- BK Lim 10 October 2011
There are always solutions. It is only a matter of interest. Corporate interests take over when you don’t.
Excessive monsoon rain for the last 3 months has drowned almost a third of Thailand's land mass; devastating some of the most productive farmland and putting at risk some of the most treasured ancient temples. The worst flood in 50 years dealt a dramatic blow to Japanese automobile, precision instruments and other industries because the nation is now an important global production base for numerous manufacturers. (19 Oct 2011 Japan Times). Besides billions of dollars in damages and putting nearly 700,000 people temporarily out of work (23 Oct 2011, Seattlepi.com), the 2011 flood is a grim reminder that Mother Nature is not well and the worse is yet to come.
Thailand is not the only country faced with massive flooding problems. Other South-east Asian countries particularly Vietnam and Philippines seem to bear the brunt of the ferocious typhoons late in the season. Northern Australia (Queensland) was the first to be hit with the worst flood of the century lasting 2 months; from Dec 2010 till Jan of 2011. The 2011 Brazil floods of January were considered the worst in the country's history. By 18 Jan. the floods had taken about 700 lives and 14,000 people made homeless mainly due to landslides. In the June-Sept 2011 period, flooding in China affected more than 4.8 million people, with 100,000 evacuated and 54 reported dead. The floods which occurred in central and southern parts of China were caused by heavy rain that inundated portions of 12 provinces, leaving other provinces still suffering a prolonged drought. A total of over 36 million people have been affected, killing at least 355 and with direct economic losses of nearly US$6.5 billion ~ Wikipedia.
There seems to be more intense and widespread flooding less than a year after the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Is this a mere coincidence? Or is there more to it and the main stream media is not telling?
As of late Oct 2011, the massive oil spill has not run its course yet. There has been has been numerous sighting of fresh oils and reported gas bubbles at locations where previous oil slick had been found. See figure 145-1 (U20111023) below. All these confirmed our previous prediction of long term climatic consequences following the mega oil spill disaster in the gulf.
While massive flooding had occurred before; they have never occurred on such a massive scale over so many regions at such close intervals following a massive well blowout and a mega oil spill.
Pro-oil scientists and geologists often cite that it is impossible for a tiny 10inch well spewing only 60,000 bpd (upgraded from the initial 1,000) for 87 days to have caused such havoc to the world’s climate. Their favorite line of argument: “No well blowout in history has caused such massive environmental havoc before”. But did they emphasize the huge fundamental flaws in their argument?
First and foremost there has never been a well blowout so deep underwater and so disastrous. Although the government officially capped it at 4.1 millions barrels, talks among industry circles put it possibly many times more. With the reservoir still leaking openly through the faulted pathways all around the gulf, the leaks will not stop until depletion. The Macondo recoverable reserves was estimated to be as low as 50 million barrels but a Forbes publication suggested it could more likely be a hefty 1 billion barrels.
This means a lot more oil has yet to leak out through the broken geology if nothing is done. In a worst case scenario, the wide spread underground erosion sets off an unprecedented shallow crustal adjustments in the New Madrid fault zone. Like an unwinding spring coil releasing all the pent-up stresses accumulate over thousands of years. The Macondo prospect lies within the central pivoting point of the intra-plate tectonics and a “deep puncture” here is more disastrous than anywhere else in the gulf.
Further BP drilled not 1 but 3 wells (excluding the 2 relief wells) all within 1000 ft of each other. Even well A (showcased as the official blown well) spewed gas and oil continuously for 87 days. What about the blown crater at open well no# 3 (referred to as Well BE in the recently exposed videos) and several blowholes, dozens of vents along the fault lines and at the edges of the salt domes.
The oil slick pattern covering an area of 580 sq miles in just 2 days after the 22 April 2nd explosion, could not have come from just one well at the south-western edge of the slick area. All evidences showed that a lot more oil (not just from well A alone) spewed out from the blown crater at the 3rd well, blow holes, vents and fissures along the fault lines and salt domes. With BP still carrying out grouting works till late Nov2010, the actual amount of oil spewed could have been 10 times more than conservative estimates.
The main stream media has also not emphasized the massive amount of green house gases released into the atmosphere? The widespread vaporization of methane deposit (due to hot escaping oil) and toxic gasses leaking from the Macondo reservoir have not ceased for sure. After more than 15 months of relentless underground erosion (from reservoir level to the seafloor) the rate of toxic gas emissions is likely to have increased exponentially.
Methane is more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas affecting climate change. More heating capacity means higher evaporation rate on a larger scale; leading to higher water vapor content in the atmosphere. Higher moisture content in our atmosphere means more volatility because water-laden air traps more energy and does not allow uniform distribution of heat over the earth’s surface. This allows more frequent building up of intense high pressure zones in the ocean. At the same time, dry continental masses heat up faster creating very low pressure zones. The increase in ferocity and frequency of the hurricanes (or typhoons) in the summer months that follow is not coincidental but a logical consequence of that mega oil spill. Prolonged droughts and flooding periods will certainly increase and will create havoc with agricultural production the world over.
To be fair, the world was already swamped with environmental pollution from the rapid pace of global industrialization, mining and urbanization. An oil spill and gas discharge on such a massive scale just turbo-charged and drove the world faster over the brink. Observational evidence shows a clear correlation between historic eruptions and subsequent years of cold climate conditions. See Geology SDSU.Edu on the examples of Laki (1783), Tambora (1815), Karkatau (1883) and Pinatubo (1991). No doubt the volume of gases and other volcanic materials spewed during the eruptions are more massive within a few weeks but the Gulf’s mega oil spill disaster lasted much longer (at least 15 months longer and counting) and spread wider.
Our present surface irrigation and drainage systems (designed and built decades ago) cannot cater for the inevitable sea level rise, let alone the heavier and longer rainfall periods. Perennial flooding and droughts with massive and destructive forest fires are clearly on the rise. Rapid and massive deforestation (by fires) will increase even more greenhouse gas emissions.
We are thus on the threshold of a spiraling catastrophic climate cycle, thanks to mega oil spill and continuing massive gas discharge which has pushed us prematurely into this climatic roller-coaster ride. If we do nothing now, more farmland, nuclear power plants and cities are going to be flooded sooner or later. Is there a solution? You bet there is but corporate profit-oriented oil-centric interests are not willing to lose their lucrative multi-billion global business. The mega oil spill and HAARP have shown us that altering the earth’s climate is not that impossible. We should be able to reverse back the damage done not only by the Gulf’s disaster but from years of pollution and abuse of Mother Nature. It is time we Hydro-Balance Mother Nature back to health.
Water cover 70% of the planet’s surface. A lot more is present within the earth’s crust than currently thought of. We have always assumed the hydrologic cycle to be balanced as illustrated below:
The hydrologic cycle is a conceptual model that describes the storage and movement of water between the biosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere, and the hydrosphere (see Figure 8b-1). Water on this planet can be stored in any one of the following reservoirs: atmosphere, oceans, lakes, rivers, soils, glaciers, snowfields, and groundwater.
Figure 8b-1: Hydrologic Cycle. (from http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/8b.html)
Water moves from one reservoir to another by way of processes like evaporation, condensation, precipitation, deposition, runoff, infiltration, sublimation, transpiration, melting, and groundwater flow. The oceans supply most of the evaporated water found in the atmosphere. Of this evaporated water, only 91% of it is returned to the ocean basins by way of precipitation. The remaining 9% is transported to areas over landmasses where climatological factors induce the formation of precipitation. The resulting imbalance between rates of evaporation and precipitation over land and ocean is corrected by runoff and groundwater flow to the oceans.
As you can see on this USGS website on NATURAL PROCESSES OF GROUND-WATER AND SURFACE-WATER INTERACTION (http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/circ1139/htdocs/natural_processes_of_ground.htm) much of the recharge groundwater never penetrate deep into the landmass except for some special conditions such as artesian aquifers.
Although most of the surface water is evaporated and falls back to ground, that water does not return to the inner continental mass or deep hydrosphere. Deep groundwater reservoirs were never replenished. For more than 2,000 years there has been a net loss of water (from the deep hydrosphere) and net gain in our surface hydrosphere (ocean, lakes, rivers, atmosphere and upper groundwater). Our hydrologic cycle was never balanced as we blindly assumed.
Our surface hydrosphere is like an enclosed glass container. Once the water enters it, it cannot escape. There is thus an increasing level of water content in the surface hydrosphere with increasingly disastrous heavy rainfalls and prolonged droughts. The Gulf's mega contribution in green house gasses would have mattered less, if not for the already imbalanced hydrosphere.
The water within the surface has nowhere to go but back into the ocean and the rain cycle repeats itself while the deserts within the continental land mass become drier and drier. Drying continental masses are also much lighter as air replaces water. Water is 781.25 times heavier than air. 1 cubic metre of water at 4 deg Celsius weighs 1000kg or 1 metric ton. Naturally the increase in sea level is less noticeable being accompanied by isostatic adjustments of the lighter continental mass. A 10m sandstone bed over 1sq. km could contain as much as 2 million cu.metres of water. Replacing even 50% of the water content with air would reduce the weight of the same sandstone bed by 998,720 tons for each 1 million cu.metres of water replaced. Any wonder why the world’s larges dam with 39.3 cu.km capacity would cause earthquakes, cracks and landslides. The difference in weight (heavier) is a staggering 39.25 million tons.
Officials dismissed the first landslides as the foreseeable side-effects of a massive dam project. They are not so dismissive now. A total of 9,324 potentially dangerous sites have been identified. Geologists working midway down the reservoir have found 700 around one town alone on the north bank. Experts say the landslides could go on for 20 years as a huge settlement of earth and water takes shape. It will cost China more than £5 billion to solve all this. A special budget is being worked out inside the opaque bureaucracy that controls the state’s megaprojects.
The global sea level rise is not just the melting of the polar caps but increasing water content in the surface hydrosphere. A large part of that increase came gradually from the deep continental masses. Geologic records tell us that sea level in the past had been as high as 200 to 250m above the present level. How much is due to isostatic adjustment is debatable. In many past marine surveys, I was amazed at the recoveries of partially decayed and some well-preserved wood fragments in the core samples recovered at the edges of the present continental shelf. This could only mean the present continental shelf edges at 150-200m depths were once the estuarine and river mouths when global sea level receded as low as 200 m from the present sea level. Other geological evidences will be discussed in later postings. We are now roughly in the mid level of historic global sea level highs and lows.
Climate scientists have always estimated global sea level rise as 1.5 – 2.0 mm / year ~ www.climate.org/topics/sea-level/index.html. But like everything else this was estimated over the last 100 years. Is the increase in sea level gradual or occurs in sudden jumps of 2 to 10m each time the atmosphere decides to unload its excess water load? Just like the carbon sink models, the hydro sink in the hydrosphere will absorbed the increase in water content until full capacity is reached. It then dumps the excess load; resulting in a sudden rise. We may be lulled into a false sense of security with the gradual rise theory. Were the biblical great floods (commonly told in other cultural histories as well) the result of this sudden and hefty rise in sea levels? If such floods occurred 2,000 – 4,000 years ago, then such great floods may be due within our present life time.
Like all long term illnesses, the pressing problems of massive flooding cannot be tackled overnight. By the time massive flooding occurs, it is too later to handle the problems of draining massive quantities of water. The solution cannot also drain the rivers dry and should be able to return the stored water for use during prolonged droughts automatically. Each hydro-channelling scheme should be a building block towards the global solution of reducing our energy dependence on Oil and the excessive water vapor in our surface hydrosphere. The faster governments around the world adopt the principles of hydro-balancing with such simple eco-friendly geological solutions the faster Mother Nature is nursed back to health.
Instead of wasteful overproduction of cars and consumer goods, over-building of houses, dams and roads, over-mining of resources and destructive drilling / fracking exploration, just to keep the economy going, governments should look into channeling valuable human and financial resources into productive dual-use deep water wells, underground drainage channels to supplement and adapt available geological resources to recycle water back into the deep hydrosphere. Besides providing an economic boost with high employment, these master solutions tackle multiple problems at the very root level, water the basis of life.
Regional fault zones and deep aquifers (porous geological formations) can be easily converted into valuable water recycling/transport channels, water store and supplies, clean of toxic cancer-causing agents. Instead of building expensive filtration plants, why not allow natural filtration processes take their course in recycling our waste water into fresh mineral water deep within the rock formation. Civilisation should fit into the nature’s way of cycling water, not upset it with artificial manufacturing processes with compounded problems.
Massive hydro-dams, coastal tidal barriers, floodgates and dredging/deepening of waterways are not long term solutions as we do not remove the excess water from the surface hydrosphere. Instead we should have distributed flood control vertical drains to complement existing surface drainage system. The vertical drains do not flow back to the rivers (as in the present system causing congestion during peak flows) but connect back to the deep hydrosphere through the regional faults. With millions of cubic metres of freshwater diverted back to the continental interior through a network of faults, the amount of fresh water flows into the sea is not only reduced. New industries capitalizing on renewable sources of energy, automatic distributed urban flood-control schemes, cost-effective irrigation schemes to water the deserts and prevent massive forest fires could spring up. The billions of dollars saved from future environmental carnage should be sufficient to finance nation-wide construction. The construction boom in underground channeling projects and future increase in agricultural production are bonuses.
Long Term Eco-friendly geological solution to Thailand flooding woes.
As with the rest of the world, Thailand’s irrigation and flood control system has been built on the basic principle of water storage during the wet monsoon seasons and controlled release during the dry seasons for year round agriculture. This is done through a network of irrigation canals, hydro-power dams and flood-control sluice gates. There are also millions of shallow water wells, many of which had not been used in recent years. All surface runoff in the northern part of Thailand eventually flow into the four main rivers (Nan, Ping, Yom & Wang) which converged into the Menam Chao Phraya at Nakkon Sawan, approximately 140 miles from Bangkok.
An important rice bowl of the world, Thailand’s agricultural production depends on a regulated supply of water all year round. Bangkok, the commercial heart and capital, sits at the river mouth the Menam Chao Phraya. With a basin of 61,931 sq miles and a total length of 231 miles, it discharges an average of 718 cu.m of water per second (max: 5,960 cu.m/s) into the Gulf of Thailand. (source Wikipedia).
The floods since July 2011 had killed 270 people and had affected 8.2 million people in 60 of Thailand’s 77 provinces; 30 of which are currently inundated. Officials at the Agriculture Ministry said 1.17 million hectares of rice fields might be damaged. Thailand, the world's biggest rice exporter, has about 10.9 million hectares planted with the staple grain. Another 283,279 hectares of land planted with other crops is also likely to have suffered damage, the ministry said. Bank of Thailand governor PrasarnTrairatvorakul said a preliminary estimate by the central bank shows economic losses from flooding that began in late July range from $1.9 billion to $2.6 billion USD.
BANGKOK, October 27, 2011 (AFP) - Thousands of nervous Bangkok residents flocked to bus, rail and air terminals Thursday while heavy traffic snaked out of the sprawling Thai capital in an exodus from a mass of approaching floodwater. Water was seeping into central areas of the city of 12 million people, entering the grounds of the Grand Palace after the Chao Phraya river overflowed at high tide, but most of downtown Bangkok was still dry.
Many residents hunkered down in their homes, surrounded by sandbags or in some cases even hastily erected concrete block walls, after the government ordered a five-day holiday for 21 provinces including Bangkok from Thursday. "It's a crisis, because if we try to resist this massive amount of floodwater, a force of nature, we won't win," said a teary-eyed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, facing a major test of her two-month-old leadership.
The Nation October 27, 2011 12:59 pm BANGKOK: A Dutch expert on flooding, Adri Verwey, said yesterday the worst case scenario for Bangkok was that "extensive areas" of the capital could be submerged under more than one metre of water, if dykes are breached in many areas. Verwey, who was sent by the government of the Netherlands to assist the Thai government warned that Sukhumvit and other low-lying areas are especially prone - though it will take days for the water to reach inner Bangkok. "The levy is very important," he told The Nation and a small group of foreign journalists at Flood Relief Operation Centre (FROC) in Don Mueang airport which itself is now being visited by some flood water. Verway said this coming weekend would be "most crucial" with the expected strong tide. "I pity the Thai people," he said, adding that a lot of tasks will be awaiting the Kingdom in the recovery process. "You have this failure already. You can expect quite a few more."
The dilemma of a hydro dam control system
When the abnormally heavy rain started in mid July, the dams continued to retain water as per normal. No one could forecast 3 months ahead the heavy downpour would continue. By 2nd Oct 2011, 11 of the country’s 26 major dams had contained more water than their official capacity while others were 82 to 99 percent full according to the Royal Irrigation Department. By August many of the Northern provinces had been flooded. To release even more water would have exacerbate an already disastrous situation. At that time many had already blamed their flood woes on the irrigation department for releasing too much water.
Now that the flood waters had flowed down to Bangkok’s flood canals, many residents were questioning whether the Royal Irrigation Department was too slow in reacting. But it was a “Damn if you do and Damn if you don’t” predicament.
The flood problem at Bangkok is worsened during the high tide periods when the discharge into the sea is impeded. Water that does not flow can cause a lot of damage to the canals and levees which were not designed to withstand high pressure. With nowhere to flow, the flood waters could take weeks to subside provided no new flood waters flow down the Chao Phraya.
So while the problem could have been solved and prevented months ago, it is human nature not to do so until it is too late. So will the rest of the world. Forget the global warming hoax and the punishing carbon tax solutions. They do not solve the world’s immediate environmental problems such as the one facing Thailand or any flood and drought prone countries right now.
When it rains, it pours
Hydro-dams can only control water when the water is still in the catchment area and not after the flood waters had reached the flood plains. Most typhoons, like Nesat and Nalgae dumped much of their rain load on the fluvial plains outside the control of hydro dams. Most existing drainage systems converge and drain into the main fluvial channels. This is like causing a massive traffic jam during peak flows and they all flow southwards towards Bangkok. With low elevation, there is not much gradient to speed up the water flow. Even if there is, the flood water will accumulate at the next flat zone. Our present surface drainage system is thus like a serial, linear system; never suitable to cater for peak flows during floods.
To solve our flooding woes, our fundamental concept of a converging system must radically change to a divergent distributed system (a complete reversal). In order to do that
- there need to be alternative water outlets, not just the sea
- any excess water above the optimum flow level of the main channels must be automatically removed so that the volume of water can never reach the danger level of flooding (tackling the problem at root level before it gets too massive to handle)
- water in the alternative outlet can be stored for extraction during the dry period or channel out to areas in need of water.
Nature has already provided us with a ready made solution. All we need to do is to harness the enormous potential of our natural resources, hundreds to thousands of metres below us. Drill large deep wells into the highly fractured fault zones to act as vertical and inclined channels to the suitable porous rock formations for massive storage. Each country will need to design their own distributed network of underground channels (a combination of connecting tunnels and suitable fault zones) to interconnect the aquifers and deeper formations based on their respective geological structures and stratigraphy.
Some preliminary quantitative food for thoughts.
At 1m flood height over an area 1sq km, the volume of flood water is 1 million cu.metres. A sandstone bed 10 m thick with 20% porosity over 1 sq km area, has the capacity to store an equivalent of 1 million cu.metres of water assuming 50% impermeability. In addition a highly permeable fault zone with just 30% porosity (100m wide x 1km length x 1 km depth) could store as much as 30 million cu.metres of water. As these regional fault zones run for miles into the interior of the continental mass, their storage and transport capacity is potentially enormous. Clearly suitable geologic conditions can be utilized as deep underground resource (water store) with the appropriate adaptations. See illustrations in figures #7001a to c.
If excess water is continually removed as soon as it rises above the optimum main channel level, there is no need to actively pump the water into the wells. There can be various contraptions to generate electricity as the water flows downwards under gravity. These wells can have triple purposes; drain excess water into the underground store, generate electricity and provide fresh water sources during droughts.
As contingency (in the event of an unforeseen accidental flood outside the main channels; depending on the setup) water from the flooded area can be pumped into the nearest series of wells. With 5 wells per sq km and a conservative discharge rate of 20,000 cu m /day/well, it would take 10 days to clear 1 million cu.metres of water by pumping the water into the wells. The discharge rate can be improved by various means such as increasing the diameter and depth of the wells. The money to be spent on building more irrigation canals and flood control dams (now proven to be ineffective), can be better spent on these vertical dual purpose deep wells. With faster construction periods (than dam construction) and the immediate availability of the natural geological resources, a system of vertical wells can be installed progressively to prevent the next catastrophic flooding. With the unpredictable climate change following the gulf’s mega oil spill disaster, the next flood in your neighborhood could be just around the corner. Prevention is definitely better and less costly than cure. Those who had experienced the floods first hand and had suffered personal losses of loved ones & irreplaceable valuables, the aftermath clean-up of the disaster is as traumatic as the tragedies themselves.
For the love of mankind, for the prevention of such mega disastrous tragedies and for the compassion of those who had suffered immense losses, let us all work together to prevent such massive destruction of lives and properties. It is in our interests to act together in unison. Remember corporate interests take over when you don’t.