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What We Read Today 16 February 2015

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News(membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


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No Amazon Deliveries by Drone, At Least Not For Awhile (Alan Levin and Joe Carroll, Bloomberg Business)  For the time being, the FAA has concluded that small drones for hire must be flown within sight of an operator and away from crowds for safety reasons.  Not only will this prohibit deliveries by drone but also  activities such as long-range pipeline inspections and news-media photography of public events.  The wider uses will undoubtedly be revisited for future regulation changes, so your Amazon book may still someday arrive with a drone visit to you doorstep.

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world











NASA: The US Faces a "Mega-Drought" Not Seen in 1,000 Years (Jordan Valinsky, Science.Mic)  Hat tip to Lorne at Newsana.  NASA is forecasting a mega-drought worse than anything seen in the last 1,000 years for the Great Plains and the U.S. Southwest.  The current California drought is a mere drop in the bucket by comparison, as is the extended drought in the 12th and 13th century (which had devastating effect, see second article below).  The dust bowl drought of the 1930s and 1940s almost doesn't even show up on the scale below.  See also next article, which is the research paper upon which this is based.


What could change this projection?  A greater number of El Ninos than currently projected.  El Ninos are weather patterns associated with central and eastern Pacific surface warming off the coast of Equador which produces higher levels of precipitation along the Pacific coast of South America and the across the entire span of southern regions of the U.S., from the southwest all the way to the southeastern coast from Florida to Virginia.   For up-to-date climate assessments, including details of just what is happening in the Pacific "engines" that drive western hemisphere weather, read the weekly reports by Econintersect climate economist Sig Silber.

Unprecedented 21st century drought risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains (Benjamin I. Cook, Toby R. Ault and Jason E. Smerdon, Science Advances, American Association for the Advancement of Science)  Not only is a several decades long mega-drought forecast for the U.S. southwest and the Great Plains, much of North America is also predicted to have drought conditions, just not quite as severe as the other two regions, but worse than anything on the archaeological record.  See graphic below.

From the authors' conclusions:

Our results point to a remarkably drier future that falls far outside the contemporary experience of natural and human systems in Western North America, conditions that may present a substantial challenge to adaptation. Human populations in this region, and their associated water resources demands, have been increasing rapidly in recent decades, and these trends are expected to continue for years to come (29). Future droughts will occur in a significantly warmer world with higher temperatures than recent historical events, conditions that are likely to be a major added stress on both natural ecosystems (30) and agriculture (31). And, perhaps most importantly for adaptation, recent years have witnessed the widespread depletion of nonrenewable groundwater reservoirs (32, 33), resources that have allowed people to mitigate the impacts of naturally occurring droughts. In some cases, these losses have even exceeded the capacity of Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the two major surface reservoirs in the region (34, 35). Combined with the likelihood of a much drier future and increased demand, the loss of groundwater and higher temperatures will likely exacerbate the impacts of future droughts, presenting a major adaptation challenge for managing ecological and anthropogenic water needs in the region.

Click for large image.

Demise of the ancient Pueblo civilization a harbinger of things to come? (Popular Archaeology)  A drought during the 1100 to 1300 AD period is believed the cause of the demise of the civilization known as the  Ancestral Pueblo peoples (or Anasazi).

It has long been theorized by many scientists that the collapse of the great Pueblo civilizations of the American Southwest were due at least in part to intensive drought conditions during the 12th and 13th centuries—what climatologists have called the Medieval Climatic Anomaly. The archaeological evidence and tree-ring data they have collected and analyzed have, they say, provided some support for this.

Map at Wikipedia by Ricraider.

Click for large image at Wikipedia.

Aerial photograph by Bob Adams, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Click for large image at Wikipedia.

Photograph by Lorax.

More evidence Mayan civilization collapsed because of drought (Justin Moter, The Washington Post)  Sometime between 800 and 1000 AD the great Mayan civilization collapsed.  This is before the timeline in the articles discussed above.  The occurrence of drought during that era has been determined by local measurements of mineral deposits in the Great Blue Hole off the coast of what is now Belize and by the timeline of stalagmite growth rates measured in a cave in Belize.  When rainfall became scarce the civilization essentially vanished leaving behind a remnant subsistence population.


Philanthropy meets the market (Matt Damon and Gary White, The Economist)  Investing in water is becoming an ever growing business and philanthropy aimed at increasing availability and efficient use of water is also on the rise, sometimes with corporations involved in both.  If there is any way that the North American economy can survive a mega-drought should one come is with advanced technology.

Predicting the future of global water stress (Alli Gold Roberts, MIT News)  By 2050 more than half the world’s population will live in water-stressed areas and about a billion or more will not have sufficient water resources.  The research paper referred to is The Future of Global Water Stress: An Integrated Assessment (C. Adam Schlosser et al, MIT Joint Program on the Science and policy of Global Change).  The following graphic shows the late 20th century distribution of water stress.  This is the baseline from which the "much worse" projections are made.


Other Economics and Business Items of Note and Miscellanea

Hot days are worse than cold ones, and this economics research proves it (Vox)

The uses and abuses of history (The Economist)  The problem with using historical examples is that there is rarely agreement on what history teaches. Indeed, there is rarely agreement on the facts.

Pay to sway: Politics, education and economics (The State)  Redistribution of resources within a state will incense those distributed away from.

Divestment: It’s not Morality – It’s Economics (Daily Gazette Swarthmore College)

Book Review: Post-Keynesian Economics (Lavoie) (Seeking AlphaEconintersect will have more about this book in the future.

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