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‘Megadrought’ emerging in the western US might be worse than any in 1,200 years

  • Scientists say that about half of this historic drought can be blamed on man-made global warming.
  • The study covers an area stretching across nine U.S. states from Oregon down to New Mexico.
  • Naturally-occurring western megadroughts have occurred many times before.

Fueled in part by human-caused climate change, a “megadrought” appears to be emerging in the western U.S., a study published Thursday suggests.

In fact, the nearly-20-year drought is almost as bad or worse than any in the past 1,200 years, scientists say.

Megadroughts – defined as intense droughts that last for decades or longer – once plagued the Desert Southwest. Thanks to global warming, an especially fierce one appears to be coming back:

“We now have enough observations of current drought and tree-ring records of past drought to say that we’re on the same trajectory as the worst prehistoric droughts,” said study lead author A. Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University, in a statement. This is “a drought bigger than what modern society has seen.”

Scientists say that about half of this historic drought can be blamed on man-made global warming. Some of the impacts today include shrinking reservoirs and worsening wildfire seasons.

Since temperatures are projected to keep rising, it is likely the drought will continue for the near future – or fade briefly only to return, researchers say.

The study covers an area stretching across nine U.S. states from Oregon and Montana down through California, New Mexico and part of northern Mexico.

Daniel Swain, a UCLA climate scientist who wasn’t part of the study, called the research important because it provides evidence “that human-caused climate change transformed what might have otherwise been a moderate long-term drought into a severe event comparable to the ‘megadroughts’ of centuries past.”

Williams said that “because the background is getting warmer, the dice are increasingly loaded toward longer and more severe droughts. We may get lucky, and natural variability will bring more precipitation for a while.

“But going forward, we’ll need more and more good luck to break out of drought, and less and less bad luck to go back into drought,” he said.

Williams said the region could stay dry for centuries. “That’s not my prediction right now, but it’s possible.”

Naturally occurring western megadroughts have taken place many times before. In fact, most of the USA’s droughts of the past century, even the 1930s Dust Bowl that forced migrations of Oklahomans and others from the Plains, “were exceeded in severity and duration multiple times by droughts during the preceding 2,000 years,” the National Climate Assessment said.

The difference now, of course, is the western USA is home to more than 70 million people who weren’t here for the previous medieval megadroughts. The implications are far more daunting.

University of Michigan environment dean Jonathan Overpeck, who studies southwestern climate and was not part of the study, calls this drought “the first observed multidecadal megadrought in recorded U.S. history.”

To identify past droughts, scientists studied thousands of tree rings to find out how much – or little – rain fell hundreds of years ago. Scientists used historical data in combination with several computer model simulations to reach their conclusions.

One additional worrisome fact from the study was that the 20th century was the wettest century in the entire 1,200-year record. It was during that time that the population boomed in the western U.S., and that has continued.

“The 20th century gave us an overly optimistic view of how much water is potentially available,” said study co-author Benjamin Cook, a NASA climate scientist, in a statement.

“It goes to show that studies like this are not just about ancient history,” he said. “They’re about problems that are already here.”

The study was published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Science.

USA Today



21 Comments on "‘Megadrought’ emerging in the western US might be worse than any in 1,200 years"

  1. Richard Guenette on Mon, 20th Apr 2020 1:25 pm 

    Our world would benefit from urban agriculture/sustainable agriculture (rooftop gardening, vertical farming powered by hydroponics and aeroponics, rainwater capture and storage etc.). Instead of “cultured” meat, replace them with beans and legumes (which are full of fibre and protein).

  2. Richard Guenette on Mon, 20th Apr 2020 1:26 pm 

    Or free ranging livestock- ban factory farming.

  3. Richard Guenette on Mon, 20th Apr 2020 1:58 pm 

    Our world would benefit from lynching people like juanPee.

  4. Sissyfuss on Mon, 20th Apr 2020 2:15 pm 

    It’s not our world anymore.

  5. JuanP on Mon, 20th Apr 2020 2:37 pm 

    Richard Guenette said Our world would benefit from lynching people like…

    supertard’s sock
    please respect supertard JuanP. I appointed him supertard and he can stay where he pleases. I wish he returns my 500lb bean bag though

  6. JuanP on Mon, 20th Apr 2020 2:41 pm 

    supertard JuanP
    why don’t libs move to canada or better yet Phils?

    just cuious

  7. Duncan Idaho on Mon, 20th Apr 2020 3:21 pm 

    “On April 19th there were 105,382 travelers compared to 2,356,802 a year ago.

    That is a decline of 95%.”

  8. Duncan Idaho on Mon, 20th Apr 2020 4:13 pm 

    BP Celebrates 10th Anniversary Of Deepwater Horizon By Dyeing Gulf Of Mexico Black

    https://www.theonion.com/bp-celebrates-10th-anniversary-of-deepwater-horizon-by-1842967276

  9. makati1 on Mon, 20th Apr 2020 5:57 pm 

    Sissyfuss, you are correct. The world we inhabit is controlled by a few thousand elite who want it all for themselves. This whole flu thing is insane. The last desperate grasp for it all by those same elite.

    Soon,we will be nothing more than sheeple with tags under our skin that will determine if we live or die. I want to watch it all unfold but I am also glad I will not have to live in that world for more than 15-20 years. And not in the US for any of them.

    The world we lived in just six months ago is gone, never to return. Maybe something similar, but a lot less free and secure. But then, the poorer billions will hardly notice the change. Only those who tried to live above their means will feel the pain. The US and EU in particular. Here, not so much.

    The new Bill Gates police state will not have to ask for your papers. They will know from your tag what you are allowed to do, or where you can go, what you can buy, etc. Sigh! Or is it … Baaaaah?

  10. supremacist muzzies jerk on Tue, 21st Apr 2020 5:48 am 

    Shut-up already retarded supremacist muzzies jerk.

    Do the world a BIG favor and amputate the little head sitting atop the torso.

    Why does America support losers like this. Naturally, supremacist muzzies jerk aka Paultarded relies on the taxpayers for EVERYTHING.

  11. supremacist muzzies jerk on Tue, 21st Apr 2020 5:49 am 

    I can’t work so of course I need YOUR money to support me.

  12. JuanP on Tue, 21st Apr 2020 5:57 am 

    Yo, Shut-up already retarded supremacist muzzies jerk.

    Do the world a BIG favor and amputate the little head sitting atop the torso.

    Why does America support losers like this. Naturally, supremacist muzzies jerk aka Paultarded relies on the taxpayers for EVERYTHING.

  13. JuanP on Tue, 21st Apr 2020 5:58 am 

    I can’t work so of course I need YOUR money to support me. I am crazy and in an asylum

  14. Richard Guenette on Wed, 22nd Apr 2020 3:38 pm 

    Trump is Amerika’s last POTUS.

  15. Richard Guenette on Wed, 22nd Apr 2020 4:37 pm 

    Sorry All for being a troll

  16. JuanP on Wed, 22nd Apr 2020 4:38 pm 

    Hey, Richard, I am the pink poodle

  17. JuanP on Wed, 22nd Apr 2020 4:39 pm 

    Oops, forgot I am Richard

  18. REAL Green on Wed, 22nd Apr 2020 5:34 pm 

    No more half retard for us. We dun gone full retard now Davy.

  19. Cloggie on Thu, 23rd Apr 2020 6:00 am 

    Solution: give up on open-air agriculture and move to greenhouses, where the only water that will ever leave the greenhouse is contained in the product. You can even farm with salt seawater, in the desert:

    https://deepresource.wordpress.com/2020/04/05/growing-crops-in-the-australian-desert-with-seawater/

    Price 4 mm single glass (standard in professional glass agriculture) in the Netherlands:

    https://tinyurl.com/ycasff94

    Or 2,000 euro for 100 m2 glass, sufficient to feed 4 adults 24/7/365. For real bulk glass, the price will be considerably lower.

    Add considerable for support structure.

    https://technokas.nl/smart-greenhouses/kassenbouw/venlokas-of-breedkapper/

    Even the Netherlands, known for it fight AGAINST water, faces yet a third year of severe drought:

    https://www.boerderij.nl/Home/Nieuws/2020/4/Waterschap-vreest-opnieuw-grote-droogte-in-2020-573500E/

    Time to rethink agriculture and anticipate the consequences of climate change.

  20. Davy on Thu, 23rd Apr 2020 6:29 am 

    “Solution: give up on open-air agriculture and move to greenhouses, where the only water that will ever leave the greenhouse is contained in the product. You can even farm with salt seawater, in the desert”

    My god the stupidity of the guy that has never farmed before.

  21. Cloggie on Thu, 23rd Apr 2020 7:48 am 

    “My god the stupidity of the guy that has never farmed before.”

    Just returned from my private greenhouse (45C) to find some cooling.

    As always empire dave sees my posts as an opportunity to launch his 12-year old level vocabulary and call me “stupid”.

    Never expect any reasoning whatsoever from empire dave WHY it is stupid what I say. He can’t think of any reason. I am the red drape and he is the bull, whose body is wounded by several spears.

    Empire dave clearly reveals through his anger what he really thinks about empire, collapse and the energy transition.

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