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Climate change reflected in altered Missouri

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Montana farmer Rocky Norby has worked the land along the Missouri River for more than 20 years, coaxing sugar beets and malted barley out of the arid ground.

"Every year it gets worse," he said. "There's not enough water to get through our pumps." Last month, he said, he spent more than $10,000 trying to remove the sand from his clogged irrigation system.

The Missouri River's stream flow has changed significantly over the last 50 years, leading to serious water shortages in Montana and Wyoming and flooding in the Dakotas, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report released last month.

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There are a lot of states that are facing water shortages not only reservoirs being low but their aquifers are too. Can't keep farming without water or too much. There is a delicate balance to be had and its getting screwed up more all the time.

Some of these states have lots of fracking going on. Guess they have enough water for that.

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I would be real reluctant to say that such-and-such weather phenomenon is caused by global warming. Suppose the forecast is for eight storms, but we got four extra. Is last week's storm one of the eight, or one of the four? If year-after-year we get too many storms, then that suggests a climate change. But there are so many variables that it is usually difficult to say for sure.

In my work, I have the advantage of 20/20 hindsight and usually still can't say for sure why we got an ice storm in a particular year. Ice storms are concordant with droughts which in turn seem to be concordant with the La Nina phase of the El Nino Southern Oscillation, yet that is true for only 85% of ice storms. The other 15% didn't read the paper.

Doug

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There are a lot of states that are facing water shortages not only reservoirs being low but their aquifers are too. Can't keep farming without water or too much. There is a delicate balance to be had and its getting screwed up more all the time.

Some of these states have lots of fracking going on. Guess they have enough water for that.

The city just shut down water for a fracking operation about ten miles from here - not enough water.

Doug

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At some point with growing populations/industrial use we're either going to need to invest is actively producing fresh water to keep ability for the population to have unlimited usage of it, or start actively rationing it so farmers have enough to grow crops.

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At some point with growing populations/industrial use we're either going to need to invest is actively producing fresh water to keep ability for the population to have unlimited usage of it, or start actively rationing it so farmers have enough to grow crops.

That's already begun in California.

Doug

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This seems silly to blame on climate change. I would blame other things first:

Rise in population

More cities/companies/people taking water from the river

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This seems silly to blame on climate change. I would blame other things first:

Rise in population

More cities/companies/people taking water from the river

And that's why I'm reluctant to say it was climate change that caused it. It might have been, but I don't think there's enough evidence in yet.

Doug

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The OP's link also claims that building the keystone pipeline would increase CO2 emissions.

Pretty much says it all - as if not building the pipeline would keep Canadian oil off the market.

Harte

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The OP's link also claims that building the keystone pipeline would increase CO2 emissions.

Pretty much says it all - as if not building the pipeline would keep Canadian oil off the market.

Harte

Building it will increase CO2 emissions. Not building it will increase CO2 emissions. The importance of Keystone is mostly symbolic. If they can't build Keystone, Canadian companies will build a pipeline to Vancouver, load the stuff on tankers and send it to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Either way, that crud gets to market and gets burned into CO2. Not to mention all the spills en route.

Doug

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Building it will increase CO2 emissions. Not building it will increase CO2 emissions. The importance of Keystone is mostly symbolic. If they can't build Keystone, Canadian companies will build a pipeline to Vancouver, load the stuff on tankers and send it to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Either way, that crud gets to market and gets burned into CO2. Not to mention all the spills en route.

Doug

It's already a done deal even without keystone:

TORONTO (AP) — Canada's government on Tuesday approved a controversial pipeline proposal that would bring oil to the Pacific Coast for shipment to Asia, a major step in the country's efforts to diversify its oil exports if it can overcome fierce opposition from environmental and aboriginal groups.

Approval for Enbridge's Northern Gateway project was expected as Canada needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil sands production. The project's importance has only grown since the U.S. delayed a decision on TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline that would take oil from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

link

Harte

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Did everyone miss that this is arid land. This meanns they get low rain and snow fall. The decotas being further down stream get more water from more areas during the melt off. This is not climate change. This is natural for these areas. There is no story here unless you want to say over population in the area.

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It's already a done deal even without keystone:

link

Harte

Guess I'm a little behind the times.

Doug

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Did everyone miss that this is arid land. This meanns they get low rain and snow fall. The decotas being further down stream get more water from more areas during the melt off. This is not climate change. This is natural for these areas. There is no story here unless you want to say over population in the area.

I haven't studied the Missouri specifically, but things have been getting dryer in the Arkansas, Cimarron and Platte drainages. Connie Woodhouse at Colorado has created a flow chart for the Platte going back several hundred years. I'll see if I can find a reference. The Colorado's wettest year ever was 1900. Wouldn't you know it - that was the year they used as the basis for allocating water. By the time everybody takes out what the treaties say they get, there's nothing left for Mexico. But Mexico solved the problem - they sold their water rights to Los Angeles.

Doug

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At some point with growing populations/industrial use we're either going to need to invest is actively producing fresh water to keep ability for the population to have unlimited usage of it, or start actively rationing it so farmers have enough to grow crops.

Making fresh water is incredibly energy intensive - it cannot be done when energy is already the growth limiter for the developed world.

America and many other developed countries are going to have to make a lot of very difficult decisions which they have been resolutely ignoring up until now. We are hitting the limits of growth on multiple fronts all at once. There will be big trouble ahead.

Br Cornelius

Edited by Br Cornelius

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Did everyone miss that this is arid land. This meanns they get low rain and snow fall. The decotas being further down stream get more water from more areas during the melt off. This is not climate change. This is natural for these areas. There is no story here unless you want to say over population in the area.

Its the trend that matters, if you can show a year on year decrease in rainfall and snowmelt then it is climate change. Data is the arbiter of this - not opinion.

Br Cornelius

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I haven't studied the Missouri specifically, but things have been getting dryer in the Arkansas, Cimarron and Platte drainages. Connie Woodhouse at Colorado has created a flow chart for the Platte going back several hundred years. I'll see if I can find a reference. The Colorado's wettest year ever was 1900. Wouldn't you know it - that was the year they used as the basis for allocating water. By the time everybody takes out what the treaties say they get, there's nothing left for Mexico. But Mexico solved the problem - they sold their water rights to Los Angeles.

Doug

Found the paper:

Woodhouse, C. and J. Overpeck. 1998. 2000 Years of Drought Variability in the Central United States. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 79, 2693–2714.

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/1520-0477(1998)079<2693:YODVIT>2.0.CO;2

Doesn't quite reach the Missouri Basin (That's the next one to the north.) but droughts that affect the Central Great Plains will also affect the Northern Great Plains and even as far east as the Ouachitas. Woodhouse and Overpeck's results pretty much agree with what I have found on the Ouachita.

Doug

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Its the trend that matters, if you can show a year on year decrease in rainfall and snowmelt then it is climate change. Data is the arbiter of this - not opinion.

Br Cornelius

Or your just in a drought. Droughts are normal too. California and parts of Texas are in drought right now. Again it is probable due to over population and the watering of grass causing the drop in the flow of the river more than anything else.

But you want to blame man for something he has little to do with if anything. The planet has been warming up for the last ten thousand years or more. How much co2 is captured in that ice that is melting. I would assume a lot more than you are willing to say.

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Or your just in a drought. Droughts are normal too. California and parts of Texas are in drought right now. Again it is probable due to over population and the watering of grass causing the drop in the flow of the river more than anything else.

But you want to blame man for something he has little to do with if anything. The planet has been warming up for the last ten thousand years or more. How much co2 is captured in that ice that is melting. I would assume a lot more than you are willing to say.

If there is a consistent trend downwards it is no longer a drought - it is climate change.

Doug has already explained (and I am certain I have too in the past) that the warming after the last ice age stopped at least 3thousand years ago - and the planet has experienced steady cooling ever since. The trend upwards only really started again a few hundred years ago.

Br Cornelius

Edited by Br Cornelius
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