The images of parched reservoirs in the western part of the country that have been filling the news lately paint a devastating picture of the effects of climate change coupled with the overuse of natural resources.
While it is true that the West has been experiencing drought conditions for the past few years, the reality is that western states have been using far more water than nature is able to provide, even under normal circumstances.
The combination of large-scale farming operations — which require enormous amounts of water for irrigation — and the rampant expansion of housing developments into desert areas has created a scenario that is clearly unsustainable for the environment.
Water always has been a precious resource in the West that has been ripe for meddling by politically-connected special interest groups, but in the present situation, with more than 75 percent of the West in extreme drought, there is barely a drop of water for anybody to fight about.
The combination of a lack of moisture on the ground and extreme heat creates a feedback loop that makes for even hotter temperatures and even drier weather, not only affecting water levels in lakes and reservoirs, but making for prime conditions for the wildfires that have been a scourge in the western states for the past few years.
By contrast, the southern coast of the U.S. has a different kind of problem. The warming atmosphere is making our oceans warmer, providing the primary fuel for a different sort of cataclysmic event — catastrophic hurricanes.
The South was assaulted by a fast-forming tropical storm this past weekend that wreaked havoc in its path with heavy rain and tornadoes. Meteorologists are predicting another active hurricane season that promises to cause billions of dollars of damage, both along the coastline and further inland.
We in the Northeast have been lucky for most of the past decade. Hurricane Sandy occurred in 2012 and we’ve been fairly fortunate since then. However, if ocean temperatures and sea levels continue to rise, it is only a matter of time before a storm of a magnitude far greater than the fabled Hurricane of 1938 strikes this area.
Bob Dylan wrote that we don’t need a weatherman to tell us which way the wind is blowing.
What we are seeing on our TV screens in the South and West is giving us a glimpse of a future dominated by the effects of climate change — and it isn’t pretty.