Haboobs–Is Phoenix Doomed?

I'm reposting this article because it continues to get hits on my blog. Just this last week it got 7 views. Don't know why that is because it's not Haboob Season. I've cleaned it up a bit.

This is a post that I really wanted to do last year(2013) when I did my “Miami is Doomed” and “The Marshall Islands are Doomed” posts. In fact there were several posts that I didn't get to, for one reason or another, that I've decided to write about in the coming weeks. One of the reasons that I wanted to say Phoenix is doomed was that I really, really, wanted to use this picture.

This fascinating picture, photographer unknown, intrigues me. I mean if you were looking out your window and saw this wall of dust coming at you wouldn't you think you were doomed? Let's look at another picture.

I thinking I've seen these things in the “Mummy” movies where you can see the evil forces of the Pharaoh coming at you. These are called Haboobs (Origin: Arabic habūb violent storm). For some reason I did not know that these things are common in the Phoenix area.

Phoenix experiences various degrees of dust storms, but the haboob is the largest and most dangerous. According to the National Weather Service, Phoenix experiences on average about 3 haboobs per year during the months of June through September.

I thought we had come a long ways from the Dust Bowl Days of the 1930's Here is a Weather Channel video that explaind how they happen. Many reports say that these Haboobs are becoming more intense.

Haboobs were not the reason that I thought Phoenix was doomed. Heat and water were my main reasons. I first heard about Phoenix's problems when I saw a book reviewed. The name of the book was, “A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest” by William deBuys. This Huffington Post article explains his thinking.

If, in summer, the grid there fails on a large scale and for a significant period of time, the fallout will make the consequences of Superstorm Sandy look mild. Sure, people will hunt madly for power outlets to charge their cellphones and struggle to keep their milk fresh, but communications and food refrigeration will not top their list of priorities. Phoenix is an air-conditioned city. If the power goes out, people fry.

In the summer of 2003, a heat wave swept Europe and killed 70,000 people. The temperature in London touched 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time since records had been kept, and in portions of France the mercury climbed as high as 104°F. Those temperatures, however, are child's play in Phoenix, where readings commonly exceed 100°F for more than 100 days a year. In 2011, the city set a new record for days over 110°F: there were 33 of them, more than a month of spectacularly superheated days ushering in a new era.”

It goes without saying that Phoenix's desert setting is hot by nature, but we've made it hotter. The city is a masonry world, with asphalt and concrete everywhere. The hard, heavy materials of its buildings and roads absorb heat efficiently and give it back more slowly than the naked land. In a sense, the whole city is really a thermal battery, soaking up energy by day and releasing it at night. The result is an urban heat island, which, in turn, prevents the cool of the desert night from providing much relief.

Sixty years ago, when Phoenix was just embarking on its career of manic growth, nighttime lows never crept above 90°F. Today such temperatures are a commonplace, and the vigil has begun for the first night that doesn't dip below 100°F. Studies indicate that Phoenix's urban-heat-island effect may boost nighttime temperatures by as much as 10°F. It's as though the city has doubled down on climate change, finding a way to magnify its most unwanted effects even before it hits the rest of us full blast.

This ThinkProgress article explains, “How Phoenix Is Getting Ready For 100-Degree Nights”.

The city averages more than 100 days a year with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees. In 2013, 115 days hit 100 degrees. In 2011, the city set a new record for days over 110 degrees with 33. That's over one month of the year with scorching highs. This winter has so far been warmer than average…The extreme heat and the heat island effect have also led Stanton to change the way the city looks at human services planning, and to make sure that on the hottest days those in need are taken off the street and into air-conditioned areas because it can be deadly. That's assuming air-conditioning is readily available.

Think of the energy needed to power the air conditioners needed to “survive” this furnace.

Phoenix gets it's water from 4 sources. The Colorado River, ground water, reclaimed water and the Salt River Project(SRP) from the Salt and Verde River watershed. The Colorada River water has always been fought over. Arizona gets a reduced share because of the strength of California's size. In the time of drought and low snow pack this source is not certain. Phoenix's ground water has been pumped to where it's in a state of “overdraft”. It's the SRP water source that prevented me from pulling the trigger lever on Phoenix being doomed. It appears to be a good source of water.

This Grist article has a guest writer, Grady Gammage jr., disputing the fact that Phoenix is doomed.

As a lifelong resident of Phoenix, author of the book, Phoenix in Perspective, and a frequent commentator on our desert city, I have had the privilege of debating both Ross and deBuys. While both have many important points about the future of America's urban places, I must point out they both continue to misunderstand a great deal about my city…The next and the most common indictment of Phoenix is that there's no water so people shouldn't live in such a desert city. DeBuys criticizes Phoenix for its reliance on Colorado River water and water from the mountains of central Arizona. Similar criticisms can be leveled at every city in the arid Southwest especially Los Angeles. Most Western water managers will tell you that Phoenix has a water supply to support its future growth more robust than that of Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas or Denver. Half the water that comes to Phoenix is still being used for agriculture. Agriculture is being retired here and that water is slowly being converted to other uses.

The author is certainly right when talking about these other cities but if you read the article closely you will find him agreeing with DeBuys on many of his points.

In the end Phoenix is doomed along with many other American cities if we don't find a solution to global warming. It's just a matter of time.

I will be following up this post with one about a “mystery lung fungus”. Why? Because I want to use another Haboob picture.

Edited with BlogPad Pro



One thought on “Haboobs–Is Phoenix Doomed?

  1. Wrap Up 2014 – greenbirdingmendo

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