The Southeastern US — A Desert?

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
published in The Stream, April 2007
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News item, May 2007: Summers Will Become Extremely Hot In The Future, NASA Predicts

Previous and widely used computer estimates predict too many rainy days, this new NASA study says. Because drier weather is hotter, they underestimate how warm it will be east of the Mississippi River, said atmospheric scientists Barry Lynn and Leonard Druyan of Columbia University and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, was one reviewer not yet ready to fully accept the new computer modeling done in Lynn’s and Druyan’s study. However, he confirmed that there is an established link between rainy and cooler weather, and hot and drier weather. Rainy days mean more clouds block the sun and more solar heat is used to evaporate water.

The study itself is only a prediction and controversial at that in that it conflicts with other predictions (which predictions had failed to factor in that link between dryness and further insolation), and we know that a lot of the science on both sides of the global warming debate has been corrupted, rendering anything said there to have a degree of uncertainty.

Funding for the study was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which agency has been criticized by some for funding alarmist science studies that favor or imply expanded roles for EPA-related empire-builders and special interests in the environmentalist movement. However, there is a further very serious regard, not accounted for in the model used for the prediction, which likely makes near-future living conditions actually much worse than that prediction for the southeastern part of the USA and possibly for most of the rest of the East as well:

The forests now covering, and tempering, the climate of the eastern U.S., including nearly all of the mountains and foothills of the Appalachians from Maine to Georgia, under such severe heat and dry conditions will first burn off and then turn to desert. That likely will add yet another ten to twenty degrees Fahrenheit to those daunting figures for summer temperatures, and ruin some beautiful country.

This is yet one more area where some contingency problem-solving and planning should be done, just in case this prediction does turn out to have merit. Already, we know that the most extreme conditions for the southeastern U.S. COULD be headed off. The dying of the forests, and subsequent desert, could be prevented by large-scale irrigation. The water for that, now that costs for water de-salting have been reduced so far that American cities like Tampa Bay are using that for municipal water supplies, all along the seaboard could come from the sea and be piped up into the hills.

Note: were the dire conditions indicated to be allowed to happen, nearly all of America’s eastern cities would lose their present water supply, the aquifer for the whole region feeding from the hills and mountains. Once these became desert, it would only take a year or so for that aquifer to run dry and/or to backflush with sea water.

We need to do a bit of figuring, and get some details on what it would take to head off these contingencies, just in case there IS some good science involved with this projection. Further, in keeping with the more general considerations proposed in, irrigating some of those Appalachian forests might be a good idea in its own right, as the present state of the forest – and of the aquifer for so many great Eastern cities – is unusually well favored at the moment due to a recent fluke in the weather, and are being taken dangerously for granted by the multitudes and interests so very dependent upon them.

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