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Earth Science

Northern Hemisphere Pollution a Cause of '80s Africa Drought 158

Posted by timothy
from the ashes-to-ashes-to-africa dept.
vinces99 writes "Decades of drought in central Africa reached their worst point in the 1980s, causing Lake Chad, a shallow lake used to water crops in neighboring countries, to almost dry out completely. The shrinking lake and prolonged drought were initially blamed on overgrazing and bad agricultural practices. More recently, Lake Chad became an example of global warming. But new University of Washington research shows the drought was caused at least in part by Northern Hemisphere air pollution. Particles from coal-burning factories in the United States and Europe during the 1960s, '70s and '80s cooled the entire Northern Hemisphere, shifting tropical rain bands south. That meant that rains no longer reached the Sahel region, a band that spans the African continent just below the Sahara desert."
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Northern Hemisphere Pollution a Cause of '80s Africa Drought

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  • by twistedcubic (577194) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @09:53PM (#43949787)
    Ha! And you thought they were crazy when they bllamed the "White Man" for droughts in Africa.
    • The real question.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by intellitech (1912116) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @10:11PM (#43949917)

      If that was caused my industrial pollution in the U.S. 30-odd years ago, what can we expect from the pollution China is dishing out?

      • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @11:28PM (#43950271) Homepage

        Not much, I'd say. They blamed it on:
        1) overgrazing
        2) bad agriculture
        3) global warming
        4) pollution of US and Euro factories

        How about we simply wait for 5) and blame those guys ?

      • by crutchy (1949900) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @02:24AM (#43950889)

        what can we expect from the pollution China is dishing out?

        lots of black pots and kettles

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        First off, it was not caused by the US. It was caused by the US AND Europe. Europe as a whole put out a lot more pollution than did the USA.

        Secondly, you are already seeing what is expected. We have droughts and floods going on all over. Make no mistake. Much of that is caused by China and increasingly, the rest of BRIC.

        This will continue until we quit giving a pass to China/BRI. It is insane that so many claim that china has a RIGHT to increase co2 and all the pollution. Normalizing on per capitia i
        • by haruchai (17472)

          It's not often I find myself agreeing with an AC

        • by dodobh (65811)

          Pollution is tied to quality of life, which is tied to energy consumption per capita.

          GDP is really not a relevant measure, except in terms of being able to purchase that energy.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        If current weather trends are any indication, the failure of the conveyor, followed by the jet stream. Both are decelerating. But you can't pin that on China, that's everyone's fault.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Bush. Its always his fault.

      And personally i'm sick and tired of the 'blame America for the worlds woes'

      • And personally i'm sick and tired of the 'blame America for the worlds woes'

        So you see "Northern Hemisphere" and think that just means America? That continent spans both hemispheres!

        • by crutchy (1949900)

          you're right... northern hemisphere is only half of america

          americans think they own the whole world, which also includes the southern hemisphere

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Didn't anyone hand out the talking points? Coal causes CO2 emissions and global warming, not cooling! Please people, let's stay on script.

    • Carbon dioxide is not the only pollutant on the face of the planet, you know. While I personally don't dispute the problem of CO2, I do think it has made it too easy for people to ignore the realities of other types of pollution. For example, biological detergents pollute waterways, killing animals -- in particular amphibians such as frogs and salamanders. And yet one major biological detergent now likes to sell itself as a "green" solution on the grounds that washing at 30 degrees Celsius means less car
      • by Bongo (13261)

        I wish people would start talking about idea pollution. Between religions, vested interests, various ideologies, and plain failing education systems, the world is full of stupid ideas. Why does it take a mathematician to write "if a lot of people make a small change, the overall outcome will be a small change" ? (he was arguing against the usual green narrative about how we can individually make a difference). I rarely use the word "stupid" but it seems there is a long way to go towards people learning how

        • Behaviour modification may actually be necessary. The act of switching off your desk lamp when you leave the desk may not save the world, but it should hopefully encourage a better state of mindfulness about the effects of our actions. Once we've learned to recognise that we can and do have an effect, we will hopefully be more likely to think about the big things.

          On the other hand, there is the problem of those small actions becoming us "doing our bit" and instead stopping us from being mindful. It is ha

  • by russotto (537200) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @10:02PM (#43949853) Journal

    Payback, that is, for all the hurricanes they send us every year. Suck on it, Africa.

    • Payback, that is, for all the hurricanes they send us every year. Suck on it, Africa.

      Oh izzit?

      Batten down the hatches, boys. Hurricane season next year might be a bit... uncomfortable...

  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @10:12PM (#43949919) Journal

    Burn more coal in the southern hemisphere, and push the rain back north...

  • I call B.S. (Score:1, Flamebait)

    Coriolis effect. Next FUD!

  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @10:22PM (#43949959)

    This [wisc.edu] goes much further into explaining some of the variance, both seasonal and longish-term (only goes back to the Fifties), of water table levels in the entire Chad basin - a system that covers a tenth of the entire African continent, not just a relatively small body of surface water. The human impact, according to that paper, accounts for about one twentieth of the total variance in the system but as much as 40% of the surface area of the lake itself (and up to half the volume), with most of that variance originating upstream in tributary river systems. AGW is barely even considered (or even mentioned, going by a quick scan down the paper), since the effects of AGW, if it even exists, have not been or cannot currently be measured because until it is properly defined, nobody even knows what to look for. It does deal with precipitation, which has had a bit of a lull over recent decades (1985-1994 being particularly dry years), but again this deals with the entire system not just the lake.

  • by MacTO (1161105) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @10:24PM (#43949969)

    Personally, I don't buy into the global warming camp or anti-climate change camp. I recognize that the system in question is far too complex for us to understand with certainty. I also recognize that the system is "easy" to understand within statistical certainties, which are not reported often enough. I am also sane enough to recognize that my education in astrophysics only gives me some understanding into the issues of anthropomorphic climate change, rather than a complete understanding of it. I also recognize that my education gives me less understanding in it than climatologists, yet more understanding in it than scientists who never deal with problems at a planetary scale.

    Yet one thing I am certain of: actions imply consequences. The consequences may be positive, negative, or neutral. Whatever the outcome, we must make an attempt to understand it. Our best means of understanding it are scientific. Political attempts to understand it only tell us if the consequences are desirable, thus they must come after scientific attempt to understand it. Other means of understanding climate change are likely based upon invalid systems of knowledge, and ought to be rejected altogether.

    To make a long story short: I'd have to read the paper itself to judge the degree to which it's valid. Given that it is based upon scientific principles, I'm going to have to plead: I'm human, I have limited resources to deal with the problem presented before me, it is based upon a system of knowledge that I find acceptable (i.e. science), so I accept it.

    As long as the authors are being intellectually honest, I believe that it is a valid way to accept their conclusions. (If they aren't intellectually honest, I'll hate them but still stand by the principle: actions imply consequences, now figure out what the consequences are.)

    • by Nerdfest (867930) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @10:51PM (#43950115)

      When the changes affect global weather (and other) systems, the can be positive and negative, depending on your location and what period of time your looking at. It's part of why it's so difficult to measure and forecast.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Fjandr (66656)

      It's too bad that people like you are a tiny minority among the screaming hordes of the scientifically illiterate and those who take everything "scientific" they read at face value.

    • by wytcld (179112) on Saturday June 08, 2013 @11:05PM (#43950181) Homepage

      Personally, I don't buy into the global warming camp or anti-climate change camp. ... Given that it is based upon scientific principles, I'm going to have to plead: I'm human, I have limited resources to deal with the problem presented before me, it is based upon a system of knowledge that I find acceptable (i.e. science), so I accept it.

      So if, say, 50% of scientific papers are "intellectually honest," and 97% of scientific papers addressing climate change conclude that anthropogenic factors are the main drivers of variance over the last century or more, then how can you not "buy into the global warming camp"?

      Isn't the whole "anti-climate change camp" devoted to the notion that there is such a thing as major, wide-spread actions without consequences, contrary to your major assertion? Because on the level of global climate, somehow man's actions are perpetually too small to effect it, or a deity will counter any potential harm we do, or the planet will magically turn every potential disadvantage to advantage, or the like?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dbIII (701233)

        Isn't the whole "anti-climate change camp" devoted to the notion that there is such a thing as major, wide-spread actions without consequences, contrary to your major assertion?

        You've nailed it. It's driven by the creationist idiots that think God created a perfect unchanging world so any suggestion of change is a spit in God's eye. It's a pity they think their God is so limited.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Obfuscant (592200)

          It's driven by the creationist idiots that think God created a perfect unchanging world so any suggestion of change is a spit in God's eye.

          I know it's wrong to try to respond to flamebait, but you have it backwards. It's the people who think that the way the world is right this very minute is the way it is always supposed to be and we must do everything we can to keep it static that are the problem, and they aren't the religious nuts, they're the eco-nuts. They admit that they know about ice ages and the lush, tropical periods that the dinosaurs flourished in, but somehow today is perfect and no change, man-made OR natural, can be allowed to

          • by dbIII (701233) on Sunday June 09, 2013 @02:11AM (#43950857)
            You've missed it. It's not about religious people being stupid but instead about stupid people trying to make stupidity a virtue in a cut down version of a religion. Recall this is the same bunch that rejects the idea of an educated clergy and saw Jesuits (and well educated Protestant clergy) as their mortal enemy before they started going after scientists.

            Pointing out a flaw in a Christianity Lite franchise that's really all about money and control is not the same as going after everyone with a belief.

            You've read far too much into a simple statement above and managed to argue about something different and attack the team you think I'm cheering for
          • we must do everything we can to keep it static

            Funny how that's pretty much the definition of "Conservative" [billmcgonigle.com], eh?

            and they aren't the religious nuts, they're the eco-nuts.

            Those are just the useful idiots. Greenpeace, for example, who incidentally have another reason to hate nuclear power over this thing in Chad (oh, wait, no, that's the opposite).

            they've built their home on it and it must be preserved

            Ah, yes, now we're getting there. Northern Europe represents vast property wealth in an area that's only via

          • by gzuckier (1155781)

            It's driven by the creationist idiots that think God created a perfect unchanging world so any suggestion of change is a spit in God's eye.

            I know it's wrong to try to respond to flamebait, but you have it backwards. It's the people who think that the way the world is right this very minute is the way it is always supposed to be and we must do everything we can to keep it static that are the problem, and they aren't the religious nuts, they're the eco-nuts. They admit that they know about ice ages and the lush, tropical periods that the dinosaurs flourished in, but somehow today is perfect and no change, man-made OR natural, can be allowed to happen. Yes, it was different before, but it can no longer be different because we like it the way it is.

            They're the ones bemoaning the extinction of species that no longer fit the climate or environment, and trying to build seawalls to stop the ocean from eroding that spit that developed a mere fifty years ago, but they've built their home on it and it must be preserved because it's "natural" and that's how it has "always been". The very people who hurl insults at "those religious nuts" for not accepting Evolution as the origin of life are the ones who try to stop true evolution and survival of the fittest from happening.

            It's a pity they think their God is so limited.

            Backwards again. Religious people know God isn't limited. It's the atheists who cannot fathom a God with powers they cannot personally understand or account for.

            You don't see the religious right out protesting for carbon cap and trade or against energy users or producers. They know better. Change happens. It is Hope and Change doesn't.

            So... you're arguing that we should accept, if not our extinction as a species, at least the disruption of our civilization which relies so heavily on contingencies such as climate, and reconcile ourselves to the rebirth of the Cretaceous and a resurgence of dinosaurs and ammonites, or their more recent analogs? Geez, you are one philosophical guru.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Isn't the whole "anti-climate change camp" devoted to the notion that there is such a thing as major, wide-spread actions without consequences, contrary to your major assertion?

        No. One has to start by not mischaracterizing the arguments. First, this sort of juvenile argument is why I recommend we don't use the phrase "climate change" in a scientific context. Here, by describing the opposition to the current theories of anthropogenic global warming or AGW and to proposed costly societal remedies as "anti-climate change" or somehow denying that any climate ever changes, which I don't think describes anything other than a very small sliver of society.

        Most such opposition grants so

    • Political attempts to understand it only tell us if the consequences are desirable, thus they must come after scientific attempt to understand it.

      I too cannot determine on my own whether the science supporting the conclusions being discussed here is sound. On the face of it I don't have strong reason to simply discard the conclusions; presumably the work was done by intellectually honest, competent scientists.

      It's the political attempts at understanding that give me some trouble. Studies like this are eagerly taken up by those who want to believe that we are "bad" people and America is a "bad" country, to be blamed for anything and everything wrong

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        The problems aren't caused by America, the problems are caused by Mercantilism. The problem isn't big screen TVs and big screen phones, the problem is that there is no "away" but the whole world acts as if there were.

        I suppose you can still throw away glass, the world makes plenty of sand and glass isn't particularly harmful... but if we refilled it like we used to, we'd be using less energy. And that's why the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and has been as long as we have been living in cities; ou

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't buy into the global warming camp or anti-climate change camp. I recognize that the system in question is far too complex for us to understand with certainty.

      However, the latter is all the anti-AGW camp wants from you. Just wait. Do nothing. Delay. That's why they exist.

      I accept AGW science because it is the most hammered and hated field of science since evolution and yet, like evolutionary biology, it keeps on producing results. A good dumb-guy's-test of this is to look at level the two sides are working at: As in, say, cosmology, where the "big bang camp" are looking at subtle patterns in the CMB data to work out fine details of early inflation, or stretch int

  • If by pollution, you mean Mount St Helens erupting, then yes the infamous drought in Africa what's the result of air pollutants originating from North America. This is very old news.
  • This study sounds all radical and leading edge but was fundamentally done about 10 years ago by a Canadian researcher from Dalhousie University.
    Talk about taking credit for someone else's work. Without going through the paywall I can't see if the much earlier work was properly cited but regardless they are making it sound like this is a groundbreaking discovery as opposed to confirming and probably increasing the detail of previous work.
  • We all know it was Bono and all that clapping of his hands

  • So now burning coal causes cooling? I thought it was supposed to cause warming.

    I think anyone blaming a specific change in regional weather/climate on specific human causes is full of themself.
  • Climate change, as far as I'm concerned isn't just man made, but we certainly have NOT helped make our climate better.

    Between the great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, air pollution, huge deforestations and water pollution, well, let's stop fooling ourselves about our 'negligible' impact.

    Won't even go in the wildflife and the habitats we have endangered for all kinds of reasons, including many gas and oil spills, or the many species of animals, insects, plants etc, which we have seeded in area where there
  • And cleaner. And safer. There's only one to choose,

    Robert Hargraves - Thorium Energy Cheaper than Coal @ ThEC12
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayIyiVua8cY [youtube.com]

    Screw the overblown 'proliferation issues', which are used by governments all over the world as blunt billy clubs to discourage the development of cleaner, better nuclear energy and its alternative methods, while the chosen few use a false moral high ground to perpetuate a condition of endless war for oil. There is already enough processed uranium and s

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