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Global Droughts & Climate Change

Globally  many areas are struggling with intense drought. One of the worst affected is Ethiopia, which has been dealing with drought for over 50 years, impacting over 10 million people. The need for emergency aid has increased for 2016. Ethiopian farmers have been unable to plant for two seasons leaving the country without much of their usual food resources.

International agencies working with the United Nations has been aiding the  Ethiopian government but the need for funds is escalating. A recent request for a $1.4 billion aid package saw less than half that amount pledged.

International Rescue Committee   has been delivering clean water and is helping to establish adequate sanitation. Children are at high risk because of malnutrition and their days are taken up with the desperate search for water rather than going to school. The IRC has been able to fix pump systems in a few villages that make ground water more accessible.

In Nicaragua, a three-year drought coupled with decades of deforestation has nearly emptied the country’s water sources including streams, rivers and lakes. Last month about 60 percent of Nicaragua’s surface water sources had been lost and 50 percent of the country’s aquifers had dried up or had become polluted. Also reported are the disappearance of at least 100 rivers and their tributaries, the contamination of Tiscapa and Nejapa lakes near Managua, as well as lake Venecia on the west coast of Masaya, lake Moyúa in northern Matagalpa and the country’s other large lake, Xolotlán, in Managua. Some of the country’s major bodies of water have record low water levels including the 420 mile Coco river, the longest in Central America, along the northern border with Honduras.

In the Middle East, climate change has contributed to what is believed to be the worst drought there in 900 years. A recently published NASA study found that the Levant region – Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria – has suffered from a nine-century long drought.

The researchers, who published their findings in the peer-reviewed Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, studied the growth of tree rings in the region to determine drought variability across the Mediterranean, which enabled them to documents the region’s historical climate.

“Basically, we used a dataset of dry variability from the region that goes back, with reasonably good accuracy, to 1100 AD, and from that we were able to estimate that the recent drought in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean looks like it was the worst, or driest drought anytime in the last 900 years,” Benjamin Cook, one of the leading authors of the study and a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The drought, which began in 1998, became particularly severe between 2007-2010.

In California, the four year record breaking drought was broken by  much needed rainfall this past winter. But climatologists claim that the drought isn’t over and even though dry conditions have been abated somewhat, the damage done by the drought to the state’s water supply will be lasting. Long-term reserves in groundwater have been drained to the point that years, even decades, of wet weather would be required to replenish them. Climatologists warn that the changing climate will require permanent changes in water usage habits.





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