Humanly Induced or Mostly a Natural Surplus or Shortage of Water?
Hearing about the 14 inches of water that rained down on some areas of the Northeast United States the other day, the heavy rainfall and rising river levels, it is hard to fathom a story that southern China’s Yunnan Province is experiencing a disastrous drought. “There has been no rainfall in Luliang County since August” (NY Times, April 5, 2010, page A-4). While they have had no rain for seven months, when I visited my family back on the East Coast, the field beside our house had become a lake with ducks swimming on it. I wonder if it will dry up before fish appear in it?
First I thought, maybe the notorious floating garbage, mostly of plastic, composing an area of the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean, could be gathered up, the plastic be recycled into making giant pillow-like bags. These could be filled with Northeast rain water, and then be floated over to China. The logistics would be mind-boggling, of course. But such transportation of water was considered from the Pacific Northwest down to the parched farmland of central and southern California, and even for Los Angeles’ drinking water.
What causes exorbitant rainfall and the complete lack of it around our planet, evidently needs quite some study. That the Chinese government dug 1,600 emergency wells has helped only a little and that it shot silver iodide into the air as a rain-making attempt was also only marginally successful.
To endeavor to understand, reduce or enhance, and direct water cycles over the whole planet may be less hopeful for our state of scientific know how, than to get down to earth in a specific locality. Environmentalists ask, according to this article, if damming too many rivers for the sake of the rapid industrialization of the area play a role in permanently changing the climate of Yunnan, or the wholesale replacement of Yunnan’s forests with plantations – especially of water-thirsty rubber and eucalyptus trees, which may have lowered the water table and dried the atmosphere? The drought has been the worst in 80 to 100 years leaving 24 million people short of water and costing 3.5 billion in agricultural losses .
So here is the question for climate change: 1) Is this drought in China’s Southwest or the heavy rainfall of our Northeast related? 2) Is China’s drought a “natural” occurrence or 3) the side-effect of the hydroelectric dams storing up water and converting it into energy for industrial use?
There is an ocean of oil under Arabian sand that I believe represents biological growth in prehistoric times. But those kinds of climate changes require durations of time that scientists count in terms of millions of years. Those durations of time almost qualify as kinds of eternities, while the droughts and flooding seem to be happening in our collective industrial activities.