How Bad Was the Lake Lanier Drought Really?

Not bad at all. Apparently Columbia University agrees with a lot of people around Lake Lanier. They have a new study out that claims:

“the havoc came not from exceptional dryness but from booming population and bad planning”.

The drought of the last several years really shouldn’t have caused so many problems:

“The study finds that climate change has played no detectable role in the frequency or severity of droughts in the region, and its future effects there are uncertain; but droughts there are essentially unpredictable, and could strike again at any time.

“The drought that caused so much trouble was pathetically normal and short, far less than what the climate system is capable of generating,” said lead author Richard Seager, a climate modeler at Lamont-Doherty.”

So what was the real problem?

“People were saying that this was a 100-year drought, but it was pretty run-of-the-mill,” he said. “The problem is, in the last 10 years population has grown phenomenally, and hardly anyone, including the politicians, has been paying any attention.”

The researchers did some digging back into the historical records:

“These records show that more severe, extended region-wide droughts came in 1555-1574, 1798-1826 and 1834-1861. The 1500s drought, which ran into the 1600s in some areas, has been linked by other studies to the destruction of early Spanish and English New World colonies, including Jamestown, Virginia, where 80 percent of settlers died in a short time. The 20th century was relatively wet, but the study showed that even the 1998-2002 drought was worse than that in 2005-2007.”

So why did we get hit so hard this time?

“The factor that has changed is population. In 1990, Georgia, which uses a quarter of the region’s water, had 6.5 million people. By 2007, there were 9.5 million – a rise of almost 50 percent in 17 years.”

The full study appears in the October edition of the “Journal of Climate” … no, me neither. Still, its worth reading the summary:

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/oct2009/2009-10-19-093.asp

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