Taxonomy term

drought

"Dam levels critical" in Cape Town

At first glance, a visitor to Cape Town might not notice the extent of the parched conditions — people still go about their business, amid the same kind of hustle and bustle you would find in other major cities. But looking closer, there are signs that something is not right. People standing in buckets to conserve water during showers is one such sign, and bottled water flying off grocery store shelves is another.

13 Jun 2018

Cape Town faces a waterless future

The city of Cape Town, South Africa, is bone dry. In 2017, after two straight years of drought, a third drought year offered more of the same.. This past January, city leaders announced that they would shut off the taps to the municipal water supply in April because that was when “Day Zero” — the day when the water supply would run dry — was predicted to occur. Day Zero has since been pushed back to sometime in 2019, but, for 4 million Capetonians, living under the specter of a day without water is the new normal, and signs of that reality litter the city. Sometimes literally.

22 May 2018

Drought drove early humans from Africa

Genetics studies have dated the largest migrations of early Homo sapiens out of Africa to between 70,000 and 55,000 years ago, although smaller groups may have left earlier. The most widely accepted exodus theory, known as the “green carpet” or “green Sahara” hypothesis, holds that people likely left during wetter periods in the Sahara and Arabia, which would have allowed easier passage into Eurasia via the Middle East. But new research supports the opposite idea: that drier conditions may have triggered at least some of the exodus.

28 Feb 2018

Both urban flooding and rural drying to intensify

In a comprehensive global analysis, including data from more than 43,000 rainfall stations and 5,300 river monitoring stations in 160 countries, researchers report that global rainfall is increasing, likely due to warming air temperatures that allow more moisture into the atmosphere, causing more intense rainfall. Rural areas tend to absorb excess water during storms, preventing widespread flooding in rural zones, but between storms, rising temperatures also mean more evaporation from exposed soils, creating drier conditions over the long term, the team noted in Scientific Reports. Meanwhile, in urban environments, more intense rainfall often overwhelms stormwater catchments in places with less exposed soil, leading to a higher incidence of flooding.

11 Dec 2017

Evidence of devastating drought found beneath the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea, a landlocked lake bordered by Israel, Jordan and Palestine, is nearly 10 times saltier than the ocean. And it’s getting saltier. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the water level has dropped by nearly 30 meters, largely because of diversions of the Jordan River, the lake’s primary tributary and the arid region’s main source of fresh water.

31 Jul 2017

Geomedia: Film: 'Written on Water': A Modern Tale of a Dry West

An endless patchwork of circular fields surrounds the small West Texas town of Olton. The unnatural shapes and sharp boundaries of the brown and green fields result from center-pivot irrigation systems that pull water from the Ogallala Aquifer and allow more crops to grow than the semi-arid landscape would otherwise allow. On these dusty farms and within town offices a drama is unfolding over what to do as irrigation wells run dry.

11 May 2017

California drought stops slow-moving landslides

Most people think of landslides as fast-moving events, but many slides creep slowly, advancing over hundreds or thousands of years. In a new study, researchers looking at creeping landslides in California have revealed an unexpected consequence of the state’s ongoing drought: Many of the slides have nearly stopped due to the lack of water in the soil.

27 Sep 2016

Protracted drought threatens California levees

Levee failures are most often associated with the onslaught of water from large storms, such as Hurricane Katrina, whose landfall in 2005 caused more than 50 floodwalls and levees around New Orleans to fail.

But the lack of water can also weaken these critical earthen structures, according to recent research presented last December at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. 

15 Mar 2016

Chinese cave art reveals record of climate change

In times of drought, Dayu Cave in the Qinling Mountains of central China has remained a reliable source of water, and since at least the 16th century, thirsty visitors to the cave recorded their pilgrimages on the walls. Now the graffiti — rendered in black pigment on the yellow cave walls — is providing scientists with a unique record of how climate change affected nearby communities between 1520 and 1920. 
 
13 Dec 2015

Geologic Column: Jack and Jill: The sequel

As the extreme drought in California persists into another year, EARTH’s regular commentator returns with some thoughts on the proposed solutions, and the wisdom of going “up the hill” to fetch your water.

27 Jun 2015

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