Monday, May 14, 2007

Southeastern Drought, Fires--Just The Beginning?

As we finished our last post about the perverse incentives Congress is giving for rural electric cooperatives to build nasty coal-fired power plants, we thought about the wildfires in Georgia and Florida that have disrupted travel and burned more than 385 square miles(!) of forest and swampland.

For those who don't know, the Southeastern U.S. has been experiencing unusually dry weather for a number of years now. Southern Georgia, northern Florida, central Florida, most of Alabama and parts of Mississippi and Tennessee are currently classified as in "extreme drought." All of Georgia is and much of the rest of the Southeast is in a "severe drought" and practically all of the Southeast from North Carolina to Louisiana is "abnormally dry." (See the National Weather Service map, above).

The long-term outlook is for more of the same. (See NWS long-term drought map forecast here.)

Meanwhile, a recent NASA study predicts that summertime temperatures by the end of this century cold average as high as 100-110 degrees in Southeastern cities such as Atlanta (and even Washington). We can easily envision Florida becoming a practically uninhabitable dried out desert, occasionally pummeled by massive hurricanes inducing hellish flash-flooding, while the much of the rest of the region becomes increasingly uncomfortable.

Those fires--which are adding large amounts of carbon to the atmosphere as they burn through some magnificent old-growth forests of the Okeefenokee Swamp--are yet another wake-up call. George Bush reminds us of Pharoah as the Ten Plagues sweep across Egypt, blithely ignoring the warning signs of impending doom.

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