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Coal pressure drives drought conditions in western US

Mountaintop removal
Mountaintop removal
from the dirt to the sky

Droughts in western states and dwindling annual snowpack in the Rockies and Cascades are spelling disaster. Much of the electricity bases and most drinking water sources for the western states depend on a flow of bulk moisture in rain and snow. In recent years, as right now, the high pressure zone is holding steady over us, depriving us of what was our regular naturally-occurring winter deposit.

Smog in China’s cities creates health issues there AND here

Recent studies indicate the plumes from coal-fired plants in China are responsible for as much as 25% of the pollution in its path, specifically the western states of the US. As China imports more and more coal of higher carbon content than their own, they are accomplishing several tasks at once. First, they are saving the coal deposit in their homeland, adding value by handling cheap international coal. Secondly, the better coal moving through their electricity-generating plants – with a new plant currently coming online at the rate of one every 7 days – provides more energy while minimizing the smog that is now notorious for health impacts in China's cities. Better grade coal means less coal-related health expense in addition to the perception of cleaner air than when local coal fed the fires and the smog.

The Red Plume

These plants create an average of 1000 MW each and dump their pollution just upstream from the western coast of the United States a few thousand miles. Yes, we are breathing the exhaust from Chinese manufacturing into our lungs all across the Pacific Coast. We are also drying out from the impact of the Red Plume on the flow of the Jetstream. Pollution, yes, along with drought.

As the world grows more reliant on diversified labor opportunities around the globe, the new manufacturing hub of choice is China with all those millions of young people, the abundance of technological expertise there, and all that thriving growth potential. The shelves of retail would literally dry up without China. Talk about a world-wide drought! The down-side of China’s growth, however, is the high pressure re-directing the Jetstream now for as long as the drought has plagued us - for the last 15 years or so, from just upstream of the flow across the Pacific Ocean - from the Red Plume.

Signature of coal: Pollution and High Pressure

Hundreds of coal-fired plants spew mercury, oxides of nitrogen and carbon into the atmosphere. The rotation of the planet creates the Jetstream delivering our flow. With all the coal fires, the temperature and pressure of these stacks act as a sideways pressure on the Jetstream. The combustion pressure exerted by the accumulated exhaust of ~ 150 coal cars per minute in very hot fires today impacts not just the air quality and content of pollutants, but also the air pressure and the flows of moisture that once were our staple diets for electricity from our hydro-electric plants and clean waters in our reservoirs.

As consumers of many products from developing countries, all of us are responsible for the demand for some of these goods. We carry them home from the well-worn shelves at Walmart, Best Buy, Dollar General, Home Depot. Australia and Indonesia sell them plenty of coal; so do many nations. It’s cheap. Dirty, but cheap first. Now that the impacts of both dirty and cheap are coming home to roost, it may be a good time to reconsider whether we prefer rain and snow over what we have been getting lately – winters full of high pressure.

Summer days are full of lazy haze, and fraught with drought and doubt. The once mighty Colorado River shrinks some more, leaving Lake Mead dropping down and maybe out.. The Columbia River shrivels from shrinking snowpacks, year by sniveling year. Salmon runs trickle down, and fishermen sell their old gear.. Oceans acidify as acres of coral die.. Keystone species (like pteropods) are trapped in those nasty gases that jeopardize their lives with the CO2 impacts. Starved-out California farmers finally find other jobs, like fighting fires with an ax.

Meanwhile in the new power plants, it’s BURN, BABY, BURN! Quotas and products and profits, oh my!

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