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The plight of the world’s big lakes, in the era of climate change

What a great article! and magnificent photos!. And Kenneth Weiss has a degree in folklore! Doesn’t that tell us something?

We are in an age where we are constantly being told that STEM (Science Technology Engineering Maths) are what matters most – indeed, are all that matters. Well- yes, they do matter. But what about the humanities – arts, social studies, history literature, cultures? We need more Kenneth Weiss’s – more students of folklore !

Combating Desertification and Drought, TerraViva United Nations Some of the World’s Biggest Lakes Are Drying Up. Here’s Why. [see this article if only for the superb photos]   

“……………..Around the globe, climate change is warming many lakes faster than it’s warming the oceans and the air. This heat accelerates evaporation, conspiring with human mismanagement to intensify water shortages, pollution, and loss of habitat for birds and fish. But while “the fingerprints of climate change are everywhere, they don’t look the same in every lake,” says Catherine O’Reilly, an aquatic ecologist at Illinois State University and co-leader of a worldwide lake survey by 64 scientists.

In eastern China’s Lake Tai, for example, farm runoff and sewage stimulate cyanobacterial blooms, and warm water encourages growth. The organisms threaten drinking-water supplies for two million people. East Africa’s Lake Tanganyika has warmed so much that fish catches that feed millions of poor people in four surrounding countries are at risk. The water behind Venezuela’s massive Guri hydroelectric dam has reached such critically low levels in recent years that the government has had to cancel classes for schoolchildren in an effort to ration electricity. Even the Panama Canal, with its locks recently widened and deepened to accommodate supersize cargo vessels, is troubled by El Niño–related rainfall shortages affecting man-made Gatun Lake, which supplies not only water to run the locks but also fresh drinking water for much of the country. Low water levels have also forced limits on the draft of ships so the ships don’t run aground in the lake.

Of all the challenges lakes face in a warming world, the starkest examples are in closed drainage basins where waters flow into lakes but don’t exit into rivers or a sea. These terminal, or endorheic, lakes tend to be shallow, salty, and hypersensitive to disturbance. The vanishing act of the Aral Sea in Central Asia is a disastrous example of what can happen to such inland waters. In its case the main culprits were ambitious Soviet irrigation projects that diverted its nourishing rivers.

Africa’s Lake Chad is a sliver of its former self. Iran’s Lake Urmia has shrunk by 80 percent in 30 years. What remain are the carcasses of ships settled into the silt.

Similar scenarios are playing out in terminal lakes on nearly every continent, a combination of overuse and worsening drought. Side-by-side satellite images reveal the shocking toll. Lake Chad in Africa has shrunk to a sliver of its former self since the 1960s, heightening shortages of fish and irrigation water. Displaced people and refugees who now depend on the lake put an additional strain on resources. Shortages as well as tensions in the hot, dry Sahel are driving conflict and mass migration. Utah’s Great Salt Lake and California’s Salton Sea and Mono Lake have undergone periods of recession too, diminishing critical breeding and nesting areas for birds as well as playgrounds for recreational boaters.

After the Caspian Sea, Iran’s Lake Urmia was once the largest saltwater lake in the Middle East. But it has shrunk by some 80 percent over the past 30 years. The flamingos that feasted on brine shrimp are mostly gone. So are the pelicans, egrets, and ducks. What remain are piers that lead nowhere, the rusting carcasses of ships settled into the silt, and white, barren salt flats. Winds that whip across the lake bed blow salt dust to farm fields, slowly rendering the soil infertile. Noxious, salt-tinged dust storms inflame the eyes, skin, and lungs of people 60 miles away in Tabriz, a city of more than 1.5 million. And in recent years Urmia’s alluring turquoise waters have been stained blood-red from bacteria and algae that flourish and change color when salinity increases and sunlight penetrates the shallows. Many of the tourists who once flocked here for therapeutic baths are staying away.

Although climate change has intensified droughts and elevated hot summer temperatures around Urmia, speeding up evaporation, that’s only part of the story. Urmia has thousands of illegal wells and a proliferation of dams and irrigation projects that divert water from tributary rivers to grow apples, wheat, and sunflowers. Experts worry that Urmia could fall victim to the same overexploitation of water as the Aral Sea. ……..

We live in an era of the most forced migration since the Second World War. We are going to need to support those who are ravaged by climate change so they can migrate with dignity.

William Lacy Swing director general of the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration

In sheer numbers those fleeing “natural” calamities have outnumbered those fleeing war and conflict for decades. Still, these figures do not include people forced to abandon their homelands because of drought or gradual environmental degradation; almost two and a half billion people live in areas where human demand for water exceeds the supply. Globally the likelihood of being uprooted from one’s home has increased 60 percent compared with 40 years ago because of the combination of rapid climate change and growing populations moving into more vulnerable areas.

Most of these displaced people stay within their home countries. If they cross a border, they do not qualify for UN protections as refugees because they cannot claim they are fleeing violence or persecution. “We live in an era of the most forced migration since the Second World War,” says William Lacy Swing, director general of the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration. “This time, though, in addition to war, climate is looming as a major driver. We are going to need to support those who are ravaged by climate change so they can migrate with dignity.”……..

When glaciers first begin to melt, they provide an extra flush of water, explains Dirk Hoffmann, a German researcher based in La Paz who co-authored the book Bolivia in a 4-Degree Warmer World. “But we’ve probably reached peak water in most glacial watersheds,” he says, meaning that meltwater from glaciers will now diminish in the region until it is gone. …….

Second World War. We are going to need to support those who are ravaged by climate change so they can migrate with dignity.

William Lacy Swing director general of the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration

In sheer numbers those fleeing “natural” calamities have outnumbered those fleeing war and conflict for decades. Still, these figures do not include people forced to abandon their homelands because of drought or gradual environmental degradation; almost two and a half billion people live in areas where human demand for water exceeds the supply. Globally the likelihood of being uprooted from one’s home has increased 60 percent compared with 40 years ago because of the combination of rapid climate change and growing populations moving into more vulnerable areas.

Most of these displaced people stay within their home countries. If they cross a border, they do not qualify for UN protections as refugees because they cannot claim they are fleeing violence or persecution. “We live in an era of the most forced migration since the Second World War,” says William Lacy Swing, director general of the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration. “This time, though, in addition to war, climate is looming as a major driver. We are going to need to support those who are ravaged by climate change so they can migrate with dignity.”……..

When glaciers first begin to melt, they provide an extra flush of water, explains Dirk Hoffmann, a German researcher based in La Paz who co-authored the book Bolivia in a 4-Degree Warmer World. “But we’ve probably reached peak water in most glacial watersheds,” he says, meaning that meltwater from glaciers will now diminish in the region until it is gone. ……..http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/worlds-biggest-lakes-drying-heres/

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March 3, 2018 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, water

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