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Water, Water, Everywhere (Except Maybe Where You Need It)

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One of the most confounding features of global warming is that it can produce two seemingly opposite effects at the same time--literally right next door to each other.

Our most detailed and comprehensive report that can be used to illustrate these features is the National Climate Assessment, last published by GlobalChange.gov in 2014. This initiative is overseen by a US Federal Advisory Committee and is authored by a team of more than 300 climate experts. It's considered the definitive analysis on climate change that's produced by our government, and is used in Homeland Security planning, public service preparation, industry strategic planning, and education.

As we explored in Water, Water, Nowhere, the American Southwest extending into the western plains is in for a rough time as aquifers dry up, Lake Mead continues to drop, and drought conditions fuel unprecedented levels of insect infestation and wildland fires.

However, at exactly the same time, forecasts for the Pacific Northwest regarding excess water and flooding, as this one explained in the State of Washington News Tribune, which was developed by the University of Washington indicate that slow and steady rainfall is likely to be replaced with intense storms and flooding. Weather events in the Pacific Northwest are providing examples of this, even as we wake up on this typical Tuesday morning. It's anything but typical to those who are watching the water rise and the roads wash away. AND, there's likely another day of the intense rainfall still to come, which will likely increase impacts geometrically.

Our EDM community will of course respond. We'll soon see videos of swift-water rescues, people being plucked from cars as the car washes away, and so on. We're pretty good at all that. What we're NOT good at--and need to GET good at--is tying all of these various impacts together to the root cause--climate change. Under our developing climate change environment, these things will be true--all at the same time:

  • Droughts will increase and become more severe
  • Floods will increase and become more severe
  • Snowpack will lessen in some areas and require increased water management
  • Snowpack will increase in some areas and create additional spring flooding
  • Extreme heat events that cause deaths will increase
  • Extreme cold events that cause deaths will increase

In other words, there is no apparent rhyme nor reason to what we're experiencing. But really there is--understanding, though, requires comprehension of the impact of global conditions on local events. It requires connecting dots that don't want to be connected. It requires overcoming disbelief in concepts that cannot be touched or felt on an immediate basis. It requires overcoming a determined effort by those whose economic well-being depends on spreading disbelief.

Only then can we begin to effectively provide our served public with essential services today, tomorrow, and (shameless movie reference) The Day after Tomorrow.

Randall Cuthbert Dr. Randall Cuthbert is a retired APUS Professor of Emergency & Disaster Management. He has also worked as a Red Cross Shelter Supervisor, and spent a 20-year career as a US Air Force Civil Engineer Officer. His blogging interests include: protecting & enhancing the EDM profession in the areas of integrity, honorable public service, and social justice; education regarding the 'big picture' role of EDM in our society; educating our professionals and neighbors with regard to the greatest threat to our civilization--climate change; and in general terms, creating a better world for our children and grandchildren.