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Fields outside Benambra, Victoria, Australia suffering from drought conditions

A drought (or drouth [archaic]) is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region. Although droughts can persist for several years, even a short, intense drought can cause significant damage[1] and harm the local economy.[2] This global phenomenon has a widespread impact on agriculture. The United Nations estimates that an area of fertile soil the size of Ukraine is lost every year because of drought, deforestation, and climate instability.[3] Lengthy periods of drought have long been a key trigger for mass migration and played a key role in a number of ongoing migrations and other humanitarian crises in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.

Contents

Implications

Lake Chad in a 2001 satellite image, with the actual lake in blue. The lake has shrunk by 95% since the 1960s.[4][5]
Sheep on a drought affected paddock near Uranquinty, New South Wales.

Drought is a normal, recurring feature of the climate in most parts of the world. It is among the earliest documented climatic events, present in the Epic of Gilgamesh and tied to the biblical story of Joseph's arrival in and the later Exodus from Ancient Egypt.[6] Hunter-gatherer migrations in 9,500BC Chile have been linked to the phenomenon, as has the [7] exodus of early man out of Africa and into the rest of the world around 135,000 years ago.[8] Modern peoples can effectively mitigate much of the impact of drought through irrigation and crop rotation. Failure to develop adequate drought mitigation strategies carries a grave human cost in the modern era, exacerbated by ever-increasing population densities. Recurring droughts leading to desertification in the Horn of Africa have created grave ecological catastrophes, prompting massive food shortages, still recurring. To the north-west of the Horn, the Darfur conflict in neighboring Sudan, also affecting Chad, was fueled by decades of drought; combination of drought, desertification and overpopulation are among the causes of the Darfur conflict, because the Arab Baggara nomads searching for water have to take their livestock further south, to land mainly occupied by non-Arab farming peoples.[9]

Approximately 2.4 billion people live in the drainage basin of the Himalayan rivers.[10] India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar could experience floods followed by droughts in coming decades. Drought in India affecting the Ganges is of particular concern, as it provides drinking water and agricultural irrigation for more than 500 million people.[11][12][13] The west coast of North America, which gets much of its water from glaciers in mountain ranges such as the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada, also would be affected.[14][15]

In 2005, parts of the Amazon basin experienced the worst drought in 100 years.[16][17] A 23 July 2006 article reported Woods Hole Research Center results showing that the forest in its present form could survive only three years of drought.[18][19] Scientists at the Brazilian National Institute of Amazonian Research argue in the article that this drought response, coupled with the effects of deforestation on regional climate, are pushing the rainforest towards a "tipping point" where it would irreversibly start to die. It concludes that the rainforest is on the brink of being turned into savanna or desert, with catastrophic consequences for the world's climate. According to the WWF, the combination of climate change and deforestation increases the drying effect of dead trees that fuels forest fires.[20]

By far the largest part of Australia is desert or semi-arid lands commonly known as the outback. A 2005 study by Australian and American researchers investigated the desertification of the interior, and suggested that one explanation was related to human settlers who arrived about 50,000 years ago. Regular burning by these settlers could have prevented monsoons from reaching interior Australia.[21] In June 2008 it became known that an expert panel had warned of long term, maybe irreversible, severe ecological damage for the whole Murray-Darling basin if it does not receive sufficient water by October.[22] Australia could experience more severe droughts and they could become more frequent in the future, a government-commissioned report said on July 6, 2008.[23] The Australian of the year 2007, environmentalist Tim Flannery, predicted that unless it made drastic changes, Perth in Western Australia could become the world’s first ghost metropolis, an abandoned city with no more water to sustain its population.[24]

East Africa currently faces worst its drought in decades,[25][26] with crops and livestock destroyed.[27] The U.N. World Food Programme recently said that nearly four million Kenyans urgently needed food.[28]

Causes

Generally, rainfall is related to the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, combined with the upward forcing of the air mass containing that water vapor. If either of these are reduced, the result is a drought. This can be triggered by an above average prevalence of high pressure systems, winds carrying continental, rather than oceanic air masses (i.e. reduced water content), and ridges of high pressure areas form with behaviors which prevent or restrict the developing of thunderstorm activity or rainfall over one certain region. Oceanic and atmospheric weather cycles such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) make drought a regular recurring feature of the Americas along the Pacific coast and Australia. Guns, Germs, and Steel author Jared Diamond sees the stark impact of the multi-year ENSO cycles on Australian weather patterns as a key reason that Australian aborigines remained a hunter-gatherer society rather than adopting agriculture.[29]

Human activity can directly trigger exacerbating factors such as overfarming, excessive irrigation,[30] deforestation, and erosion adversely impact the ability of the land to capture and hold water.[31] While these tend to be relatively isolated in their scope, activities resulting in global climate change are expected to trigger droughts with a substantial impact on agriculture[32] throughout the world, and especially in developing nations.[33][34][35] Overall, global warming will result in increased world rainfall.[36] Along with drought in some areas, flooding and erosion will increase in others. Paradoxically, some proposed solutions to global warming that focus on more active techniques, solar radiation management through the use of a space sunshade for one, may also carry with them increased chances of drought.[37]

Consequences

Dry earth in the Sonora desert, Mexico.

Periods of drought can have significant environmental, agricultural, health, economic and social consequences. The effect varies according to vulnerability. For example, subsistence farmers are more likely to migrate during drought because they do not have alternative food sources. Areas with populations that depend on subsistence farming as a major food source are more vulnerable to drought-triggered famine. Drought is rarely if ever the sole cause of famine; socio-political factors such as extreme widespread poverty play a major role. Drought can also reduce water quality, because lower water flows reduce dilution of pollutants and increase contamination of remaining water sources. A few common consequences of drought include:

Types of drought

Ship stranded by the retreat of the Aral Sea.

As a drought persists, the conditions surrounding it gradually worsen and its impact on the local population gradually increases. People tend to define droughts in three main ways:[44]

  1. Meteorological drought is brought about when there is a prolonged period with less than average precipitation. Meteorological drought usually precedes the other kinds of drought.
  2. Agricultural droughts are droughts that affect crop production or the ecology of the range. This condition can also arise independently from any change in precipitation levels when soil conditions and erosion triggered by poorly planned agricultural endeavors cause a shortfall in water available to the crops. However, in a traditional drought, it is caused by an extended period of below average precipitation.
  3. Hydrological drought is brought about when the water reserves available in sources such as aquifers, lakes and reservoirs fall below the statistical average. Hydrological drought tends to show up more slowly because it involves stored water that is used but not replenished. Like an agricultural drought, this can be triggered by more than just a loss of rainfall. For instance, Kazakhstan was recently awarded a large amount of money by the World Bank to restore water that had been diverted to other nations from the Aral Sea under Soviet rule.[45] Similar circumstances also place their largest lake, Balkhash, at risk of completely drying out.[46]

Mitigation strategies

  • Cloud seeding - an artificial technique to induce rainfall.[47]
  • Desalination of sea water for irrigation or consumption.
  • Drought monitoring - Continuous observation of rainfall levels and comparisons with current usage levels can help prevent man-made drought. For instance, analysis of water usage in Yemen has revealed that their water table (underground water level) is put at grave risk by over-use to fertilize their Khat crop.[48] Careful monitoring of moisture levels can also help predict increased risk for wildfires, using such metrics as the Keetch-Byram Drought Index[43] or Palmer Drought Index.
  • Land use - Carefully planned crop rotation can help to minimize erosion and allow farmers to plant less water-dependent crops in drier years.
  • Rainwater harvesting - Collection and storage of rainwater from roofs or other suitable catchments.
  • Recycled water - Former wastewater (sewage) that has been treated and purified for reuse.
  • Transvasement - Building canals or redirecting rivers as massive attempts at irrigation in drought-prone areas.
  • Outdoor water-use restriction - Regulating the use of sprinklers, hoses or buckets on outdoor plants, the washing of motor vehicles or other outdoor hard surfaces (including roofs and paths), topping up of swimming pools.

See also

References

  1. ^ Living With Drought
  2. ^ Australian Drought and Climate Change, retrieved on June 7th 2007.
  3. ^ 2008: The year of global food crisis
  4. ^ Disappearing Lakes, Shrinking Seas
  5. ^ Shrinking African Lake Offers Lesson on Finite Resources
  6. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/features/bible_drought.shtml
  7. ^ http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/10/1024_021024_ChileAtacama.html
  8. ^ Drought pushed ancient African immigration
  9. ^ Looking to water to find peace in Darfur
  10. ^ Big melt threatens millions, says UN
  11. ^ Ganges, Indus may not survive: climatologists
  12. ^ Glaciers melting at alarming speed
  13. ^ Himalaya glaciers melt unnoticed
  14. ^ Glaciers Are Melting Faster Than Expected, UN Reports
  15. ^ Water shortage worst in decades, official says, Los Angeles Times
  16. ^ Environmental News Service - Amazon Drought Worst in 100 Years
  17. ^ Drought Threatens Amazon Basin - Extreme conditions felt for second year running
  18. ^ Amazon rainforest 'could become a desert' , The Independent, July 23, 2006. Retrieved September 28, 2006.
  19. ^ Dying Forest: One year to save the Amazon, The Independent, July 23, 2006. Retrieved September 28, 2006.
  20. ^ Climate change a threat to Amazon rainforest, warns WWF, World Wide Fund for Nature, March 22, 2006. Retrieved September 28, 2006.
  21. ^ Sensitivity of the Australian Monsoon to insolation and vegetation: Implications for human impact on continental moisture balance, Geological Society of America
  22. ^ Australian rivers 'face disaster', BBC News
  23. ^ Australia faces worse, more frequent droughts: study, Reuters
  24. ^ Metropolis strives to meet its thirst, BBC News
  25. ^ "East Africa's drought: A catastrophe is looming". The Economist. September 24, 2009.
  26. ^ "Kenya drought sparks deadly clashes". ABC News. September 21, 2009.
  27. ^ "Kenya Devastated by Massive Drought". PBS NewsHour. October 13, 2009.
  28. ^ "Lush Land Dries Up, Withering Kenya’s Hopes". The New York Times. September 7, 2009.
  29. ^ Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond 1997, pgs 308-309
  30. ^ A biblical tragedy as Sea of Galilee faces drought Belfast Telegraph
  31. ^ Kenya: Deforestation exacerbates droughts, floods
  32. ^ NOAA Drought and climate change: implications for the West December 2002
  33. ^ Record rise in wheat price prompts UN official to warn that surge in food prices may trigger social unrest in developing countries
  34. ^ Fuel costs, drought influence price increase
  35. ^ http://usinfo.state.gov/af/Archive/2005/Oct/26-779234.html Nigerian Scholar Links Drought, Climate Change to Conflict Africa Oct, 2005
  36. ^ Is Water the New Oil?
  37. ^ Sunshade' for global warming could cause drought 2 August 2007 New Scientist, Catherine Brahic
  38. ^ U.S. drought may dry up coolant water, close plants - The China Post
  39. ^ http://www.dailyestimate.com/article.asp?idcategory=35&idSub=175&idArticle=12286
  40. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/03/06/MNGE2BL7161.DTL Parched village sues to shut tap at Coke March 6, 2005
  41. ^ http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/sweden-nuclear-closure-040806 Greenpeace reports on a Swedish drought and its potential impact on their nuclear power industry. 4 August 2006
  42. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6282075.stm Australians Face Snake Invasion.
  43. ^ a b http://txforestservice.tamu.edu/shared/article.asp?DocumentID=406&mc=fire Texas Forest Service description of the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) from 27 December 2002
  44. ^ http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/brochures/climate/Drought.pdf NOAA factsheet, retrieved April 100th 2007
  45. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6538219.stm BBC article on the World Bank loan to save the Aral Sea
  46. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3397077.stm BBC article from 2004 concerning the risk of Kazakhstan losing the lake
  47. ^ Cloud seeding helps alleviate drought
  48. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/6530453.stm BBC's From Our Own Correspondent on khat water usage

External links


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki


From the middle of May to about the middle of August the land of Palestine is dry. It is then the "drought of summer" (Gen. 31:40; Ps. 32:4), and the land suffers (Deut. 28:23: Ps. 102:4), vegetation being preserved only by the dews (Hag. 1:11). (See DEW.)

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Simple English

Drought (pronounced DROWT) is when an area gets less than its normal amount rain over months or even years. Crops and other plants need water to grow, and land animals need it to live. It can become dangerous to people; causing famine and even creating deserts. Drought is a natural event, caused by other weather events like El Nino and high pressure systems. Drought can also be triggered by people cutting down forests, by global warming, and by diverting rivers or emptying lakes. By collecting rainwater or changing sea water into drinking water, people can lessen the impact of drought.

The El Nino is a wind made by the sea. It is a hot dry wind that crosses a continent. In England there is usually more rain than people want, both in summer and winter. In Western Australia, on the edge of the Great Australian Desert, if the rain fails to come, the grass and shrubs fail to grow.Droughts are common in areas where cool winds blow (Africa).

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