Science News: As farmers irrigate California’s Central Valley, water that evaporates from the fields travels east to Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, where it increases summer rainfall and runoff into the Colorado River, according to a study published in Geophysical Research Letters. An earlier study had noted that watering crops in the Central Valley cools local temperatures and increases humidity. But to see how irrigation affects the climate outside the region, Jay Famiglietti of the University of California, Irvine, and Min-Hui Lo of the National Taiwan University in Taipei designed computer simulations of global climate over a 90-year period and increased water to the Central Valley during the months of May through October. They found that irrigation in California not only sends more water circulating in the atmosphere of the US Southwest but also alters circulation over the entire region, which, in turn, draws in even more water vapor from the Gulf of Mexico. Although the study sheds light on the consequences of people’s use of water and how it can affect climate, many more variables need to be taken into account to gain a more complete understanding of that complex process.
Washington Post: A front-page article reports on “the latest wave of sting operations revealing years of deep infiltration into the renewable energy sector by Italy’s rapidly modernizing crime families.” Those operations raise “fresh questions about the use of government subsidies to fuel a shift toward cleaner energies.” Critics are “claiming huge state incentives created excessive profits for companies and a market bubble ripe for fraud.” The Post notes that the discoveries “follow so-called ‘eco-corruption’ cases in Spain, where a number of companies stand accused of illegally tapping state aid.” Much of the problem centers in Sicily, which not only has “infamous crime families” but plentiful sunshine and wind. Authorities have seized about one-third of Sicily’s 30 wind farms plus several solar power plants, have frozen more than $2 billion in assets, and have made a dozen arrests. The story probably owes its front-page placement to what it never mentions: its obvious potential as a cautionary tale for political exploitation in the US, where some critics protest government support of renewable-energy business ventures, and where allegations of fraud followed the failure of the government-backed renewable-energy venture Solyndra.