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  1. #1
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    California Experiencing Driest Year Since at Least 1580

    Per a Berkeley paleoclimatologist...

    Why state’s water woes could be just beginning

    By Steve Hockensmith, NewsCenter | January 21, 2014
    BERKELEY —

    As 2013 came to a close, the media dutifully reported that the year had been the driest in California since records began to be kept in the 1840s. UC Berkeley paleoclimatologist B. Lynn Ingram didn’t think the news stories captured the seriousness of the situation.

    “This could potentially be the driest water year in 500 years,” says Ingram, a professor of earth and planetary science and geography.

    Ingram has an especially long-term perspective. As a paleoclimatologist — a scientist who studies changes in climate by teasing data out of rocks, sediments, shells, microfossils, trees and other sources — she’s accustomed to looking back over eons. And according to the width of old tree rings (which can record the coming and going of wet or waterless stretches), California hasn’t been so parched since 1580.

    “These extremely dry years are very rare,” she says.

    But soon, perhaps, they won’t be as rare as they used to be. The state is facing its third drought year in a row, and Ingram wouldn’t be surprised if that dry stretch continues.

    Given that possibility, the title of a recent book by Ingram seems grimly apropos. The West Without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us About Tomorrow, co-written with geographer and environmental biologist (and UC Berkeley visiting scholar) Frances Malamud-Roam, was released by the University of California Press last year. The NewsCenter spoke to Ingram about the lessons to be drawn from her research as California heads into what could be its worst drought in half a millennium.

    Q: California is in its third dry year in a row. How long could that continue?

    A: If you go back thousands of years, you see that droughts can go on for years if not decades, and there were some dry periods that lasted over a century, like during the Medieval period and the middle Holocene. The 20th century was unusually mild here, in the sense that the droughts weren’t as severe as in the past. It was a wetter century, and a lot of our development has been based on that.

    The late 1930s to the early 1950s were when a lot of our dams and aqueducts were built, and those were wetter decades. I think there’s an assumption that we’ll go back to that, and that’s not necessarily the case. We might be heading into a drier period now. It’s hard for us to predict, but that’s a possibility, especially with global warming. When the climate’s warmer, it tends to be drier in the West. The storms tend to hit further into the Pacific Northwest, like they are this year, and we don’t experience as many storms in the winter season. We get only about seven a year, and it can take the deficit of just a few to create a drought.

    You mentioned global warming. Is what we’re seeing consistent with the predictions that have been made about how climate change could affect California?

    Yes. We’ve already started having a decreased snow pack and increased wild fire frequency. And we’ve been warming, and it’s gotten drier. With Pacific Decadal Oscillation [the ever-changing temperature of surface water in the North Pacific Ocean], every 20 or 30 years we go in and out of these positive and negative shifts that affect precipitation and temperature. But now we’re entering a period where it looks like we’re getting drier even though it doesn’t necessarily correspond to that cycle. It looks like a trend. It’s warming and drying, and that’s definitely a big concern for Western states.

    What originally sparked your interest in all this?

    I grew up in Santa Barbara and personally experienced big floods followed by droughts. In 1969, half our backyard was washed away from an atmospheric river during a wet year. Then the ’76-77 drought made a big impression on me because there was almost literally no rain that year. So I was drawn to trying to understand what controls climate and why it’s so variable. It’s definitely very complex. We haven’t explained it completely, but we’re on our way.

    What’s an “atmospheric river”?

    That’s when corridors of moisture come up from the tropics, traveling across the Pacific Ocean for thousands of miles to the West Coast and bringing the equivalent of, say, 10 Mississippi Rivers of water. There’s a lot of rain within two or three days. Almost all of our major floods in California correspond to these atmospheric river storms. The last one that was really major was the 1861-62 flood. It completely filled the Central Valley with something like 10 feet of water. Sacramento was underwater.

    We don’t know why, but we see evidence for these major mega-floods every one to two centuries over the past 2,000 years. It’s been about 150 years now since the last one, and now there are all these major cities in the very places that were submerged. The U.S. Geological Survey created a scenario for this — the ARkStorm, it was called — and it showed that if we repeated the 1861 flood there would be something like $725 billion in damage to the state. It would be a major disaster.

    So on the one hand we should be worried about a drought, but on the other hand we should be worried about a flood?

    Yes. If you look at the past, you realize that our climate is anything but reliable. We’ve seen these big fluctuations. Extreme droughts and extreme floods. My co-author and I wrote a couple review papers about that, but those weren’t going to be seen by the general public. They were for people in our field. And we thought we should try to bring this message out to the broader public. Because if you’re going to buy a house in the Central Valley, I think you should know about these floods. And we have to start assuming that we could go into one of these longer droughts and maybe start doing some serious conservation and rethinking of agriculture here.

    If you look at the archaeological record, you see that the Native American population in the West expanded in the wet years that preceded those long droughts in the Medieval period. Then during the droughts, they were pretty much wiped out. There was the so-called Anasazi collapse in the Southwest about 800 years ago. In some ways, I see that as an analogy to us today. We’ve had this wetter 150 years and we’ve expanded. Now we’re using up all the available water, yet our population is still growing.

    We’re vulnerable just like they were, but on an even larger scale.
    http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2014/...es-water-woes/
    Quote Originally Posted by The Suit
    Oh for sure. Every time I walk in the garage and see that lame-ass Porsche I have to drive now, I think to myself "Better head down to the bus station and suck some dicks until I get my self respect back."

  2. #2
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    I can highly recommend the book "Collapse" by Jared Diamond, which describes the historical anthropology (is that redundant?) of civilizations that coped with, and often lost, battles with natural conditions that were difficult to begin with in some cases or increasingly difficult as time went on due to climate change, or battles with themselves (e.g., self-induced deforestation and soil erosion). I'm 1/2 way through it, and learning about how populations can tax their immediate environment and find they don't have a solid Plan B.

    It's sobering and it suggests that there's no way in hell the So Cal population can cope with prolonged drought without serious dislocations. Here come the desalination plants, a Band-Aid of a cure.
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  3. #3
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    Cadillac Desert, Baby.
    Read it.
    StokePimpin' ain't easy

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    I have Collapse on my shelf. Haven't read it yet, although I read Guns, Germs and Steel in late HS/early college. In Collapse he discusses these guys, right?: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hohokam

    Quote Originally Posted by rideit View Post
    Cadillac Desert, Baby.
    Read it.
    I have. And Hundley's The Great Thirst. My dad got me Battling the Inland Sea for Christmas, and I still have to get a copy of Worster's Rivers of Empire.[/water nerd]
    Quote Originally Posted by The Suit
    Oh for sure. Every time I walk in the garage and see that lame-ass Porsche I have to drive now, I think to myself "Better head down to the bus station and suck some dicks until I get my self respect back."

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    Quote Originally Posted by LightRanger View Post
    I have Collapse on my shelf. Haven't read it yet, although I read Guns, Germs and Steel in late HS/early college. In Collapse he discusses these guys, right?: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hohokam
    Sort of. He references the Hohokam, but spends more time focusing on the Anasazi, who lived a bit further east and north. It's amazing to read how so much of the southwest U.S. that's now desert was forested. He also covers the Mayans, Polynesia and Norse Greenland in great detail. I won't go into details from the book for fear of turning this thread into Polyasshat.

    Polyasshat still exists, doesn't it?
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    Cool article. Thanks for sharing.

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    [QUOTE=bl2000;4164436]Sort of. He references the Hohokam, but spends more time focusing on the Anasazi, who lived a bit further east and north. It's amazing to read how so much of the southwest U.S. that's now desert was forested. He also covers the Mayans, Polynesia and Norse Greenland in great detail. I won't go into details from the book for fear of turning this thread into Polyasshat.

    Polyasshat still exists, doesn't it?[/QUOTE

    It's worth mentioning, though, that Diamond is wrong about many of his most appealing arguments, like Easter Island and the "Hohokam" and "Anasazi." He has merely subscribed to popular fictions that bolster his points; the points (that people can screw up their landscapes) is a good one, but the attributions of what and who are at fault aren't accurate. A little searching can uncover these half-truths and create some better insights,

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    Quote Originally Posted by LightRanger View Post
    Worster's Rivers of Empire.[/water nerd]
    If you really want to nerd out, track down a copy of the California Water Atlas.

    Worster is excellent but more academic than Reisner (as you'd expect).

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    Quote Originally Posted by teledad View Post
    If you really want to nerd out, track down a copy of the California Water Atlas.
    Oooh. Nice tip. Thanks. http://www.davidrumsey.com/blog/2010...-debuts-online

    Love maps and data like that.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Suit
    Oh for sure. Every time I walk in the garage and see that lame-ass Porsche I have to drive now, I think to myself "Better head down to the bus station and suck some dicks until I get my self respect back."

  10. #10
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    [QUOTE=ms ann thrope;4164896]
    Quote Originally Posted by bl2000 View Post
    Sort of. He references the Hohokam, but spends more time focusing on the Anasazi, who lived a bit further east and north. It's amazing to read how so much of the southwest U.S. that's now desert was forested. He also covers the Mayans, Polynesia and Norse Greenland in great detail. I won't go into details from the book for fear of turning this thread into Polyasshat.

    Polyasshat still exists, doesn't it?[/QUOTE

    It's worth mentioning, though, that Diamond is wrong about many of his most appealing arguments, like Easter Island and the "Hohokam" and "Anasazi." He has merely subscribed to popular fictions that bolster his points; the points (that people can screw up their landscapes) is a good one, but the attributions of what and who are at fault aren't accurate. A little searching can uncover these half-truths and create some better insights,
    Examples please. I'm not an anthropologist, but there were very few obvious mistakes I caught and generally he seems to present multiple sides of an argument stating where there's still debate. In any event, the whole field is still immature, pretty much. It reminds me of a paleontology course I took in college where the prof said the first day "I'll tell you what I know and what I think we know, but nearly everything you'll learn in this course will be proven wrong within five years."
    Sometimes pride comes after a fall.

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    [QUOTE=bl2000;4166740]
    Quote Originally Posted by ms ann thrope View Post

    Examples please. I'm not an anthropologist, but there were very few obvious mistakes I caught and generally he seems to present multiple sides of an argument stating where there's still debate. In any event, the whole field is still immature, pretty much. It reminds me of a paleontology course I took in college where the prof said the first day "I'll tell you what I know and what I think we know, but nearly everything you'll learn in this course will be proven wrong within five years."
    There are multiple sources for arguemnts against Diamond's conclusions and preconceptions. One is http://www.marklynas.org/2011/10/the...ared-diamond/; another requires access to the Journal of Social Archaeology, "Marketing conquest and the vanishing Indian: an Indigenous response to Jared Diamond," but I'm sure a little Google-fu can get you to many similar arguments. The following excerpt summarizes the approach: "The stories of how the
    Hohokam along the Gila River or the Anasazi at Chaco Canyon self-destructed
    and vanished through environmental mismanagement are, as we
    shall see, largely fictional. So too is the notion that colonization and
    conquest were accidents of geography or biology. The descendants of these
    groups, the Pima, their neighbors and the Pueblos, still live in the lands of
    their ancestors. And one could argue that the most damaging collapses and
    failures they have endured have been at the hands of scholars who have
    not accounted for their presence in a modern world or failed to tell the
    stories which explain that presence." Start with knowing that Hohokham, Anasazi and Pima are all inventions, and go on from there.

  12. #12
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    the earth wasn't alive yet in 1580 dumbshit.
    "We sit together, the mountain and I, until only the mountain remains." -Li Po

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    [QUOTE=ms ann thrope;4166775]
    Quote Originally Posted by bl2000 View Post

    There are multiple sources for arguemnts against Diamond's conclusions and preconceptions. One is http://www.marklynas.org/2011/10/the...ared-diamond/; another requires access to the Journal of Social Archaeology, "Marketing conquest and the vanishing Indian: an Indigenous response to Jared Diamond," but I'm sure a little Google-fu can get you to many similar arguments. The following excerpt summarizes the approach: "The stories of how the
    Hohokam along the Gila River or the Anasazi at Chaco Canyon self-destructed
    and vanished through environmental mismanagement are, as we
    shall see, largely fictional. So too is the notion that colonization and
    conquest were accidents of geography or biology. The descendants of these
    groups, the Pima, their neighbors and the Pueblos, still live in the lands of
    their ancestors. And one could argue that the most damaging collapses and
    failures they have endured have been at the hands of scholars who have
    not accounted for their presence in a modern world or failed to tell the
    stories which explain that presence." Start with knowing that Hohokham, Anasazi and Pima are all inventions, and go on from there.
    The link was broken. In any event, (a) I don't read Diamond blaming environmental mismanagement alone for the Hohokam or anyone else, (b) he acknowledges that populations succeed or not based on multiple, complex factors and (c) there's always room for good scholarly debate. WRT the Hohokam, he refers also largely to drought, which is scientifically easy enough to prove or not.

    Spook: You're the dumbshit. Everyone knows the earth is 6,000 years old. And flat. And Jesus lived in the age of dinosaurs. Please refer to my avatar for photographic proof.
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    the point of many of the arguments with JD's stuff is that he subscribes to outdated colonial narratives wherein indigenous people fail due to being ignorant savages who couldn't see what their sophisticated successors could, when in many cases it's the latter who caused the problem. Writers find many problems with his thesis that it's all about longitude and happenstance, which they see as a means of making the colonial oppressors feel better about themselves, because it's not really to do with genocide, just germs and geography.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ms ann thrope View Post
    the point of many of the arguments with JD's stuff is that he subscribes to outdated colonial narratives wherein indigenous people fail due to being ignorant savages who couldn't see what their sophisticated successors could, when in many cases it's the latter who caused the problem. Writers find many problems with his thesis that it's all about longitude and happenstance, which they see as a means of making the colonial oppressors feel better about themselves, because it's not really to do with genocide, just germs and geography.
    Did we read the same book?
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    Quote Originally Posted by bl2000 View Post
    Did we read the same book?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guns,_Germs,_and_Steel
    Quote Originally Posted by The Suit
    Oh for sure. Every time I walk in the garage and see that lame-ass Porsche I have to drive now, I think to myself "Better head down to the bus station and suck some dicks until I get my self respect back."

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    Quote Originally Posted by LightRanger View Post
    Thanks, although I'm referring to "Collapse".

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collaps...ail_or_Succeed

    From the prologue as reiterated in Wiki: "This book employs the comparative method to understand societal collapses to which environmental problems contribute. My previous book (Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies), had applied the comparative method to the opposite problem: the differing rates of buildup of human societies on different continents over the last 13,000 years. In the present book focusing on collapses rather than buildups, I compare many past and present societies that differed with respect to environmental fragility, relations with neighbors, political institutions, and other "input" variables postulated to influence a society's stability. The "output" variables that I examine are collapse or survival, and form of the collapse if collapse does occur. By relating output variables to input variables, I aim to tease out the influence of possible input variables on collapses."

    Interesting to me is in one section of the book he explains a fairly rigorous (rigor being relative) analysis of different variables to unravel what affected the success or failure of a variety of Pacific islands. It appears to be just about as academic as you could make this sort of thing, even if it was 'predictive' in hindsight. I think he goes out of his way to disassociate himself from his bias as much as possible.
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    Oddly, authors often think their books are startling insightful.

    As I said, there are lots of places to find people quibbling with Diamond. Yes, he writes persuasively; no, he's not omniscient. Startlingly, people whose specialty covers areas Diamond touched upon find themselves disagreeing with his premises. Yet more startlingly, there are numerous ways to approach the same questions, particularly those that make sweeping generalizations about global trends. It's not a zero-sum game: if the topic interests you, you might enjoy reading some other perspectives. These might not change your mind, but could provide some insights and other ways of approaching the question (i.e. "he's wrong," "he missed something important," "damn, he wrote the Bible"). Oddly, that's what forums can do, but they seem to end up being people defending inanities instead.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ms ann thrope View Post
    Oddly, authors often think their books are startling insightful.

    As I said, there are lots of places to find people quibbling with Diamond. Yes, he writes persuasively; no, he's not omniscient. Startlingly, people whose specialty covers areas Diamond touched upon find themselves disagreeing with his premises. Yet more startlingly, there are numerous ways to approach the same questions, particularly those that make sweeping generalizations about global trends. It's not a zero-sum game: if the topic interests you, you might enjoy reading some other perspectives. These might not change your mind, but could provide some insights and other ways of approaching the question (i.e. "he's wrong," "he missed something important," "damn, he wrote the Bible"). Oddly, that's what forums can do, but they seem to end up being people defending inanities instead.
    Wow, you're putting words into my fingertips. For example, of course he's not omniscient. You're also pretty condescending, whether you mean to be or not.

    Please direct me to what you feel is of value. Be constructive. I tried to find the Journal of Social Anthropology via a little Google-fu* and Wikipedia but had no luck. I did find a journal named "Social Anthropology" with 12 references to "diamond" (mining and tourism) but none to the author and nothing from searching Lynas there. I did see Lynas referenced as an author elsewhere, as well as involved in GMO and other environmental debates, but your link was broken.

    You made a pretty bold statement "Diamond is wrong about many of his most appealing arguments". So, please don't make me (and anyone else interested) flounder around trying to understand your points of reference.

    *I really like the term Google-fu and plan to use that in the future, with your permission of course.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bl2000 View Post
    Wow, you're putting words into my fingertips. For example, of course he's not omniscient. You're also pretty condescending, whether you mean to be or not.

    Please direct me to what you feel is of value. Be constructive. I tried to find the Journal of Social Anthropology via a little Google-fu* and Wikipedia but had no luck. I did find a journal named "Social Anthropology" with 12 references to "diamond" (mining and tourism) but none to the author and nothing from searching Lynas there. I did see Lynas referenced as an author elsewhere, as well as involved in GMO and other environmental debates, but your link was broken.

    You made a pretty bold statement "Diamond is wrong about many of his most appealing arguments". So, please don't make me (and anyone else interested) flounder around trying to understand your points of reference.

    *I really like the term Google-fu and plan to use that in the future, with your permission of course.
    Sorry, not interested in doing your research for you. Access to journals can often be found in libraries. Here's a link to some ideas: http://archive.archaeology.org/0803/...s/insider.html

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    Nevermind
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    Is this the guy who concluded, based on the tree rings of trees found at the bottom of Mono Lake, that droughts like this can last 100 years?
    We don't make the snow. We just make it more enjoyable.


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    Quote Originally Posted by splat View Post
    Is this the guy who concluded, based on the tree rings of trees found at the bottom of Mono Lake, that droughts like this can last 100 years?
    You may be thinking of Scott Stine: http://www.longcamp.com/scott_stine.html

    Mono Lake sure has had it tuff. Get it? Tuff!
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    There have been several epochs of climate change in the Owens Valley over the past 12,000 years (while people were living here), from glaciers to pluvial lakes to vegetation moving up the mountainsides or spreading down into the valley. The altithermal period lasted a long time and changed the way people lived, what they ate and the form of their societies. Nothing as radical as the 300' sea level change along the coast, though . . .

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    Quote Originally Posted by bl2000 View Post
    You may be thinking of Scott Stine: http://www.longcamp.com/scott_stine.html

    Mono Lake sure has had it tuff. Get it? Tuff!

    That would be tufa....
    We don't make the snow. We just make it more enjoyable.


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