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The Observer

By Roz Rogoff

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About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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The Water Cycle (Republished from 2011)

Uploaded: Feb 6, 2014
I wrote a blog on the Water Cycle in September, 2011 because San Ramon had just passed a Climate Action Plan. I somewhat cynically dismissed government imposed solutions to Climate Change as pretentious and useless. Now that we are in a drought and there are discussions about cutting down water use and other "solutions" it seems appropriate to repost an updated version of this blog.

San Ramon passed a Climate Action Plan two years ago which was required by the State of California. This is a local attempt to solve a global problem, which won't have much effect on it and only over-simplifies the problem.

It's foolish to ignore the increases in severe weather events over the last few years, but even if San Ramon reduces the amount of CO2 we might be contributing to global warming, it is literally a drop in the ocean of floods, hurricanes, snow storms, wild fires, and droughts we hear about every day. All of these events are connected in one way or another to the Hydrologic Cycle, or as it is called in 2nd grade, the Water Cycle.

Water is a constant. The same amount of water has exited on Earth for millennia. The only thing that changes is its form. Water, as we know, can be liquid (ocean, lakes, rivers), vapor (steam, humidity), or solid (ice). Only 1% of the liquid water on Earth is potable (drinkable), so it is a very precious commodity.

The water cycle for those of you who don't remember your 2nd grade science, is the cycle where water changes from liquid to vapor to clouds to precipitation, and back to liquid water again. The sun heats up the surface of the water and vapor rises into the atmosphere. As it rises it cools and turns it into clouds. It's rather discouraging to learn that beautiful, fluffy clouds are really dusty condensed water vapor.

Clouds are blown by wind currents from the location where the water evaporated to the location where it is released as precipitation – rain or snow depending on the temperature of the surrounding air. More evaporation means more precipitation. Higher temperatures on the water source, means more evaporation. Voila, more rain and snow coming down. It's that simple.

Floods, droughts, hurricanes, unexpected snow storms will continue to happen whether you like Al Gore or not. Gore has nothing to do with this. The Hydrologic Cycle is basic science not bogus science. It's changing now because the temperature on Earth has increased, even if just one degree, and that's enough to increase the evaporation of water, condense it into clouds, and produce greater amounts of rain and snow, or droughts where the water was taken from.

Here's a link to the NASA website on the water cycle and climate change. You don't have to believe in manmade global warming to recognize that Earth is warming; just consider the cycle of drought and floods we see happening around the World over the last five years.

Many dissenters say it is just a normal change of temperature that the Earth has gone through throughout its lifecycle. OK, I'll buy that (not really, but let's at least agree this is happening for whatever reason). During the last warm spell, 125,000 years ago, the seas were about 18 feet (5.5 meters) higher than they are today. So even if this is simply another global hot spell, it will still cause major changes in the environment we currently inhabit.

If the Earth is warming, shouldn't we be preparing for these changes instead of just letting them happen? By preparing I mean getting ready for the floods, fires, and droughts, and not changing our light bulbs to CFLs. Think of all of the snow in Manhattan last year (2010) when they didn't have any place left to put it, or the snow in Atlanta when they didn't have any way to remove it. These are harbingers of things to come. That's why I've been installing rainwater capture systems in my yard. It is necessary to save water whenever we can.

I believe that all of the hot gasses spewed into the environment (not including my own hot air in blogs like this), are contributing to global warming. The Earth is an enclosed sphere. There is a shell around our atmosphere that keeps our air inside. This also keeps whatever is put into our air inside. So if millions and millions of cars and power plants are spewing hot gasses somewhere in the World 24/7, it would not surprise me that it has an effect on the global temperature.

Try it in your garage. On a cool day put a weather thermometer in the garage. Check the temperature the next day. Write it down so you don't forget. Then close the doors and windows, start your car and let it idle for an hour or two. Then wearing a gas mask go back in and check the temperature again. I have not done this because I don't have a gas mask or want to asphyxiate myself, but I'm willing to bet the temperature has gone up even if the outside temperature stayed the same or is lower.

Our Federal and State governments impose laws to make us behave more responsibly but these will probably have very little overall effect. Climate Action Plans in California don't change what China, India, South America, and Africa do. This is a global problem and it is probably too late to stop it. I know that sounds very pessimistic, but I am very pessimistic about this right now.

The state should be preparing for more intense wildfires, droughts, flooding, and a potential rise in the sea level along the coast and inlets. So far San Ramon and the Tri Valley have been lucky to avoid weather-related disasters. We may just be in the right geographic location to escape the flooding, but summer wild fires are a real possibility which is another good reason for storing your rainwater.

Check out where the water could be if the sea level increases 5 meters to where it was 125,000 years ago. Even if this warming cycle is just another in the cyclical climate changes Earth has experienced in its long life, more warmth means more evaporation, means more rain, means more flooding, means more drought here or somewhere else.


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