It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Saturday, September 5, 2009

"I May Die Before I Repay That Loan"

The New York Times has an article about drought, groundwater depletion, and subsistence agriculture in India. This affecting anecdote is included:

To the eye, the drought can be deceptive. In Pipri Village, as in other areas, greenery is evident, even as nearly every field without irrigation is stunted.

In recent days, rains have returned to Pipri and some other areas, but not in time to save the summer, or kharif, crop. Located three hours from the high-tech center of Hyderabad, Pipri is one of thousands of Indian villages decimated by the drought.

On a recent afternoon, Mrs. Bai, the widow, stood at the edge of her ragged seven acres, her toes caked in dirt as she motioned to the remains of the pyre used to cremate her husband four months ago. The family had borrowed 80,000 rupees, or about $1,640, to treat his kidney disease; the failed crop left them without money to pay off the debt. Only one of her seven children reached 10th grade, and none can find work off the land.

“I may die before I can repay that loan,” she said.

So, to the drought in East Africa, South Texas and Australia, (and the recently abated drought in the US Southeast) add India. Can we start to ask whether the subtropical regions are drying out as a planetary phenomenon? Are there any large subtropical areas experiencing unusual excess moisture to put in the balance?

For summer 2009 through mid-August, the entire Indian subcontinent has a rainfall deficit re climatology of 29 % according to this map:
Image via blog of SAI BHASKAR REDDY NAKKA.


Dano said...

Large chunks of China have been like this for years. They were purchasing water (via grain) to alleviate this issue. Likely India will be on the world grain market too. Many grain shortages coming, and soon, and I can't quantify the % likelihood, but there is a risk of permanent shortages if this keeps up. The risk is clear enough that it should stimulate action.



David B. Benson said...

Terrible drought in Nepal as well.

Steve Bloom said...

I think South Africa and Argentina both still have a problem. Add to that Kenya and a portion of Brazil. although those are in the tropics. Also, that Texas drought must extend into Mexico, although IIRC the water problems Mexico DF (much farther south) is having is more infrastructural. The Middle East has it pretty bad as well. Spain had a serious one going on recently, although I don't know if it does still. And of course California and some adjacent areas remain dry. Hmm, as I keep typing I keep remembering more.

I was thinking the other day that it really does seem like an unusual amount of drought, but have no idea if any sort of global index is maintained. JF?