Claim: Climate Change will disrupt the Panama Canal

The water that is used to raise and lower vessels in the Canal is fed by gravity from Gatun Lake (pictured above) into each set of locks.

Story submitted by Eric Worrall. The Guardian, a green UK daily newspaper, has published a claim that climate change will disrupt shipping in the Panama Canal, preventing children in America from receiving their Chinese manufactured toys.

According to The Guardian;

“As extreme weather events create periods of flood and drought, they threaten the consistent water supply that the canal needs to operate.”

Panama is apparently suffering a drought, which is limiting the supply of fresh water from Gatun Lake and Alajuela Lake, water which is required to operate the canal. 

“That could increase shipping times and costs of everything from Christmas toys and electronics moving from China to New York to midwest corn and wheat bound for the west coast of South America.

It’s too soon to know how exactly more extreme weather will affect canal operations. But while industries that do business through the canal are taking a wait-and-see approach, the Panama Canal Authority is paying close attention to models that suggest future climate trends.”

http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/aug/14/climate-change-panama-canal-water-shipping-closures

Seriously folks – how can we continue to doubt Mann made global warming, when the Guardian has so clearly demonstrated that if we don’t switch to driving electric cars, our children will miss out on their toys at Christmas?

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The water can also be used for a second ship going the other way. And, it seems that the “dry season” water shortfall is something known about for years, from Wikipedia entry on the Panama Canal:

Gatun Lake is filled with rainwater, and the lake accumulates excess water during wet months. The water is lost to the oceans at a rate of 101,000 m3 (26,700,000 US gal; 22,200,000 imp gal) per downward lock cycle. Since a ship will have to go upward to Gatun Lake first and then descend, a single passing will cost double the amount; but the same waterflow cycle can be used for another ship passing in the opposite direction. The ship’s submerged volume is not relevant to this amount of water. During the dry season, when there is less rainfall, there is also a shortfall of water in Gatun Lake.

Apparently, the Canal Authority isn’t as worried about this as The Guardian, since there’s no mention of drought related issues on their website or news releases that I could find. http://www.pancanal.com/eng/pr/press-releases/

In fact, all the 2014 press releases seem to be about expansion. And in this notice, they are talking about adding a city for drinking water services to their list of cities already served.

The canal watershed maintains the reserve of this valuable natural resource. As well as being the principal source of water required for vessel transits, the canal watershed provides 95% of the drinking water for the inhabitants of the cities of Colon, Panama, San Miguelito and in the near future, Chorrera.

Me thinks the Guardian doth protest too much.

-Anthony

65 thoughts on “Claim: Climate Change will disrupt the Panama Canal

  1. Maybe they are planning to enlarge the canal because they are concerned there won’t be enough water because of climate change, just like they are building a new airport in Kirbati (to accommodate tourists) because the Island might drown because of rising sea levels.

  2. They have been predicting this for years now

    Officials with the Panama Canal Authority, managers of the locks and reservoirs since the United States relinquished control of the canal in 1999, warn that global warming, increased shipping traffic and bigger seagoing vessels could cripple the canal’s capacity to operate within a decade. CNN November 1, 2000

  3. Is there anything that “global warming” CAN’T do??? What’s next? Whitens teeth but causes gingivitis? Split ends, but easier management? Cakes and quiches to fall? Cars won’t start, but it’s ok, because it also causes Brake Failure?!?!?

  4. Ain’t going to be no need for a bitty canal with global warmin’ . Ain’t gonna be any central Panama.

  5. Since the solution to CO2 is a carbon tax, the analogous solution to this H2O problem would be a hydrogen tax.

    Or maybe a hydrogen trading scheme, or hydrogen credits that you could buy and sell on a hydrogen exchange.

    How about adding 10% ethanol to stretch out the supply?

  6. Is there anything that “global warming” CAN’T do??
    Climate change is like Allah; omnipotent, omniscient, but definitely not omnibenevolent.

  7. I lived in Panama for a few years in the mid-1980s. There was a drought during the early part of my tenure and much worry about there not being enough water for the canal. These days, when conversation occasionally turns to the second, wider Panama canal I raise the possibility of there not being enough water for the projected increased traffic. Nothing to do with climate change.

  8. On the bright side, even if the loss of rainfall shuts down the canal, in the long run the rising sea level, will, soon enough, allow ships to sail between North and South America over the top of what we now call Central America. Every cloud has its silver lining.

  9. If one projects a linear trend onto the Antarctic Sea Ice, Panama will be plugged with ice in X years.
    The list of things global warming can do is amazing.
    Who needs magic when there is global warming.
    Oh wait global warming of the CAGW kind is about as real as magic.
    I know, lets bomb the canal to let the relentlessly rising sea water have proper access.
    Is it just me or I we drifting toward” Enough already, get some rope”?
    Stupidity and mindless mendacity of these levels must be rewarded.

  10. john robertson says:
    August 16, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    If one projects a linear trend onto the Antarctic Sea Ice, Panama will be plugged with ice in X years.

    Well, at today’s actual rate of of increase in Antarctic sea ice extents, the Straits of Magellan (Cape Horn, 56 south latitude) will closed to sea traffic within 8-12 years.

    Time to build that sea-level canal through Nicaragua that Roosevelt rejected 114 years ago..

  11. Just drag some of those disappearing ice bergs down there before the Arctic becomes ice-free last year ;)

  12. Lets see now, Wikipedia says: “Gatun Lake has an area of 425 km2 (164 sq mi) at its normal level of 26 m (85 ft) above sea level; it stores 5.2 cubic kilometres (183,000,000,000 ft³) of water, which is about as much as the Chagres River brings down in an average year.” Maybe this data is a bit out of date – but about to stop the ships moving along the Canal? Really? What a bunch of wankers (as we Aussies say)!

  13. Check out the Wikipedia entry for
    Panama Canal expansion project and search for “water saving basins” There are there locks in series each with water saving basins.

    It seems like the new locks and the old locks both save water, but differently.
    The old locks are a pair of locks that work in synchronization. The descending locks fill the ascending locks.

    The new locks, bigger than the old, are only one lane. the water saving basins are used, rater than fill neighboring locks.

  14. Correction to 9:17 pm
    The old locks are a pair of locks that work in synchronization. The descending locks fill the ascending locks.
    No, I’m wrong about this. With the old locks, the descending lock is filling the next lock down in the step.

  15. world’s best palindrome — a word or phrase that reads the same backwards or forwards — an oldie but a goodie.

    A man, a plan, a canal, Panama

  16. The Panama Canal is SO 19th. Century! Back in the 1980s, American President Line (now American President Company) developed an intermodal system where the cargo containers were unloaded from the container ships in Los Angeles then put on rail cars in Los Angeles and shipped overland to the east coast. (You couldn’t get a “double stacked” train through the tunnels in the Sierras east of Oakland/San Francisco so they lost out.) That cut 4 to 6 days off the transit through the canal. It is also part of the reason United States Lines went under; they got only the low revenue cargo. So…not to worry, the children will STILL get their toys!

    Regards,
    Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewet’s evil twin)

  17. Is it possible for Green newspaper-journalists to check Arctic Ice true figures – not figures from models? Possible yes,
    but do they look at yesterday’s figure The latest value: 5,753,168 km2 (August 16, 2014) , Arctic Sea ice extent
    Is it possible for same journalists to understand that value of August 15, 2014, is closer to 2000ths average than to any of the low value years there after?
    Possible yes, likely not.
    It takes knowledge to read but even courage learn that empiri’s reading not fictive computer model(/-s) are more to be trusted.

    I continue my old question for Greenpeace and WWF: Where have all the money for “saving” Polar Bear gone?

  18. I would guess the reason the canal authorities are not worried is most likely because the author of the study probably took 6 years of data (since the La Nina dominant reign asserted itself), calculated a trend line, and extended it a hundred years.

  19. It’s full-on panic stations at the Guardian.
    They know full-well the Pause, model failure and Antarctic sea ice growth are shredding agw credibility. Lying by omission is routine. Instead of reporting reality their environment section is a production line of ‘a new study says’, each ‘study’ designed to provide another headline to maintain the scare.
    Their cause is in trouble and they know it.

  20. H.R. says:
    August 16, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    Shippers could always switch to the Northwest Passage. What’s all the worry about?
    ==================================================================
    I was just at the NSIDC page. They point out that the NWP is completely ice choked. They further mention that even the Russian side has a lot of heavy sea ice on the eastern passage. I also was reading an article discussing how labor issues in Panama has stalled work on enlarging their capacity in time for the hundred year anniversary of the Panama Canal. So it will now take another year or two to complete their work to widen the locks to fit modern ships. In the meantime, China has now contracted with Nicaragua to build a passage across their nation to compete with Panama.

  21. “The water can also be used for a second ship going the other way”

    This is only very conditionally true. It requires that you can arrange to meet a ship going the other way at each and every lock.
    The necessity of having an ample and reliable supply of water at the highest point of any canal with locks is often overlooked by people without experience of canals.

  22. okay, so here’s an opportunity for an American entrepreneur
    to make kiddies Christmas toys in America.

    Again.

    Surely the Guardian is aware of ECONOMICS. You know,
    supply and demand. Where there’s demand, someone will
    supply. It doesn’t have to be China …

  23. Is the proposed Chinese canal across Nicaragua a sea level passage?
    If so what will be the effect on the marine ecology, the flora and fauna which I imagine is different at each end of the canal?
    Will it affect the present marine currents that bring a relatively temperate climate to North West Europe?.
    Will it affect the cold water currents on the western side of Central/South America?

  24. The solution is simple
    Install large pumping stations and pump water from the Pacific and Atlantic.
    This would have the added benefit of lowering sea levels ;-)

  25. It’s great they make these claims as I can rest easy knowing it’s another thing that won’t happen.

  26. The “Guardian” used to be a reputable newspaper when it was the “Manchester Guardian”. Near Liberal (in the true sense, not the US sense) and we took it when the “News Chronicle” folded. When it dropped the “Manchester” part of the title, it started going left, and by the looks of it has gone right off the scale. “If it’s in the Guardian, take with a cwt of salt.”

  27. Oh, gee– how do I tell them?

    I work in expedited freight as a driver. Most of the stuff I see coming in from China, Japan and the Far East in general wouldn’t be affected if the canal dried up completely– because it comes by air cargo. I fancy the children won’t have that big of a problem getting their toys for Christmas. Besides, doesn’t Santa fly anyway? What’s he doing on a ship that has to go through the canal?

  28. “Apparently, the Canal Authority isn’t as worried about this as The Guardian …”

    Can anyone be as worried about climate change as the gloom&doom The Guardian???

  29. The water that is used to raise and lower vessels in the Canal is fed by gravity from Gatun Lake into each set of locks.

    Once again, the Guardian has completely failed to see the real problem. We’ve been using gravity at an ever-increasing rate to run the Panama Canal, hydroelectric dams, and amusement park rides since the beginning of the industrial age. Nobody wants to talk about it, but we’ve reached peak gravity and the present rate of consumption is unsustainable.

  30. Chinese toys do not have to be delivered to the east coast. The Grauniad obviously has no idea about road transport from the west coast.

  31. Stacey (Aug 17 at 1:41am) – Maybe the solution is even simpler: install Falkirk Wheels [http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falkirk_wheel#Technical_considerations]. There is almost no water loss, since the amounts going down and up are in balance. If anyone says it can’t be done on a Panamax scale, well they said it couldn’t be done on a Falkirk scale …..

  32. markstoval says:
    August 17, 2014 at 3:15 am
    Can anyone be as worried about climate change as the gloom&doom The Guardian???

    I cannot let this gratuitous swipe at the Guardian go unanswered. For every article they print which is gloom&doom they print one which offers the opposite perspective — doom&gloom.

  33. Lots of talk, but no mention of rainforests! Lake Gatun is surrounded by rainforests. The rainforest is the source of a continuous water supply year round. NASA has some details of why deforestation is causing water shortage concerns in Lake Gatun: http://m.earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=5534

    Note that the issue isn’t rainfall. It is that historically the rainforest acts as a reservoir itself. So during the wet season the rainforest and the lake collected water. Thus plenty of water to last thru the dry season. As the rainforest is cut down, more rain is making it to the lake in the wet season. More water than it can hold. So the water is released to no benefit of the canal. At the same time in the dry season, there is less water flowing from the rainforest ever smaller rainforest.

    The issue is not rainfall, it is deforestation of the rainforest, and that is clearly man caused.

  34. I guess the game goes like this: Think of anything you can imagine that might go “wrong” and make some link to “climate change”, no matter how ludicrously tenuous; spray these wild stories far and wide in the hope that those whose dire predictions fail to materialize are forgotten; point to those whose predictions can be argued to have materialized, no matter how absurd and twisted the logic, as “proof” of “climate change”.

    I think a century or two ago snake oil was sold using a comparable strategy.

  35. This report is another example of keyboard monkeys repeating alarmist junk and pretending to be journalists.

  36. sophocles says:
    August 17, 2014 at 1:26 am
    “Surely the Guardian is aware of ECONOMICS. You know,
    supply and demand. Where there’s demand, someone will
    supply. It doesn’t have to be China …”

    Of course the Guardian is aware of economics. Economics means: The value of a good is equal to the effort that went into its production. Nothing to do with supply and demand.
    Just grab your copy of Das Kapital, it’s right in there.

  37. Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:
    August 17, 2014 at 3:38 am
    “Nobody wants to talk about it, but we’ve reached peak gravity and the present rate of consumption is unsustainable.”

    Thank you for helping clear my stuffy nose, although I would have preferred not to have used hot coffee spraying out all over my keyboard.

  38. This is baloney, the el nino ‘lite’ seems to be driving abundant heavy cloud over Panama daily and this pattern has been going on for months:

    http://www.intelliweather.net/imagery/intelliweather/sat_goes10fd_580x580_img.htm

    The forecast is for rain, too. I’ve been watching the patterns of clouds in the above animation since spring and it has been pretty much the same. It is the same stream of air that gave the pair of tropical storms that was initially of concern for Hawaii a few weeks ago. I suspect this is an old report recycled as they are desperately dredging up a chain of “news releases” a few years old to counter the “pause”.

    https://www.google.ca/search?q=weather+Panama+City&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb&gfe_rd=cr&ei=NLjwU5vSGY7M8geEyIGgCw

  39. Cheshirered wrote about the Guardian August 16, 2014 at 11:33 pm:
    “It’s full-on panic stations at the Guardian.
    “They know full-well the Pause, model failure and Antarctic sea ice growth are shredding agw credibility. Lying by omission is routine. Instead of reporting reality their environment section is a production line of ‘a new study says’, each ‘study’ designed to provide another headline to maintain the scare.
    “Their cause is in trouble and they know it.”
    ********************************************
    The part that I wanted was only “a new study says”, but the whole posting was good. What I wanted to add was that our local paper seems to have nothing but “new studies” and there is virtually a daily reminder that we are headed for thermagadon. (And full marks for the person who invented “thermagadon”…..)

    Ian M

  40. Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:
    August 17, 2014 at 3:38 am
    “Nobody wants to talk about it, but we’ve reached peak gravity and the present rate of consumption is unsustainable.”
    I think you are wrong. I’m convinced gravity is a renewable resource just like water. But it may be what Dr. Viners was getting at when he said “our children will not see snow in future years

  41. markstoval says: “Can anyone be as worried about climate change as the gloom&doom The Guardian???”

    In fact, due to having invested all its credibility in its alarmist prognostications, the Guardian is becoming progressively more and more worried about the pronounced lack of climate change – anthropogenic or otherwise.

  42. Wonderful. The story has come full circle. When the Panama Canal was still under construction, there were scare stories in the press that the “joining of the Pacific” (cold) to the Atlantic/Caribbean (warm!) would disrupt the Gulf Stream, plunging Europe into a New Ice Age. See, for instance, this “proto-science fiction novel”:

    http://io9.com/5259366/10-scariest-eco-catastrophes-from-early-science-fiction

    Lous Pope Gratacap’s The Evacuation of England: The Twist in the Gulf Stream (1908): Despite geologists’ warnings that the Panam Canal will cvause the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to merge, the Canal is finished. (Canal enthusiast Teddy Roosevelt is one of the book’s characters.) Sure enough, entire countries must be evacuated because of climate changes: “The shelterihng pwer of the Gulf Strean was removed from Great Britain, and the forst of the Arcic world, expanded with instantanous certainty, spreading the shroud of its killing cold over the same latitudes in Europe that for ages had slept beneath its spell in America.” The novel’s rather dripy protagonist, a businessman named Leacraft, is an eyewitness.

    The Evacuation of England isn’t thrilling. As E.F. Bleiler notes, “Leacraft’s insipid romance is buried amid overlong didactic digressions.”

    Talk about the Polar Vortex…

  43. Here is a sample from their press releases for 2014.

    January
    Panama Canal: Talks Continue on New Locks Project
    Panama Canal, GUPC and Zurich American to Continue Talks on New Locks Project
    GUPC Announcement of Suspension Goes Against Third Set of Locks Contract
    Panama Canal Proposal to Jointly Contribute $283 Million to New Locks Project
    Panama Canal Reiterates to the International Maritime Community its Commitment to the Expansion
    ACP Reaffirms Its Commitment to Panama Canal Expansion

    May
    Panama Canal To Charter Post-Panamax Ship for Training in New Locks
    Four New Lock Gates for Panama Canal Expansion Set Sail from Italy

    August
    CECH Expresses Interest on Panama Canal Future Projects
    ACP and New Locks Contractor Incorporate Agreement to Complete Expansion

  44. @RACOOK 8:37.
    Thanks for the numbers.
    Now the counter meme, we are doomed, in just 8 years the Panama Canal will be frozen.
    Caution; conclusion reached using IPCC Team ™ science.
    Like Richard Courtney I too am waiting to see how long it takes the Easily Alarmed Ones to start emoting about this rapidly freezing world.

  45. Gatun Lake is a MAN-MADE lake so why is the Guardian so worried about it? They acknowledge the cause of the drought.

    Climate change may ‘bottleneck’ the Panama Canal and disrupt world trade
    …….That water comes from Gatun Lake and Alajuela Lake, which are fed by the Chagres River. A recent dry spell – linked to El Niño, the temporary warming of surface ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific – caused the lakes’ water levels to drop significantly……

    http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/aug/14/climate-change-panama-canal-water-shipping-closures

    Yet can’t resist putting climate change in the headline.

    Here is another headline.

    Star-News – Jun 28, 1957
    The water level in the Panama Canal has fallen to a near critical low as a result of this year’s unprecedented spring drought….

    http://tinyurl.com/ncg6k2r

    =========

    Lakeland Ledger – Aug 27, 1972
    Panama Hit Hard By Rare Drought

    http://tinyurl.com/omus6bh

  46. Since the Guardian likes alarming stories here is another.

    Spokane Daily Chronicle – Feb 23, 1934
    Panama Canal Is Busier As World Trade Forgets Depression
    In 1930 a terrible drought reduced the level of Gatun lake to the point where only utmost water economy permitted ships to pass through the canal at all.

    http://tinyurl.com/qeu5fqm

  47. “..climate change will disrupt shipping in the Panama Canal, preventing children in America from receiving their Chinese manufactured toys.

    Alternatively, shipping all these Chinese toys is making global-warming worse. Time for a Christmas-tax?

  48. Well the Panama Canal has a whole lot more to worry about, than water shortages.

    If they can ever get the 5,000 / 50,000 or how many it is Union workers back to work, to finish the brand new wider canal, that they are doing, then there will be NO locks operated by Gatun Lake water, untouched by human hands.

    There will be mechanical motor driven lock gates, instead of the good old water powered ones, that are there now. Those electric motors, could also operate pumps to pump water up over the mountains, from the oceans, so they won’t need water from Gatun Lake.

    But I wouldn’t bet on those motor powered lock gates, to keep on operating for 100 years, like the water powered ones have. Some Micro$oft Windows glitch, will probably crash the whole thing, and open all the lock gates together, at the same time. Well that will drain the whole damn lake, out to the oceans, anyway.

    Maybe, it’s better to invest in the Nicaragua sea level canal instead.

  49. Steve D says:
    August 16, 2014 at 8:20 pm
    .
    Is there anything that “global warming” CAN’T do??
    Climate change is like Allah; omnipotent, omniscient, but definitely not omnibenevolent.

    But Allah is Merciful — providing you submit completely (meaning of ‘Islam’). Otherwise, your ass is grass.

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