The End Of All Crossroads

Where the TAXI makes a stop, to ponder upon which road mayhap be true

Tag: droughts

December brings record-high temperatures after November brings record highs without rainfall

Published on December 3, 2012 at 1:41 am
Last update on December 3, 2012 at 11:05 am
By Allie Kolechta

High temperatures in the Austin area have already broken records during December, after November also brought record high temperatures and, for the first time in decades, no rain in Austin for the entire month.

Austin saw no measurable rainfall in November, according to reports compiled on the Austin-Bergstrom Airport Area by the National Weather Service Southern Region Headquarters. According to the report, this is the first year Austin has had only trace amounts of rainfall in the month of November since 1970, more than four decades ago.

Record highs were set on Nov. 1 at 88 degrees and Nov. 3 at 87 degrees. High temperatures reached into the 80s on 15 days in November, and lows never reached freezing. The most days it has reached 80 degrees in the area in November was in 1931, with 17 days in the 80s.

Temperatures Saturday hit 83 degrees, breaking the daily record of 82 degrees set in 1954. The high reached 80 degrees Sunday, and is forecast to hit 83 degrees Monday. Previous December highs were 84 degrees Dec 2. 2007 and 86 degrees Dec. 3 1995.

As of the end of November, the Austin area and 81 percent of the state was in a drought classified as moderate or worse, the second of five classifications for drought severity, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. 54 percent of the state was in a drought classified as severe or worse, 25 percent was classified as extreme or worse and 8 percent was classified as exceptional.

Printed on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 as: Record-high climate continues in winter



Mississippi River could become impassable in two weeks

“”There are long-term consequences to letting the Missouri get too low” Casseau said. “There are several states involved in this situation and the Corps of Engineers is responsible for serving the nation as a whole.”

Scott Wuerz | Belleville News-Democrat

The Mississippi River could be too shallow for barge traffic between St. Louis and Cairo in two weeks due to decreasing water levels.

According to the American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council, the country’s busiest inland waterway is nearly too low already for barges loaded with coal, steel and other commerce.

And it is expected to dry up considerably in the next couple of week due to the summer drought and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s move to hold back water from the Missouri River.

“Of particular concern are hazardous rock formations near Thebes and Grand Tower which threaten navigation when water levels drop to anticipated, near historic lows,” the agencies said in a joint release. “The rock formations, combined with the reduced flows from the Missouri River, will prohibit the transport of essential goods along this critical point in the river, effectively stopping barge transportation on the middle Mississippi River around Dec. 10.”

U.S Coast Guard Lt. Colin Fogarty said the river is about two feet below normal water levels. He expects it to threaten the all-time low of 6.2 feet below normal in December. The previous low water mark was set in 1940.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in a controversial move, last week started to reduce to flow of water from the Missouri River into the Mississippi to make sure areas to the north have adequate water. “Congress and the Administration need to understand the immediate severity of this situation,” American Waterways Operators President and CEO Tom Allegrett said. “The Mississippi River is an economic superhighway that efficiently carries hundreds of millions of tons of essential goods for domestic use as well as national export.

“We need to address this situation swiftly, cut through bureaucratic red tape, and prevent the closure of the Mississippi.”Fogarty said the Coast Guard and Corps of Engineers are already working to try to keep the Mississippi River traffic flowing.”At this point in time the Missouri River has been cut off as we have been expecting since early July,” Fogarty said. “The Army Corps of Engineers has begun heavy dredging and the Coast Guard has been moving assets to St. Louis to help in any way it can.”

Fogarty said he is not resigned to the idea that the Mississippi will be shut down by low water.”We will not speculate when or if the river will be closed,” Fogarty said. “We’re doing everything we can to ensure river traffic will continue to flow. Despite the fact that we have these low water conditions, we’re hopeful to keep traffic moving.”

Corps of Engineers spokesperson Sue Casseau said the restrictions on the Missouri are something that happen every year to prevent it from becoming too low over the winter and spring. She said usually it isn’t a problem because the Mississippi doesn’t often suffer from too little water.

“There are long-term consequences to letting the Missouri get too low” Casseau said. “There are several states involved in this situation and the Corps of Engineers is responsible for serving the nation as a whole.

“Despite the Corps of Engineer’s dredging efforts, there is little that can be done to deepen the channel at Thebes, where the bottom of the Mississippi is rock, not clay like it in most of the channel. The river is nine feet deep at Thebes, a town on the Illinois side of the river south of Cape Girardeau.

“Most barges need at least a 9 foot draft,” Fogarty said. But oil barges and ones that carry things like anhydrous ammonia don’t need as deep of a draft to get through.”Fogarty said while some old wrecks have been exposed by the low water, none of them are in the channel or otherwise a threat to navigation. He predicted the low water mark record will be broken about Dec. 15.


World’s rivers running on empty, paper finds

“Four of the world’s great rivers, including the Murray Darling, are all suffering from drastically reduced flows as a direct result of water extraction, according to new ANU research.”


The multi-author study – led by ANU researchers Professor Quentin Grafton, Dr Jamie Pittock, Professor Tom Kompas and Dr Daniel Connell of the Crawford School of Public Policy at The Australian National University – examined the threats from water extractions and climate change on four of the world’s iconic river systems; the US Colorado River, the South African Orange River, the Chinese Yellow River and the Murray.

The researchers found that in all four basins, over a long period of time, outflows have greatly reduced as a direct result of increased water extractions, and that urgent changes in governance of water are needed to ensure the systems remain healthy and viable. “While climate change will aggravate changes in flows in river systems, current high levels of water extractions remain the principal contributor to reduced flows and degradation of these rivers,” said Dr Pittock. “Changes in governance, including sharing the variability between the environment and consumptive users, are urgently required if the health of these rivers is to be maintained,” added Dr Connell.

The researchers said that the key to securing the future of the world’s rivers lies in plans to share water use between users and the environment, and water markets to manage allocations. They added that, although the management of the Murray Darling Basin was favourable when compared to other places in the world, there was much more that could be done to ensure a healthy future for the system. “Many sound frameworks are being established in water management throughout the world, but in many cases their implementation needs to be greatly improved,” said Professor Kompas. “Stronger action is needed to ensure that in dry times, the rivers get a fair share of the available water,” said Dr Pittock. The work was conducted with researchers from the University of Queensland, the University of Canberra and international collaborators from universities in the USA, China, and South Africa.

he paper, “Global insights into water resources, climate change and governance,” is published today in Nature Climate Change.

Journal reference: Nature Climate Change
Provided by Australian National University


Export grain prices soar as US shippers fear Mississippi closure

“In light of present levels on the Mississippi – even with current flow support from the Missouri – ending Missouri River support on December 1 threatens to slow or halt commerce on the Mississippi,”

Thu Nov 15, 2012 6:24pm EST

* Corn basis jumps to 4-mth peak, soy to 2-1/2 mth high
* Exporters scramble for spot shipments as river recedes
* Mississippi River may close from St. Louis to Cairo, IL

By Karl Plume

Nov 15 (Reuters) – The possible closure of the Mississippi River to navigation because of low water has sent prices soaring for grain destined for export from the Gulf of Mexico, grain traders said.

Water levels on the busy stretch of the river from St. Louis to Cairo, Illinois, are forecast to drop to 9 feet or less by early December as drought conservation measures have reduced the flow of water from the Missouri River and its reservoir system into the Mississippi River.

The threat that river shipments could be halted or slowed had exporters this week raising bids for grain to quickly get it to Gulf export points.

“There’s a lot of concern right now about the river and logistics in general,” a U.S. corn exporter said.

“If you’re trying to run a river program and you have commitments to deliver corn in January and it looks like you’re going to have river issues, you’re going to expedite that sooner rather than later. Today was one of those days,” he said.

Spot corn basis bids in the Gulf barge market surged to a 90-cent-per-bushel premium to Chicago Board of Trade futures, the highest spot bid in four months. Basis bids for soybeans jumped to $1.01 over the respective CBOT futures, a 2-1/2 month high.

Spot barge freight costs also spiked on Midwest rivers, jumping 75 percentage points of tariff on the Mississippi River at St. Louis and by 25 points on the Illinois River and the lower Ohio River.

Any shipping problems from St. Louis to Cairo could shut off the flow of grain barges from the Illinois River, which often remains open through the winter.

The grain shipping hub of St. Louis, where rail shipments from the heavy production areas of the western corn belt are loaded onto Gulf-bound barges, could be paralyzed.


Illinois governor Pat Quinn urged the federal government to take “every possible measure” to maintain the flow of water on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to prevent expected restrictions or disruptions to commercial shipping traffic.

Since most barge tow boats need a river depth of at least nine feet, a drop below that level would effectively halt the flow of grain to export terminals at the Gulf Coast, the main outlet for U.S. agricultural exports. A river closure could also impact barge shipments of coal, fuel, fertilizer, de-icing road salt and numerous other goods.

Quinn joined fellow governor Jay Nixon of Missouri in calling for the federal government to rethink plans by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to draw down the volume of water released from upriver dams on the Missouri later this month.

“I ask that the Corps consider the impacts to river navigation as decisions are made regarding the release of water from Missouri River dams, and take all reasonable measures beneficial to river navigation and other uses,” Quinn said in a letter to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the army for civil works.

“In light of present levels on the Mississippi – even with current flow support from the Missouri – ending Missouri River support on December 1 threatens to slow or halt commerce on the Mississippi,” he said.


Despite a growing chorus of pleas from the governors and from the shipping industry, the Army Corps said plans remain in place to seasonally draw down the flow of water from Gavins Point Dam, the southernmost dam on the Missouri river system near Yankton, South Dakota.

The Corps will incrementally reduce water released from the dam beginning on November 23 until it reaches about 12,000 cubic feet per second to conserve water on the basin’s already drought-reduced reservoirs, said Monique Farmer, spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers Northwestern division.

The Army Corps is bound by law to operate the Missouri River system and its reservoirs and dams based on the needs of those on the Missouri river basin only, despite the impact on other basins. Those needs include navigation on the Missouri, power generation, irrigation, drinking water and recreation, among others.

Any deviation from that operating plan would likely require congressional action and the shipping industry has been actively lobbying the federal government to take action, citing a potentially serious impact on their businesses and the still-recovering U.S. economy.

However, draining more water from the Missouri River’s reservoirs could be risky as current weather and hydrological forecasts already suggest they may contain 20 percent less water than normal come next spring, Farmer said.

The Army Corps, U.S. Coast Guard and shipping industry representatives will hold a joint news conference on Friday on the current state and outlook of the rivers. (Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)