Daily Archives: December 25, 2017

Little Ice Age Conditions as Benchmarks of Hydroclimatic Variability

Tree ring studies such as this required several underlying assumptions which make the resulting projections and forecasts unreliable. Nevertheless, the study represents a lot of work by many very talented scientists and will be useful in furthering discussions of this topic. 

Loisel J, MacDonald GM, Thomson MJ (2017). Little Ice Age climatic erraticism as an analogue for future enhanced hydroclimatic variability across the American Southwest. PLoS ONE 12(10): e0186282. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.018628

The American Southwest has experienced a series of severe droughts interspersed with strong wet episodes over the past decades, prompting questions about future climate patterns and potential intensification of weather disruptions under warming conditions. Here we show that interannual hydroclimatic variability in this region has displayed a significant level of non-stationarity over the past millennium. Our tree ring-based analysis of past drought indicates that the Little Ice Age (LIA) experienced high interannual hydroclimatic variability, similar to projections for the 21st century. This is contrary to the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA), which had reduced variability and therefore may be misleading as an analog for 21st century warming, notwithstanding its warm (and arid) conditions. Given past non-stationarity, and particularly erratic LIA, a ‘warm LIA’ climate scenario for the coming century that combines high precipitation variability (similar to LIA conditions) with warm and dry conditions (similar to MCA conditions) represents a plausible situation that is supported by recent climate simulations. Our comparison of tree ring-based drought analysis and records from the tropical Pacific Ocean suggests that changing variability in El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) explains much of the contrasting variances between the MCA and LIA conditions across the American Southwest. Greater ENSO variability for the 21st century could be induced by a decrease in meridional sea surface temperature gradient caused by increased greenhouse gas concentration, as shown by several recent climate modeling experiments. Overall, these results coupled with the paleo-record suggests that using the erratic LIA conditions as benchmarks for past hydroclimatic variability can be useful for developing future water-resource management and drought and flood hazard mitigation strategies in the Southwest.

Hazard Ranking Method for Arsenic Exposure from Private Wells, UK

Crabbe H, Fletcher T, Close R, Watts MJ, Ander EL, Smedley PL, Verlander NQ, Gregory M, Middleton DRS, Polya DA, Studden M, Leonardi GS. Hazard Ranking Method for Populations Exposed to Arsenic in Private Water Supplies: Relation to Bedrock Geology. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Dec 1;14(12). pii: E1490. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14121490.

Approximately one million people in the UK are served by private water supplies (PWS) where main municipal water supply system connection is not practical or where PWS is the preferred option. Chronic exposure to contaminants in PWS may have adverse effects on health. South West England is an area with elevated arsenic concentrations in groundwater and over 9000 domestic dwellings here are supplied by PWS. There remains uncertainty as to the extent of the population exposed to arsenic (As), and the factors predicting such exposure. We describe a hazard assessment model based on simplified geology with the potential to predict exposure to As in PWS. Households with a recorded PWS in Cornwall were recruited to take part in a water sampling programme from 2011 to 2013. Bedrock geologies were aggregated and classified into nine Simplified Bedrock Geological Categories (SBGC), plus a cross-cutting “mineralized” area. PWS were sampled by random selection within SBGCs and some 508 households volunteered for the study. Transformations of the data were explored to estimate the distribution of As concentrations for PWS by SBGC. Using the distribution per SBGC, we predict the proportion of dwellings that would be affected by high concentrations and rank the geologies according to hazard. Within most SBGCs, As concentrations were found to have log-normal distributions. Across these areas, the proportion of dwellings predicted to have drinking water over the prescribed concentration value (PCV) for As ranged from 0% to 20%. From these results, a pilot predictive model was developed calculating the proportion of PWS above the PCV for As and hazard ranking supports local decision making and prioritization. With further development and testing, this can help local authorities predict the number of dwellings that might fail the PCV for As, based on bedrock geology. The model presented here for Cornwall could be applied in areas with similar geologies. Application of the method requires independent validation and further groundwater-derived PWS sampling on other geological formations.