Category Archives: Survival Scenarios

Is There A Mini Ice Age In Our Future?

There has been a lot of press lately about a report by Professor Valentina Zharkova stating that we are going to experience a Mini Ice Age within about 15 years and that it could ultimately last for around 10 years.

mini ice age

Reasons For A Mini Ice Age

It’s been known since around 1843 that the sun routinely goes through cycles of activity that last for about 11 years.

In a presentation at the National Astronomy meeting, Professor  Zharkova  outlined the results of a new model that he and his team have created to better understand the these cycles.

This new model suggests that the sun’s activities could fall by as much as 60 percent between the years of 2030 and 2040.

Since the energy from the sun’s activities is one of the things that keeps our world warm,  a lower level of these activities would also lower the temperatures around our globe.

Chance Of A Mini Ice Age

If this models conclusions hold up it seems that we have a good chance of seeing a mini ice age happen.

The last time that such a lull in solar activity was observed was in the 17th Century between 1645 and 1715.

This period is called the Maunder Minimum, named for the two astronomers,  Annie and E. Walter Maunder,  who studied sunspots and helped identify the sun’s strange activity during that period.

That time period saw only 30 sunspots or about one one-thousandth of what would normally be expected and coincided with a “Little Ice Age” in Europe.

It was during this period when the planet experienced heavier than normal snow falls and large bodies of water like the Thames River and the Baltic Sea froze over.

maunder minimum

The conclusion that Professor Zharkova and his team reached are still a matter of debate but even if they are partially true we could be in for a weather change in the near future.

The Counter Argument

But then again, maybe not.  It seems that there is also a lot of evidence that the Little Ice Age of the 17th Century may have been strongly influenced by a rash of volcanoes that were erupting at that time.

This caused more ash in the air that blocked the sun’s heat and might have caused the temperature drops.

Many feel that there is just not that much difference in the suns heat that reaches the earth whether there is a lot of solar activity or very little activity.

Or the Mini Ice Age that they experienced in the 17th century might have been caused by some combination of these two factors.

The bottom line is that no one seems to know for sure and we really won’t know until we get to 2030 and see what happens.

How A Mini Ice Age Would Affect Our Lives

If there was a new mini ice age, it would probably happen slowly and we would be able to adapt to the changes.

It’s much more likely that any weather changes that we see would be because of the rising impact of greenhouse gasses.

At the best, most scientists believe that a new Maunder Minimum would only reduce the total warming trend that we are currently experiencing only slightly and then only for a brief period.

Even though it sounds contrary to logic the global warming that is happening is already going to cause colder, harsher winters and more unpredictable weather so this new data isn’t going to be of a huge impact.

Conclusion to Mini Ice Age

There are a lot of times when the media gets ahold of some bit of scientific information and runs with it, looking for what seems like a new dooms day scenario.

This idea of a mini ice age seems like one of those times.  It shouldn’t distract us from the very real changes that are currently happening because of global warming.

Whether or not you believe that global warming is real or not isn’t the issue since we are seeing things happening that only the most stubborn person would deny.

Those are the weather changes that we should be worried about.  In fact, if there is a mini ice age it wouldn’t really be a bad thing.

It would give us a respite, no matter how small to get the things that we need to do to stop global warming from getting worse.

What we should really be worrying about is whether or not we have reached the tipping point where we can’t avoid global warming and its longer lasting and detrimental affects to our climate.

In fact, the researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research used a sophisticated computer model to predict the effects of a future “grand solar minimum” on our climate between 2020 to 2070.

Their model suggested the even though the solar minimum might  slow down global warming  by 20-30 percent during the solar lull within a couple of decades later the expected temperatures of global warming would return.

So, the bottom line is that this solar lull, even if it happens, probably isn’t going to get us out of the global warming problem.

This is certainly not the news that we want to hear but better than having a mini ice age with all the possible problems that would bring.

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Climate Change and Urban Disaster

Climate change and urban disasterClimate Change and Urban Disaster are tightly linked together and something that anyone concerned with urban disaster survival should consider in their preparations.

Is Climate Change Real

Whether the predictions that warn man’s effect on our climate is ultimately going to cause an apocalypse are not is still a subject for debate.

How bad these changes could be may still not be known but with California going into it’s fifth year of drought, massive storms in the east, and high temperatures baking parts of the country it has to be accepted that things are changing.

How fast we will experience these changes and whether or not it’s because man is affecting the climate are subjects for another article.

This one looks at the potential for the climate changes that we are seeing to cause urban disasters.

Climate Change and Urban Disaster

Many people might ask why climate change and urban disaster were  connected.  And even if they are why we should really be worried about it since we are talking on the scale of centuries.

But the fact is that at least some of the changes won’t wait until the next century and then suddenly occur and be someone else’s problem.

A recent huge study by the UN concludes that many of the changes are going to happen a lot faster than we think.

In fact, they are happening right now and the savvy prepper needs to take these changes into consideration in their preps.

California’s Drought

One example is the drought that California is experiencing.  While some parts of the country are getting unusually large amounts of rain, places like California and Washington are experiencing drought conditions.

climate change and urban disasterOne climate change forecaster has stated that one major change  we are going to see that is going to happen right now is with the rain patterns.  When it rains we are going to get more than normal and when it doesn’t it could go longer between rains.

So California has been getting little or no rain for 5 years now.  The result is that the aquifers that are being used for water are being drained faster than they are being refilled by rain.

Why This Is A Problem

You might wonder why this is a problem if you don’t live in California. The answer is that California produces much of the produce that the rest of the Country eats.

More than 80% of the water used in California is for food production.  If the drought conditions continue it’s extremely likely that further restrictions will be placed on water usage that could dramatically raise the cost of produce.

Temperature Changes

Another forecast is weather extremes that we have experienced in the last few years will not only continue but get worse.

It will get colder with more winter storms and hotter in the summer with more heatwaves.

These storms and heat waves have a direct economic effect on our economy.

Winter Storms

Like the rain the snow fall is going to become more erratic.  There could be areas where snow is lower than normal and long lasting storms like we saw this last winter that drop unprecedented amounts of snow.

Since many parts of the country rely on snowfall in the mountains to fill their water reservoirs for summer less than normal snowpack can lead to summer droughts.

Climate change and urban disaster
(AP Photo/Peter M. Fredin)

During heavy winter storms stores and other businesses lose money because they can’t be accessed or they can’t get supplies.  People lose income because they can’t get to their jobs.

Roads become impassable and that stops or slows deliveries not only to the affected areas but also across the nation as manufactured goods stand in store rooms rather than being delivered across the Nation.

This may not seem to be a problem for you until the store shelves start to empty because food can’t be delivered or your power in your home suddenly goes off because power lines go down.

Summer Heat

This summer we are already seeing extreme high temperatures in parts of the country.

Not only can this lead to heat related deaths but further taxes our aging electrical infrastructure as people use more power for cooling their homes.

Food Production

Many of the crops that we rely on for food or that feed livestock depend upon certain weather conditions to grow.

climate change and urban disasterToo much heat or lack of water can cause crop failures that threatens our food supply.

Higher temperatures in the ocean are already affecting the supply of seafood and the jobs that are being lost as those changes affect the seafood industry.

Even a change of a degree or two in temperature can cause major changes in where or even if fish flourish and that affects not only what is available to eat but the jobs created by this industry.

Conclusion to Climate Change and Urban Disaster

The bottom line is that there are changes that are already happening.  And those changes aren’t going to be spread evenly.

The poor are going to be effected more than the rich and those areas of the world that already are having problems are going to get worse.

For the prepper that means that we should strive to be more self sufficient and not rely on others to solve this problem for us.

Solar panels are continuing to lower in price while becoming increasingly efficient.  This allows us to power our own home and not depend upon distant plants and fluctuating prices.

Many areas of the country are relaxing laws against or even encouraging rainwater collection for both drinking and watering gardens.  This gives us the chance to grow our own food.

It’s important to become more self reliant on food production.  Even a small garden can make a big difference in your food supplies.

What steps that you take depend upon what area of the country you live in and what problems you might face.

But climate change and urban disaster are a lot more closely linked than many of us would think.

 

 

 

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California Water Shortage

Water Apocalypse?

According to a new paper, Nature Climate Change by NASA water scientist James Famiglietti the California water shortage is severe and likely getting worse:

“California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins have lost roughly 15 cubic kilometers of total water per year since 2011,” he writes. That’s “more water than all 38 million Californians use for domestic and municipal supplies annually—over half of which is due to groundwater pumping in the Central Valley.”

Famiglietti collected this data from satellites to measures how much water people are pumping from aquifers around the globe.

He writes that more than 2 Billion people rely on the worlds aquifers as their primary source of water.  It is also the source for at least half the irrigation water that we use to grow food.

When a drought such as what has caused the California water shortage hits,  farmers need to rely on groundwater even more than usual. because less rain and snow means less water flowing above ground.

The conclusions that Famiglietti draws from the satellite data is pretty alarming:

“Groundwater is being pumped at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished, so that many of the largest aquifers on most continents are being mined, their precious contents never to be returned.”

California Water Shortage

The Central Valley of California has one of the worlds fastest-depleting aquifers—but it still isn’t the fastest depleting overall and there is another aquifer called Ogallala that is located in the northern high plains of the United States that is emptying almost as fast.

Nearly all of the aquifers are located under the worlds greatest agricultural areas and that water is responsible for those areas having high productivity.

The fact that these aquifers are responsible for much of the food grown around the globe should be alarming since their loss could cause food shortages.

Yet there is almost no regulation on how water pumped from aquifers can be used or how much can be pumped.

Even though there is very little thought or research about the water drawn from these aquifers we know that we are pumping the water out faster than it can be replaced by nature.

If this trend continues he adds that:

“groundwater supplies in some major aquifers will be depleted in a matter of decades.”

California Water Shortage Problems

California water shortageeIn most places around the world any property owner who can afford to drill a well has unlimited access to the aquifer groundwater.

The more that is pumped the worse the problem becomes.  As a aquifers water level drops wells have to go deeper to get to the water and that increases the costs.

This is already happening in the California water shortage as some low income residents that are unable to afford the costs of a deeper well are seeing their wells run dry.

When the wells go deeper there is also another problem that happens.

As the aquifers water tables drop the amount of salts that are found in the water increases, sometime to the point where the water need to be treated before it can be used.

This situation is already playing out in California’s Central Valley, where some people that rely on wells are starting to see shortages and tainted water.

How the California Water Shortage Could Affect You

These problems affect all of us no matter where we live.  Shortages of water in California could quickly translate into rising prices for the fruits and vegetables that are grown there.

This California water shortage could quickly cause a shortage of these items that would affect every person in our country.

The only solution when a growing population requires more water and the global warming could lead to more droughts is to treat water as the valuable resource that it is.

We need to find ways to stop wasting it and make sure that we are using it wisely.

Is The California Water Shortage A Real Crisis

dry resevoirsAlthough the above article also points out that the above ground reservoirs have only about 1 year of water left in them before they run dry leaving only the rapidly depleting ground water in aquifers it may not be as bad as it seems.

When you look at the actual numbers it turns out that most of California wastes a huge amount of water.

On average, the people in San Diego County for example, use over 150 gallons of water per day.   Compare this to Sydney, Australia which has a similar climate but uses less than half that amount.

But even if residents of California want to use water to have green lawns and pools in an arid climate, they use only a portion of the water used in the state.

The states agricultural industry uses 80% of the water and they are also one of the largest wasters of this resource.

Many farmers regularly flood the land to grow water thirsty crops like rice and alfalfa.  As recently as 2010 still had 43% of agricultural irrigation using a gravity method which is hugely wasteful but the least expensive way to water crops.

Conclusion To California Water Shortage

The bottom line is that this problem exists because water has been a cheap resource that we have wasted for years, and now it’s time to pay for it.

There are vastly more efficient ways to water crops in California that would dramatically decrease the water used by farmers.

gravity water systemThey are just not being used because they are more expensive than the old ways of flooding fields through gravity systems.

But this California water shortage is not as apocalyptic as it would seem at first glance.  We need to start conserving and protecting this important resource or the consequences could be severe.

Although California isn’t the only one facing this problem it could be one of the first to start to solve it.

The truth is that California has plenty of water…though maybe not enough to satisfy our wasteful use of this precious resource that we are doing today.

To make sure that this water shortage doesn’t become a larger problem we need to change how we use this resource and think of where we could be in the future if we don’t.

 

 

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Artificial Intelligence Problems

Artificial IntelligenceThough it makes for great movies, the artificial intelligence problems that could arise in the not to distant future are very real.

Artificial Intelligence Problems

It seems that every day we hear about another company that is developing a smarter artificial intelligence robot.

And heavy weights like Bill Gates and Elon Musk and even renowned physicist Stephen Hawking are starting to express concern about this headlong rush.

According to Bill Gates in an interview in Redditt:

“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super-intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well,” wrote Gates.

“A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”

Musk spoke out in October 2014 during an interview at the AeroAstro Centennial Symposium, telling attending students that they should be concerned about how the technology industry  approaches AI advances that are sure to happen in the future.

“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful,” said Musk. “I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.”

In a December interview, Professor Hawking went further.

“The primitive forms of artificial intelligence we already have, have proved very useful. But I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

I don’t know about you but if people like these who are among the smartest minds of our age are expressing concern, maybe we should be concerned too.

How We Use Artificial Intelligence Now

Once just a gleam in the eye of movie makers and book authors artificial Intelligence or AI is starting to become a reality.  And there is no doubt that it will become a larger presence in our lives.

Over the last decades AI has become a larger part of our lives, many times in ways that we don’t even think about.

GPS in our cars and phones uses rudimentary AI to search through the thousands of possible routes to a destination to suggest the best route for us to take.

Our smartphones are getting better at understanding our spoken commands and virtual assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Google Now are getting better at anticipating and understanding our needs.

AI algorithms are used to detect and recognize the faces in our photos that we take with our phones.

Internet search engines like Google and Bing use AI systems to understand and provide hundreds of millions of search results to people every day.

Hospitals are even using AI algorithms to search through the massive amounts of patient data that they have collected to calculate which patients could have complications and which medicines could have serious side effects.

Military Uses Of Artificial Intelligence

Right now the U.S. military is testing robots with limited AI that will carry out surveillance and one day could even participate in armed military actions.

Armed robotBeing a soldier is a dangerous job in general but some of the tasks that a soldier has to do is more dangerous than others.  Passing through minefields, de-activating unexploded bombs and clearing out building occupied by hostiles are just a few.

But what if instead of sending humans into these and other dangerous situations we could send robots.  That way if something went wrong the only loss would be hardware and money rather than human lives.

Drones are another situation where AI could be used.  There is a shortage of trained operators for Drones so the thought of having AI drones that would be able to fly themselves and complete missions is an appealing idea.

This is why all branches the U.S. military have been busy developing all sorts of different robotic systems both smart and dumb  with some of them even being field tested on the front lines in Iraq right now.

Concerns About Artificial Intelligence

There are several specific concerns about Artificial Intelligence as it continues to develop and our usage of it evolves.

In an article written by Eric Horvitz, director of the Microsoft Research lab, and Tom Dietterich, president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence they cite three main areas of concern.

One is programming errors that might be in the AI software.  AI software is incredibly complex and the possibility that there might be errors in how it works should be considered.

Their second concern is cyber-attacks on the AI systems carried out by criminals, terrorists and even government-backed hackers that aim to gain control of the AI program to advance their own purposes rather than what the robot/drone/program with the AI was intended to perform.

The third concern is what they call Sorcerer’s Apprentice scenarios, when AI systems respond to human instructions in unexpected (and possibly dangerous) ways.

My Concerns

All of this seems like something that is far in the future but is in actuality here already in our lives.

I think that we need to start thinking about how the use of artificial intelligence should be used before it’s to late.

Doing something just because isn’t a good enough reason to risk the possible consequences that could come out of this.

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Grow Your Own Food

No matter what the situation, having the ability to grow your own food is beneficial.

But many of us have either a small balcony or none at all.  Growing our own food is especially difficult if we have a small area.

But here is an idea that you can use with limited area, even in a window!

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Measles – Should You Be Worried

MeaslesIf you’ve been watching or reading the News lately you’ve probably seen the coverage about the growing numbers of Measles cases.

It started with a few cases at Disney in California and has grown from there to New York and recently cases in a day care in Illinois.

While this is a disease that usually affects just children it can still infect anyone who isn’t properly immunized or that has a natural immunity because they already had an infestation.

Even though the total numbers of cases are still small the fact that this disease, declared just a little over a decade ago as defeated in the U.S. , is suddenly making any comeback at all should be a real concern to anyone who reads about it.

Measles is Highly Contagious

Something like this is one of my big worries for a potential disaster.

This disease is easily one of the most contagious known to man.  And even though most people who get sick from this virus recover, there are still a lot of people of all ages for whom this disease will have serious side effects or even cause death.

The worst part is that it can be contagious even before the person who is getting sick knows they are ill.

Depending upon who you want to listen to it can be anywhere from four days to as many as 18 days before any symptoms shows up during which time the person can still be contagious to others.

Then, even when someone does start to get sick, it will seem like the flu for a another few days before the tell-tale itchy splotches start to show up, first on the face, then spreading to the rest of the body.

How Is Measles Spread

Anyone who is near to a person who is sick with Measles can easily get sick.

The virus that causes this disease lives in the nose and throat.  So when an infected person sneezes, or even talks the virus is being spread around.

Once sneezed the virus can linger in the air for several minutes before settling on any surfaces in the area.

Anyone who touches these fluids can also transfer them to other surfaces as well.

There it can survive for up to two hours, making it possible to catch the disease by just touching a surface with virus.

How Measles Gets In Your Body

If you touch any surfaces like door handles or counters while the virus is still alive left by someone who is infected you can not only become infected but you can even pass it to others.

The virus can enter your body by you breathing it in if someone who is infected sneezes, coughs, or is talking to you, expelling the virus in your direction.

You can also pick it up by touching a surface with live virus then touching your mouth or rubbing your eyes.

Complications From Measles

Although the vast majority of people who get sick will heal with no problems there is the possibility that there could be complications.

This is especially true with anyone who is immuno compromised or has other problems.

Measles can be a serious in all age groups.   However, children that are younger than 5 and adults that are older than 20 years of age are the ones that are most likely to suffer from measles complications.

Common Complications

Common measles complications can often include things like ear infections and diarrhea.  Although diarrhea is rare an ear infection can happen in as many as 1 out of 10 and could result in permanent hearing loss.

Severe Complications

More severe complications that can happen are pneumonia (infection of the lungs) or encephalitis (a swelling of the brain).

They complications can require hospitalization and could even result in death.

  • As many as one out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.
  • About one child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or mentally retarded.
  • For every 1,000 children who get measles, its possible that one or two will die from it.

How To Avoid Getting Measles

I suppose that you could avoid this disease, or any other that could be passed from human to human by avoiding people and never getting close to anyone.

But for those of us that choose or need to live in urban areas that is just not possible or practical.

So here are some steps that might help you avoid this virus:

Make Sure and Get Vaccinated

Yeah sure there are always going to be concerns about vaccines being a bigger problem than the disease that they are trying to treat.

But the fact is that the world is a lot better and healthier than it was because of vaccines.

That being said, even if you have been vaccinated it is only about 95% effective.  And Doctors are finding that if you are an adult that had a vaccination as a child, it could have weakened over time.

So know what vaccines that you and you family need to get, then get them and make sure they are up to date!

Avoid Anyone Who Is Sick

Bottom line is that people who are sick can make you sick.  Still – this can be hard if not impossible to accomplish.

You might have a member of your family that has contracted Measles and needs to be taken care of and like I said earlier in this article, you might not even know that a person is contagious.

They might not even know it.  But if they are sick be cautious.

Practical Steps

If someone coughs or sneezes near you try holding your breath as long as you can to avoid breathing in any viruses.

If you don’t mind looking contagious yourself get and wear medical grade face masks when you go outside or are in areas with a lot of people.

You should wash your hands often and try to avoid touching your mouth or eyes with them between washes.  When you wash your hands lather them thoroughly including under the nails.  One way to make sure that you wash them enough is to sing (under your breath of course!) two verses of the song – Happy Birthday.

Avoid using public restrooms if you can.  Or if you must make sure that you have a sanitizer spray for the stool,  wash your hands thoroughly, and use paper towels to shut off the water faucet and to open the door when you exit the bathroom.

Make sure to avoid any body fluids of another like saliva, sweat, nasal mucus, blood, semen, vaginal secretions.

Conclusion

While most of us can avoid Measles with a few simple common sense steps and a vaccination there are some for whom this won’t work.

Or even worse, there is always the chance that this highly contagious disease could morph into something more deadly.

This means that it is important to make sure to know what we need to do in case of an outbreak like Measles or something worse.

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