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US Drought Could Last A Century As We Now Enter A Megadrought, Study Finds – Forbes

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In the past 1,200 years, the United States has experienced four megadroughts lasting decades to centuries. Now, it increasingly appears that we have already begun another megadrought.

A recent study argues that the drought conditions experienced in the western US since 2000 are the start of a megadrought equal to the worst the US has experienced in 1,200+ years.

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The research team, who published their results in Science, used ancient trees to study their tree rings and reconstruct what climate looked like in the western US in the past. By using these tree rings, scientists can deduce the average soil moisture through time in a region. Using the plot of soil moisture, the team compared the historical megadroughts to what we’re experiencing today.

They found that we are now equal to the worst megadrought seen in the past 1,200 years. The naturally occurring megadrought has been historically tied to upheaval in the area and will certainly impact the daily lives of those living in the western US.

The drought conditions are tied to climate patterns called El Niño/La Niña. During La Niña years the tropical Pacific Ocean is unusually cool, storms veer farther north along the West Coast and drought conditions become commonplace in the western US.

While climate change is not the cause of the drought, the warming seen in the past century adds to the amount of evaporation in the already dry western US. Hotter air can hold more moisture and dries out soils faster than cooler air.

Thus, an increasingly hotter climate has led to an increase in the severity of the drought we’re witnessing. Average temperature in the western US has gone up 1.2°C since 2000. Scientists estimate the warming climate is responsible for half of the severity of the current drought conditions. In other words, if not for the warming climate this could be a regular drought and not a megadrought.

Since 2,000 the western US has experienced consistent drought conditions. The figure below shows the soil moisture levels since 800 A.D. Green bars represent abnormally wet periods whereas red bars represent abnormally dry periods.

The horizontal blue line at the bottom shows the average soil moisture levels from 2000-2018. You can see this matches 4 previous megadroughts in the past 1,200 years.

While the decades preceding the current 21st century were abnormally wet, it appears we are quickly entering a megadrought, a situation similar to the one seen in the mid-1100s.

Based on historical megadrought data, we can expect these drought conditions to last decades and up to 100 years.

The megadrought from 1575 to 1603 was the worst in the past 1,200 years and the current drought matches the severity. That drought lasted 28 years and was followed by an abnormally wet period once again.

The current drought conditions have led to massive drops in lake levels throughout the western US, most notably in Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

Drought conditions have led to increased wildfires in the western US and the need to rely on deep underground aquifers for water. As the drought conditions continue we will continue to draw down these aquifers that in some instances can take decades to centuries to refill.

The term megadrought is being debated in the scientific community and what exact conditions represent a megadrought. However, it is clear that by looking at a proxy for historical “wetness” that we are in a severe dry period within the western US.

Those living in the western US will likely have to cope with many more years of drought conditions before climate is reversed and we once again see average to wet conditions in the area.

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SpaceX crowds came in droves despite downpours, tornado warning, pandemic – MSN Canada

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BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The crowd launched early, even though the SpaceX Crew Dragon didn’t rise from Pad 39A as scheduled.

Space Coast locals and visitors from hundreds of miles away stayed through the drizzle and the downpours – even a tornado warning – before the eventual scrub of the first crewed launch from U.S. soil since 2011.

People hungry to watch history in the making – and perhaps eager to get out of COVID-19-forced isolation – made their way to Cocoa Beach, Space View Park in nearby Titusville, roadways, side streets and front yards across the Space Coast.






© TIM SHORTT/FLORIDA TODAY
Huge crowds of SpaceX spectators who gathered on A. Max Brewer Bridge in Titusville, Fla., hoping to see the first U.S. crewed mission in almost a decade, start the walk back to their vehicles after the launch was scrubbed.

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Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey told people this month to come watch the scheduled launch in person. The invitation ran contrary to NASA’s recommendation to watch the launch via broadcast. 

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Crowds, along with heavy rain, poured into coveted viewing spots across Brevard, but the mission was postponed scant minutes before the scheduled 4:33 p.m. launch.

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Even after word dropped that the launch was a no-go, many made plans to return for the next attempt, set for Saturday.

“Do you guys want to get a hotel room for Saturday night?”   Jake Mills asked after hearing the scrub announcement on his phone via the SpaceX YouTube channel. The Gainesville network engineer and 10 relatives had traveled to the Cocoa Beach Pier to watch the launch.

“Bummed out. But safety first, right?” said Mills, who has friends who work for SpaceX.

“I would rather wait until Saturday for a healthy, safe launch than to bend the rules and launch unsafely,” he said.

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Not many masks were sighted among the onlookers. Crowds were far smaller than for high-profile launches of the past and between the COVID-19 crisis and bad weather, nowhere near the crowd estimates circulating for weeks. NASA had urged spectators to stay away and watch the launch online or on TV because of the pandemic.



a car parked in a parking lot: Matt Ward and Emma O'Halloran from Orlando parked next to the Beachline around 7:30. People started showing up at dawn to view the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station.


© MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Matt Ward and Emma O’Halloran from Orlando parked next to the Beachline around 7:30. People started showing up at dawn to view the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station.

Still, by early afternoon, traffic was blocked on the A. Max Brewer Bridge in Titusville. The bridge grew more crowded prelaunch time and became a sea of thousands of pedestrians headed west after the scrub. The Beachline causeway over the Banana River heading east or west was like a wet parking lot by late afternoon.

At Cocoa Beach Pier, which was no more packed than on a sunny, pre-pandemic weekend, the few hundred who braved nasty storms were primed for the event.

Before 10 a.m., surfers were catching waves, and TV crews had positioned their equipment at Rikki Tiki Tavern at the end of the pier, cameras pointed north toward the launch site. 

The pier opened at 11 a.m., and a handful of lunchtime patrons filtered in. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic was evident: Officials shut down the pier from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. to clean and sanitize the area.

‘We didn’t want to miss it’

About 90 minutes before the scheduled launch time, Gulf Coast resident Olga Cole and her family took refuge beneath the Cocoa Beach Pier during a downpour.

She was born and raised in Moldova, an Eastern European nation that declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. She was raised to revere cosmonauts – but wore a white NASA shirt to witness the historic American launch.

“Because of the past of my country, the USSR, we prize the cosmonauts. But it is a big deal,” the 24-year-old said, holding her 7-month-old daughter, Katherine. “Space is common for everyone.”

Olga and her husband, John,  23, a self-described Elon Musk fan, arrived Tuesday night from St. Petersburg.

Bill and Robbin Dick of The Villages in central Florida paid $40 for two spaces to park their 35-foot Winnebago Sunstar motor home at the pier. By 9 a.m., the couple had extended the vehicle’s awning and set up folding chairs, prepped to watch NASA’s launch coverage on TV.

“It’s a historic launch. We’re retired. And these are things we want to do. We didn’t want to miss it,” said Bill Dick, a retired New York City firefighter.



a man standing next to a tree: Russell and Gladia LaFontaine from Deltona set up a little canopy and fishing until launch, parked next to the Beachline. People started showing up at dawn to view the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station.


© MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
Russell and Gladia LaFontaine from Deltona set up a little canopy and fishing until launch, parked next to the Beachline. People started showing up at dawn to view the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station.

At Port Canaveral, diners began trickling into Rusty’s Seafood and Oyster Bar just before noon. At 50% capacity, the restaurant holds about 150 people.

“We’re bringing in business, definitely, but it’s not what we’d like to bring in.” said Rusty Fisher, owner. “Just managing people, that’s the big thing, making sure they behave themselves.”

Follow reporter Britt Kennerly on Twitter: @bybrittkennerly 

Contributing: Rick Neale, Eric Rogers, Suzy Leonard, Tim Walters, John Torres, Tim Shortt, Craig Bailey, Malcolm Denemark and Jay Cannon of the USA TODAY Network.

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: SpaceX crowds came in droves despite downpours, tornado warning, pandemic

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Elon Musk on his success: 'America is the land of opportunity – there is no other country where I could have done this' – CNBC

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Growing up, Elon Musk read plenty of books but was especially inspired by science fiction

The genre motivated him to create “cleaner energy technology or [build] spaceships to extend the human species’s reach” in the future, according to the book “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance.

With these goals in mind, Musk went on to start SpaceX in 2002 and Tesla in 2003. And now, he is on the precipice of a potentially historic launch for SpaceX on Saturday, as the company plans for its first crewed mission of two NASA astronauts

Looking back on his success, Musk in part credits the opportunity he found when he emigrated to the United States in 1992.

“America is still the land of opportunity more than any other place, for sure,” he told Vance in a Bloomberg interview published Friday.

Musk was born in South Africa, but always wanted to move to the U.S.

“It always seemed like when there was cool technology or things happening, it was kind of in the United States. So, my goal as a kid was to get to get to America basically,” Musk told Kevin Rose in 2012.

At the age 17, he arrived in North America with only “$2,000, a backpack & a suitcase full of books,” Musk tweeted in June 2018.

“I paid my own way through college—through student loans, scholarships, working jobs—and ended up with $100,000 of student debt. I started my first company [Zip2] with $2,500, and I had one computer and a car that I bought for $1,400, and all that debt,” he told Vance. (Though some critics have alleged that Musk had a privileged life paid for by his family, Musk has said that is not true.)

Despite the challenges, Musk succeeded. 

In 1999, Musk sold Zip2 to Compaq for roughly $300 million. Musk used the money from that sale to found X.com, an online financial services platform that merged with Confinity in 2000, and later became PayPal. In 2002, eBay purchased PayPal for $1.5 billion.

These successes led him to start SpaceX and Tesla, along with Neuralink in 2016, and a year later, The Boring Company. Today, Musk is worth $36.8 billion, according to Forbes.

“There is definitely no other country where I could have done this—immigrant or not,” he told Vance.

This story has been updated to reflect the new SpaceX launch date after the initial launch was postponed due to bad weather.

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Elon Musk is the Greatest American Industrialist of the 21st Century – American Greatness

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It has been fashionable to criticize Elon Musk as lacking the qualities of a true entrepreneur, or not being a genuine free market capitalist. His primary transgression: his companies have taken advantage of government subsidies.

Before considering whether or not these criticisms are fair or justified, or even terribly relevant, it might be a good idea to examine Musk’s body of work. Because so far, 20 years in, this 48 year old immigrant from South Africa arguably is the greatest American industrialist of the 21st century.

Musk’s early work, back in the 1990s, focused on software and online financial services, including PayPal. The sale of his stakes in these companies made Musk wealthy, but what he’s done since then is what secures his place in history.

Tesla, Musk’s best known affiliation, has brought electric cars into the mainstream. It’s easy to forget the risk Tesla’s founders, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, endured back in 2003  when they first bundled laptop batteries into a storage package capable of powering an electric sports car. Recognizing the potential, Musk invested millions in the company and eventually took over as CEO.

Today, 17 years later, Tesla is valued at $151 billion. In 2019 Tesla reported sales of $26 billion and an operating cash flow of $2.6 billion. Its “levered free cash flow” in 2019 (surplus cash after paying interest on debt) was $1.6 billion. According to investors, for whom economic data is paramount, Tesla is the most valuable American car maker of all time.

Elon Musk has accelerated global adoption of all-electric vehicles by making them increasingly affordable and earning unprecedented consumer satisfaction. Critics of what Tesla has accomplished are invited to drive one. But Tesla’s accomplishments go beyond just manufacturing popular electric vehicles.

In Nevada, Tesla has built the largest battery manufacturing plant in the world. This single factory now produces half the global output of electric car batteries. The Tesla Gigafactory also produces the “Powerwall,” a stationary battery that allows homeowners to store surplus electricity.

There are a lot of reasons to remain skeptical regarding renewable energy. But massive investment in battery technology by companies like Tesla has paid off. Solar-battery power plants are now able to deliver continuous electricity at a wholesale price of four cents per kilowatt-hour, and make a profit.

Tesla has also developed a network of charging stations around the nation. If you aren’t driving a Tesla, you might not realize how ubiquitous charging stations have become. Typically installed in the outer reaches of shopping center parking lots, a Tesla driver can see with one tap on the vehicle’s control screen not only where the nearest charging stations are located, but also how many slots are vacant.

All-electric cars are not yet for everyone. But with recharge times down to 30 minutes, and range topping 300 miles, they are looking better every year. They require far less maintenance than gas-powered vehicles, and are becoming more competitive on price every day. Tesla is not just building cars, it is fundamentally transforming our transportation infrastructure.

With all the attention Tesla gets, it’s easy to forget about Space X. But Musk’s accomplishments with this company are even more impressive. Founded in 2002 by Musk, SpaceX is the “first private company to launch and return a spacecraft from Earth orbit and the first to dock a spacecraft with the International Space Station.” The engineering innovations pioneered by Space X are revolutionary, including fully reusable rockets. Vertical landings of booster rockets, after many failed attempts, are now becoming routine.

Before Space X came on the scene, in the late 20th century, the Space Shuttle could deliver payload into low earth orbit at a cost of over $25,000 per kilogram. For a while, the early Space X boosters competed with NASA’s mature Atlas V booster, with costs dropping below $10,000 per kilogram on these unmanned systems. But in 2017 Space X pulled ahead, way ahead, with the Falcon 9 booster profitably delivering cargo into space at a cost of under $2,000 per kilogram, and in 2020 the Falcon Heavy has brought the price under $1,000 per kilogram.

In just a few years, and compared to the best NASA could do, Space X has dropped the price of getting into space by an order of magnitude. And in a few days, American astronauts are going to blast into outer space on an American rocket, built by Space X, for the first time since the Shuttle was retired. How is this not historic?

Musk’s projects extend well beyond electric cars and electric batteries, or paving the way to the colonization of the solar system. His Boring Company aspires to revolutionize tunneling technology by achieving the benchmarks stated on their FAQ page: “(1) Triple the power output of the tunnel boring machine’s cutting unit, (2) Continuously tunnel instead of alternating between boring and installing supporting walls, (3) Automate the tunnel boring machine, eliminating most human operators, (4) Go electric, and (5) Engage in tunneling R&D.” And why not? If you can innovate above the earth, you can innovate beneath the earth.

In describing the Boring Company, Musk said, “the construction industry is one of the only sectors in our economy that has not improved its productivity in the last 50 years.” He’s right. The world needs more innovators who are not only able to envision how new technologies can coalesce to transform the world, but who also have the guts to do something with their ideas.

When people criticize Elon Musk, what are they trying to prove? Do they think that his companies aren’t part of a modern industrial revolution that rivals the great breakthroughs ushered in during the great age of steel and steam, or during this ongoing digital revolution? Do they think the railroads that opened up a continent weren’t subsidized? Do they think the internet, providing the backbone of a communications revolution, was not subsidized?

More to the point, does anyone think that if the total value of the subsidies awarded Space X were instead invested in NASA, it would still be possible to launch a payload into space for under $1,000 per kilogram?

Another reason Musk attracts criticism is his eccentric personality. Examples abound. Enigmatic tweets. Selling flamethrowers. Smoking pot (after California legalized it) during an interview. Naming his sixth son X Æ A-Xii! Fair enough. But what about other great American industrialists, equally creative, equally driven, equally eccentric? What about Thomas Edison, J. Paul Getty, Henry Ford, or Howard Hughes? Heck, what about Steve Jobs?

Maybe being eccentric is just a part of being brilliant, driven, creative, and willing to take extraordinary risks. Shall we shame all these great, and very eccentric Americans? If so, Musk’s critics may get in line behind every nihilistic Luddite and socialist pack animal determined to undermine everything and everyone that made America great.

Which brings us to a final criticism of Musk, that he is a “socialist.” Evidence for this is thin. It is primarily based on the idea that if you accept government subsidies, you are not a true capitalist. But Musk expressed his version of socialism very accurately in one of his tweets, writing “By the way, I am actually a socialist. Just not the kind that shifts resources from most productive to least productive, pretending to do good, while actually causing harm. True socialism seeks greatest good for all.”

While this is a tweet guaranteed to make libertarian heads explode, it appeals to common sense. Government, by definition, is to some degree socialist. The only thing separating a mixed-capitalist economy and a full-blown socialist economy is the degree to which the government controls the economy. The middle of Musk’s sentence is controversial, but not because it’s too socialist. It is because it exposes the uncomfortable choice that governments have to make. Shall they yield to the populist demands of demagogic Democrats, and spend government revenue on the “least productive, pretending to do good, while actually causing harm,” or shall government revenue instead be invested in public/private partnerships that secure technological preeminence and economic security, benefiting everyone?

A libertarian would emphatically argue neither, and this reflects an absurd naïveté for several reasons. First, other nations have no compunction about exporting subsidized products, thus making it impossible for American manufacturers to compete. When this happens in critical industries, from steel to pharmaceuticals, eventually our nation loses its independence. That’s reason enough to subsidize strategic industries. But there are more.

When libertarians argue against government spending in all sectors, they get strong support from the Left to stop spending on industry and infrastructure. This splits the Right, which then lacks the strength to prevent spending shifting to welfare entitlements at the expense of spending on industry and infrastructure. When the anti-socialist politicians are divided, the socialists win.

Shaming Elon Musk is easy, but it isn’t accurate. It’s based on half-baked libertarian theories that don’t work in the real world. As for accusing Elon Musk of not being a “conservative,” what does that even mean? “Conservatives” stood by for decades as American business exported jobs and imported unskilled laborers, killing jobs and wages. Anyone concerned about America’s future in this grim world should be utterly indifferent about being called a “conservative.”

Ultimately, how history judges Elon Musk may come down to forces beyond his control. What is going to happen between the United States and China? If there is a new cold war, how will Musk manage his overseas investments, his supply chain, his factories in Berlin and Beijing? Like many industrialists in the 21st century, he may soon face difficult decisions. But to-date, Elon Musk has played a vital role in maintaining American industrial leadership. He deserves better than cheap shots.

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