Getting ready for the first megadrought caused by human culture, economics


Water level, now, at the Ward Creek Reservoir, Grand Mesa, Colorado

A vast region of the western United States, extending from California, Arizona and New Mexico north to Oregon and Idaho, is in the grips of the first climate change-induced megadrought observed in the past 1,200 years, a study shows. The finding means the phenomenon is no longer a threat for millions to worry about in the future, but is already here.

The megadrought has emerged while thirsty, expanding cities are on a collision course with the water demands of farmers and with environmental interests, posing nightmare scenarios for water managers in fast-growing states.

Unlike historical megadroughts triggered by natural climate cycles, emissions of heat-trapping gases from human activities have contributed to the current one, the study finds. Warming temperatures and increasing evaporation, along with earlier spring snowmelt, have pushed the Southwest into its second-worst drought in more than a millennium of observations.

RTFA. Read it and weep for what humankind has wrought. Not just upon the American Southwest and those of us who live here; but, to the whole planet.

4 thoughts on “Getting ready for the first megadrought caused by human culture, economics

  1. Boiling frog says:

    “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” William Gibson (The Economist, December 4, 2003)

  2. RaPaR says:

    Humanity continues to make our own beds…….this time we’ve set them on fire. Time to sleep in them. We continue to elect moronic leaders that willfully and purposefully deny our impact on the planet for as pocketful of cash. Now let them spend it on water.

  3. Cassandra says:

    “Climatologist: Dry areas in US Southwest getting drier” (Sept 27, 2020) https://www.abqjournal.com/1501125/climatologist-dry-areas-in-us-southwest-getting-drier.html

    “Confronting Climate Change in New Mexico: Preparing the state for a hotter, drier future.” By Jason Funk Ph.D., Union of Concerned Scientists (May 2, 2016) https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2016/04/Climate-Change-New-Mexico-fact-sheet.pdf See also https://350newmexico.org/confronting-climate-change-in-new-mexico/
    Synopsis: earlier and more erratic springs, hotter and dryer summers, less predictable winters. Drought will return and intensify, potentially reaching the level of the Great Drought of 1276 through 1299 ( https://www.britannica.com/event/Great-Drought#ref=ref112984 ). Drought conditions will include more violent and concentrated thunderstorms, resulting in increased flash flooding that will severely impact acequias. Increasing proportion of precipitation will be falling as rain rather than snow during winter and result in less and less snowpack. Also earlier snowmelt will cause lower stream flows at critical times of the year when the reduced availability of water for irrigation will have greater consequences. Drought will result in larger and more destructive wildfires and megafires, resulting in more erosion of watersheds and rapidly increased losses of the storage capacity of reservoirs

    • Dusty says:

      “Stanford researchers identify ‘landfalling droughts’ that originate over ocean https://news.stanford.edu/press/view/36274
      Researchers have identified a new type of “landfalling drought” that originates over the ocean before traveling onto land, and which can cause larger, drier conditions than other droughts.” Of all the droughts affecting land areas worldwide from 1981 to 2018, roughly one in six were landfalling droughts, according to the study published Sept. 21 in Water Resources Research.
      The researchers analyzed the physical processes of landfalling droughts in western North America, where a high frequency of them occur. They found that droughts that make landfall in the region have been associated with certain atmospheric pressure patterns that reduce moisture, similar to the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” pattern that was one of the primary causes of the 2012-2017 California Drought [see links].
      “Landfalling Droughts: Global Tracking of Moisture Deficits From the Oceans Onto Land” https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2019WR026877

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