What’s missing in the photo on the right? Snow. And perhaps a bit of greenery.
NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released that photo to illustrate what a year of drought conditions (which have intensified recently) have wrought on the landscape. The amount of snow in California’s Sierra region is between 4 percent and 22 percent of normal. And a change that drastic is easily seen from space.
It’s possibly the worst drought California has experienced in 500 years. Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency. Some rural areas may run out of water entirely in the next four months if conditions don’t improve. California’s State Water Project, an agency that redistributes water from the snowy mountains in the north to the drier south, has announced it cannot deliver water to many communities in the coming months. Those towns will be on their own for water resources.
The Contra Costa Times, based in Northern California, explains:
In November, because of the drought, officials at the state Department of Water Resources announced that summer water deliveries from the project would be only 5 percent of the amount that the farms and cities who buy water from the project have under contract. By comparison, the project allocated 35 percent last year and 65 percent in 2012.
But even that proved to be too optimistic.
“Simply put, there’s not enough water in the system right now for customers to expect any water this season from the project,” said Mark Cowin, the department’s director.
Why is this happening? Meteorologists say it’s because of persistent high pressure over the region (called in weather media the “resilient ridge“), which is diverting storms northward toward Alaska. It’s the same bit of high pressure that has caused the “arctic vortex” to push southward on the eastern half of the United States. (This video provides a great explainer of how the two are related.)
(NOAA / NASA)The result is a bone-dry landscape. In this map, also from NASA, you can clearly see how incredibly dry the state is.
And the frustrating truth is that there’s little the state can do but conserve and wait.
“We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” Brown said in declaring the state of emergency last month.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."