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Low Lake Levels: Don’t Fight Nature, Plan for It

The Great Lakes hold 20 percent of the world’s available surface freshwater–enough to cover the continental United States with 10 feet of water if you turned them upside down. In many places along the lakes, you can stand on one side without seeing the shoreline on the other because they are so huge. It’s difficult…

As Drought Persists in the West, Time to Prepare for Summer Shortages

Drought, drought, and more drought seems to be what’s in store for most river basins in the West, including the Colorado, the lifeline for 30 million people. Back in late November, I wrote about how NOAA’s seasonal drought outlook for mid-November to late February indicated the persistence of dryness in most of the Colorado River…

Drought Fuels Water War Between Texas and New Mexico

As climate change alters rainfall patterns and river flows, tensions are bound to rise between states and countries that share rivers that cross their borders. In the Rio Grande Basin of the American Southwest, that future inevitability has arrived. Last week Texas, suffering through a devastating drought, filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court…

Geography in the News: Australian Fires Out of Control

By Neal Lineback and Mandy Lineback Gritzner, Appalachian State University Raging Australian Wildfires Australia is under siege by raging out-of-control wildfires. The fires are being blamed on the continent’s long droughts. Most of its climates are relatively dry ones anyway, but Australia’s long series of droughts has created dry conditions even in its humid climatic…

A Groundbreaking Agreement to Save Australia’s Ailing Murray River

After years of debate, fiery protests and intense negotiations, Australia has adopted a historic plan to restore flows to the suffering Murray-Darling River Basin. It is one of the boldest water pacts to restore nature on the books, and if successful, could offer a roadmap for overtapped river basins in other arid lands. The plan…

With Drought Looming, Colorado River Basin Needs Solutions

If early forecasts pan out, the Colorado River Basin could be in for yet another year of intense drought. On NOAA’s seasonal drought outlook map for mid-November to late February, the entire basin is shaded in dark brown, signaling the anticipated persistence of drought conditions through most of the winter.  That could again wreak havoc…

Romney, Obama Make History with Failure to Mention Climate Change in Last Debate

The final foreign-policy-focused presidential debate made history Monday when candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama failed to mention climate change. Despite historic drought and record melting of Arctic sea ice, failure to visit the topic marked the first time since the 1980s climate change hasn’t come up in a presidential debate. Some argued the climate should have come up, as almost every major international issue—food prices, military operations and…

How the Yampa River, and its Dependents, Survived the Drought of 2012

As this year’s drought deepened and spread across the United States, many cities and farms took steps to cope.  Bans on landscape irrigation conserved municipal supplies.  Farmers pumped more groundwater for their crops to make up for the lack of rain. But what’s a river to do? Most rivers are last in line for help…

Experts Debate a Link between Climate Change and Extreme Weather

As the 2012 harvest season comes to a close, pumpkins appear to be one of the few successes for farmers following the severe drought felt across many parts of the United States. Damage to the nation’s two largest crops, corn and soybeans, puts these staples below demand for the first time since 1974, while the rising cost to feed cattle drives up…

Deep-Sea Methane, Wind that Could Power World?

The U.S. Energy Department announced plans to spend more than $5 million researching the potential to produce natural gas from deep-sea methane hydrates—ice-like formations that contain natural gas and are stable at depths of more than 300 feet. The Energy Department calls them “the world’s largest untapped fossil energy resource”—some estimate they are twice as abundant as all remaining…

The High Costs of Free Water

  When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water. – Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1746 The problem with water, many economists say, is the fact that it is essentially free. That may come as a surprise to you if you receive a monthly bill from your local water utility.  But the economists…

How Can a Drought This Big Sneak up on Us?

  Weather forecasting has gotten a lot better in the U.S. in the last 20 years — today, the four-day forecast is as accurate as the two-day forecast was in 1988. And storm forecasting — both for tropical storms, like Isaac, and winter storms — is also dramatically better. But seasonal forecasting remains poor, and the…

August 19, 2012: Breaking World Records, Jamming to Rusted Root, and More

This week on “National Geographic Weekend,” join host Boyd Matson as we cycle around the world in 92 days, capture snow leopards in Afghanistan, meet Boyd’s radio doppelgangers, take the world’s temperature, send a touring jam band on their way, hike North America, sail across Melanesia navigating by the stars, and dig up China’s ethnically diverse history.

Crop Damage Sparks Fuel Versus Food Debate

Dry conditions that continue to grip Midwestern states, damaging crops and threatening to push up food prices, stirred new debate this week after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released crop yield projections capturing the severity of the drought. Though the U.S. is the largest producer of corn and soybeans, the report puts corn production at 10.8 billion bushels, down 13…

The Return of the Cheetah

Deep in the Karoo of South Africa’s Eastern Cape is a land starting over.  The air is dry, the ground recovering from drought, and on high plateaus great plains of golden grass are home to large herds of zebra, red hartebeest, blesbuck and wildebeest.  The animals never descend to the bushland below which is also…