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Learning to Love Deserts

A satellite image showing the Wadi Rum desert and irrigated farmland in Jordan. (Image credit: NASA)

Editor’s Note: This is a bit different than our usual posts analyzing the latest government policies and emerging risks. But as the 15th UN Conference on Desertification begins this week, we thought it was an important reminder of the beauty and importance of one of the geographies we often examine through a climate security lens. 

By Peter Schwartzstein

I used to hate deserts. They scorch in the day and then chill at night. They can infuriate in ways few other landscapes do, that pesky sand sneaking into every book, bag, and electronic cranny. Most importantly (to me), it can be hard to disassociate these thirsty, hostile-looking expanses from death and disaster. Through years of environmental reporting in mostly arid or semi-arid parts of the Middle East and Africa, I thought I’d seen far too many desert dwellers struggle with the harshness of their surroundings to perceive these places as anything other than unpleasant sufferfests– particularly as climate change makes them that bit hotter and thirstier. What is there to like about environments that appear almost calculated to pitch their inhabitants against one another?


Higher Temperatures from Climate Change Can Deteriorate Stored Ammunition and Explosives

Munitions exposed to heat

Munitions exposed to extreme heat can become unstable, leading to unplanned explosions at munitions sites, or UEMS. Credit: Getty Images

By Marc Kodack

Climate change will affect bulk commodities, e.g., ammunition, that the U.S. Amy relies on in combat operations. As temperatures increase in arid areas of the world, such as the Middle East (which is critically important to U.S. national security), the storage of ammunition and explosives (AE) under extreme temperatures can lead to instability and possible unplanned detonations. A recent article in Scientific American explores the storage of ammunition whereby “intense heat can weaken munition’s structural integrity, cause the thermal expansion of explosive chemicals and damage protective shields.” (more…)

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