Thursday, January 12, 2012

Drought could menace the northeastern US

Erica Gies in New Jersey Today: The driest first week of January in U.S. history is troubling news for the Northeast. Soaring winter temperatures forced flowers to bloom in New Hampshire this month, while parts of northern New England normally under at least a foot of snow by now have no snow, or just a dusting.

Though the Northeast isn’t expected to see anything like last year’s catastrophic mega-drought in Texas, water shortages are becoming more common here due to increased demand from population growth and shifting precipitation patterns from climate change.

Northeastern summers are expected to grow longer and hotter this century. That heat could bring drought – as it has in the past – and impact more than crops. Drought can harm key infrastructure upon which we depend, from power plants and power lines to drinking water supplies.

Lack of rain seriously impacts energy systems, since power generation requires vast amounts of water for cooling. Coal, nuclear, and natural gas power plants account for 41 percent of our freshwater withdrawals, says the U.S. Geological Society. Hydroelectric power plants are also drought-vulnerable and supply 7 percent of the nation’s electricity....

A dam (name unknown) on the West Branch of the Farmington River in Litchfield County, Connecticut, USA. This dam impounds the West Branch Reservoir on the river. At the bottom of the picture, directly below the dam, is the Colebrook River lake, impounded by another dam downriver. US Army Corps of Engineers photo. Should we be alarmed that the Army Corps of Engineers doesn't know the name of this dam?

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