Is This Global Drought Being Caused By The Systematic Destruction Of The Hydrologic Cycle?

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Published on: May 24, 2015

Have you noticed that severe drought seems to be gripping much of the planet right now?  You probably have.  But why is this happening?  Could it be possible that we are doing this to ourselves?  Many want to try to link the rise and fall of precipitation levels to temperature variations, but there is something much more obvious that they are overlooking.  Trees play an absolutely critical role in our water cycle, and every single minute the amount of land that is deforested around the globe is equivalent to 36 football fields.  By extracting water from the soil and releasing it into the atmosphere, trees provide a critical link in the hydrologic cycle that we all depend upon.  If there were no more trees, life on this planet would become exceedingly difficult for humanity.  So the fact that we are literally ripping the lungs out of the planet is a very big deal.

Before we get more into deforestation, let’s take a look at the damage that this drought is inflicting all around the world right now.  I have repeatedly written about the worst multi-year drought in the history of the state of California and about how we are headed for the worst water crisis this country has ever seen.  At this point, 1,900 wells have already gone completely dry in California, and there has been so little precipitation that some toddlers have never actually seen rain

Should you touch it? Eat it? Run from it? The drought is so bad in California that some young children have never seen rain.

When 22-month-old Grayson of Dana Point saw rain for the first time this week, he had no idea what it was.

He was so fascinated by the idea of water falling from the sky, he couldn’t resist opening his mouth to taste a few raindrops.

Things are even worse down in South America.

Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, is enduring the worst drought that it has seen in decades.  Things are projected to be so dire in Sao Paulo this summer that authorities are considering bringing in the military to keep order…

An engineer for Sao Paulo state’s water company said that “scenes from the end of the world” would ensue if the city ran out of water.

The drought in the Brazilian metropolis of Sao Paulo has become so severe that local authorities are considering bringing in military personnel to cope with the possible social chaos.

With over 11 million residents, Sao Paulo is Brazil’s most populous city and the country’s economic center. But senior officials at Sao Paulo’s water facility said residents might soon be evacuated because there is not enough water, to bathe or to clean homes.

The water crisis is the worst is the last 84 years, and the dry season has only just begun, with less water in the dams than in 2014, when restrictions on water began and the authorities began to realize the seriousness of the disaster.

But of course it isn’t just Sao Paulo.  That entire region of South America is in the midst of a long-term water crisis.  Since the year 2000, the amount of rain the southeastern Amazon has been getting has fallen by approximately 25 percent.  They desperately need a lot more rain, and they just aren’t getting it.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, much of the entire continent of Australia is suffering through a devastating multi-year drought.

For example, the amount of territory currently enduring drought conditions in Queensland is the largest ever recorded

Queensland is suffering the most widespread drought in the state’s history, as drought declarations spread across more than 80% of its land.

The state government has added another four council areas to the list of drought-declared areas following a patchy wet season and the weather bureau’s declaration of an El Niño event that will result in hotter and drier conditions.

The total area of Queensland that’s drought declared is 80.35%, eclipsing the previous record of 79.01% in March 2014 – during the same drought.

The state’s agriculture and fisheries minister, Bill Byrne, said one of the four new declared areas, parts of Mareeba shire on the Atherton tablelands, had not been in drought since 1979.

And things are not looking good on the other end of the country either.  Since the mid-1970s, the amount of rain that has fallen in southwestern Australia has declined by about 15 to 20 percent, and it is being projected that the amount of rainfall will drop by another 40 percent over the next few decades.

Another continent that is deep in crisis is Africa.  Most people know that the Sahara desert just continues to grow and expand in the north, but most people have not heard of the horrible drought that is now plaguing farmers all over the southern half of the continent.  In fact, things are already so bad that authorities are warning of “food shortages” later this year…

Southern Africa faces possible food shortages over the next few months due to a severe drought in the ‘maize belt’ of South Africa, where a lack of rain had caused crop failure rates of over 50 percent, the World Food Program (WFP) said on Monday.

In South Africa, the WFP said maize production was estimated to have dropped by a third compared with last year, putting it on track for a harvest of 9.665 million tonnes, its worst in eight years.

Besides South Africa, which produces more than 40 percent of regional maize, the drought was also likely to hit harvests in southern Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi and Madagascar, the UN agency said in a report.

Are you starting to get the picture?

Yes, there has always been drought, but have we ever seen a time when there has been so much severe drought in so many diverse areas of the planet?

What we are observing is not normal.  And what is especially troubling about all of this is that it appears that we are at least partially responsible for what is happening.

As I mentioned at the top of this article, our planet is being deforested at a staggering pace.  But there are consequences for all of this deforestation.  You see, the truth is that trees play an absolutely critical role in the hydrologic cycle

The removal of trees (deforestation) is having a major impact on the water cycle, as local and global climates change.

Normally, trees release water vapour when they transpire, producing a localised humidity. This water vapour then evaporates into the atmosphere where it accumulates before precipitating back to the Earth as rain, sleet or snow. Deforestation in one area can therefore affect the weather in another area because if trees are cut down, there is less water to be evaporated into the atmosphere and subsequently less rain.

At a local level, the land becomes drier and less stable. When it rains, instead of the water being soaked up, there is increased run-off and leaching. Areas can become more prone to both droughts and flooding, impacting on plants and animals, and also humans living near deforested areas.

It has been estimated that our forests are responsible for producing approximately 30 percent of the fresh water for our planet.  Trees extract water from the ground and release it into the atmosphere.  When there are fewer trees, there is less rain.

And that is why the deforestation that is going on all around the globe is so deeply troubling.  Just consider the following numbers…

-According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, about 18 million acres of forest is lost every single year.

-As I mentioned above, the equivalent of 36 football fields is being deforested every single minute.

-At this point, we have already lost about half of all the tropical forests in the world.

Fortunately, many scientists are starting to realize how this deforestation is contributing to the global drought.  For example, scientists in Brazil are now specifically blaming deforestation for the nightmarish drought the nation is currently enduring…

Decades of destruction in the Amazon rainforest might be the reason that Brazil’s taps are running dry, Brazilian scientists say. Deforestation is crippling the jungle’s ability to pump moisture into the air, which could be causing drought across broad swaths of the South American country, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

With each tree that falls, you lose a little bit more of that water that’s being transported to São Paulo and the rest of Brazil,” Philip Fearnside, a professor at the Brazilian government’s National Institute for Research in the Amazon, told AP. “If you just let that continue, you’re going to have a major impact on big population centers in Brazil that are feeling the pinch now.”

So what do you think about all of this?

Do you believe that there is a solution?

Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

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