Water, water, nowhere — except for the places that are flooding

By | August 22, 2022

Bill McKibben writes:

China is enduring a truly remarkable heatwave—by some accounts “the worst heatwave known in world climatic history.” (Its main competitor for the title may be last year’s insane ‘heat dome’ that ran Canadian temperatures up to 121 Fahrenheit). The heat just never lets up over some of the most densely populated land on planet earth: It hit 113 degrees Fahrenheit in Chongqing Thursday, the highest temperature ever recorded in the country outside of desert Xinjiang. It hit 110 in Sichuan, which is a province of…80 million people, or two Californias. When it gets that hot, water just evaporates—Sichuan is 80 percent dependent on hydropower, but the reservoirs behind the great dams like Three Gorges are falling nearly as fast as Lake Mead and Lake Powell. The province has cut power day after day, including to Tesla and Toyota factories, and to many of the firms that supply the planet’s auto parts; the EV revolution is being held up by the effects of the problem it is trying to solve.

Once that water has evaporated up in the air, it’s going to come down—the average residence time for water vapor in the atmosphere is barely seven days, and so flooding rains have been pouring down on the western edge of the heat dome—the rains have been so extreme that some rivers in Qinghai province have run so high that they changed course.

None of this is unique to China, of course. In Europe the drought is so deep that Nazi gunships have resurfaced along the Danube near Serbia, still fully loaded with the ammunition that was onboard when the Germans sunk them to prevent their capture by the advancing Russians. In America, this summer has seen the warmest nights ever recorded here; the ongoing drought and evaporation have forced the federal government to order states to come up with plans for cutting consumption, a mandate the states have so far not managed to meet.

But of course the damage is deepest in the poorest places. Somalia, and the surrounding region in the horn of Africa, are in the fifth straight rainy season without rain, and the toll is almost unimaginable. A million people have been internally displaced; the ones who haven’t managed to move to grim camps will soon starve. “They have no chance,” one refugee explained. “It is just a matter of time until they die. Even here we might die because we have nothing”. [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email