Tropical Meteorology, a government-backed research organization.
Climate models suggest that while overall rainfall should increase in
the coming decades, the region can expect longer dry spells and more
intense downpours — forces that would seem to cancel each other out but
in fact pose new threats.
“Heavy rains are normally short duration, and therefore the water runs
off,” said Dr. Goswami, who added that more research was needed to
fully understand the impact of climate change on monsoons. “Weak rains
are important for recharging groundwater.”
India is more vulnerable to disruption from drought than countries like
the United States. While agriculture accounts for just 15 percent of
India’s economy, half of its 1.2 billion people work on farms, and many
of its poorest citizens already cannot afford enough food after price
increases of 10 percent or more in the last couple of years.
“These kinds of rainfall failures have a lot of human effects,” said
Yoginder K. Alagh, chairman of the Institute of Rural Management and a
former Indian minister. “A large number of people don’t get employment.
There are acute drinking water problems.”
Food grain and oilseed production in India could fall up to 12 percent
this year as a result of poor rain, said P. K. Joshi, director for
South Asia at the International Food Policy Research Institute.
The good news is that the drought is not likely to result in widespread
famine. India has more than 76 million tons of wheat, rice and other
grain in storage, in part because of government support for those crops
and an export ban put in place in 2008 when global food prices shot up.
But analysts expect prices for dairy, meat, lentils and vegetables to
Unlike the United States, where crop insurance and other government
programs provide a safety net for farmers, India offers ad hoc and
unpredictable government support, increasing the risk that legions of
farmers will be wiped out.
If it does not rain soon, Mr. Mukane, 25, who works a field here in
Muruma, said he would have to sell whatever he could to repay banks and
lenders 500,000 rupees (about $9,000), much of it borrowed at an
interest rate of 7 percent a month.
Weak monsoon rains were also an underlying cause of the blackouts that
cut power to half of the country in July. The paucity of water lowered
the supply of power from dams that account for a fifth of electric
capacity, even as consumers cranked up fans and air-conditioners and
farmers ran electric pumps to draw water from wells.
Across the country, rainfall has been about 12 percent below long-term
averages through Sept. 2. But that broad number belies the acute pain
in many parts of the country. Rainfall here in the Marathwada region of
Maharashtra state is down 36 percent. In parts of the north and west,
it is down 13 to 72 percent. At the same time, heavy rain and flooding
have displaced tens of thousands in the eastern state of Assam.
Experts say the impact of the poor monsoon rains has been compounded by
mismanagement. The chief minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan,
recently said that much of the $1.5 billion a year that the state spent
on water projects appeared to have been wasted, with virtually no
increase in the amount of irrigated farmland over the last decade.
Kiran Singh Pal, a government engineer who manages the irrigation
system in the region, said it was poorly maintained because officials
like himself had not been given enough money and staff. He also said
many farmers had received no government water because so much of it was
cornered by a few powerful landowners.
“We have enough water to irrigate all the fields,” Mr. Pal said. “The
problem is we don’t have any control.”
Mr. Mukane, the sharecropper, and his neighbors said their problems
were heightened because they received much less water this year from a
nearby reservoir, which is so depleted that it can barely provide
drinking water to Aurangabad, a city of 1.2 million.
Federal and state officials have begun offering small types of relief
for hard-hit areas, like fodder for cattle, cheap diesel fuel and
But Bhaurao Bhanudas Date, a 48-year-old farmer near Muruma, said that
what he needed most was water. He said he expected little to no return
from his sugarcane and cotton crops this year and would have to fall
back on the income he earned from selling fodder and milk from his five
Mr. Mukane said his father recently went to a temple to pray for rain,
taking a pot of river water as an offering. The family is particularly
anxious because Mr. Mukane’s wife is expecting their first child, and
the government usually provides relief only to landowners, not to
farmers who rent land.
“We keep looking up, hoping it will rain today,” he said on a recent
afternoon as clouds covered the sky. About 10 minutes later, his
prayers seemed to have been answered when a light drizzle started. But
it petered out after a few minutes.
Neha Thirani contributed research