Global warming, now verified by scientists to be real and not a myth, has the risk of bringing decades of long “mega-droughts” that will hit the west in the coming years, after an already very dry year for western United States. A new forecast published by the new journal Science Advances, predicts that a mega-drought is in westerners’ near future.
This mega-drought, explained by scientists, would be a naturally occurring drought except it would go on for decades without relief. Many scientists believe that California’s recent drought is a result of naturally occurring climate change and not global warming however, the high output of green house gasses are contributing to the likelihood of more frequent droughts in the future. These expected droughts would be due to low participation and higher evaporation rates that would result in dryer soil.
The mega-drought expected to hit the west is predicted to last 35 years or longer; which is following an already very dry couple of years in the west. Analysts have said that if the United States, as well as other nation’s around the globe, greenhouse emissions are reduced to hit the moderate targets; the chance of the epic drought will drop to 60% probability.
Drought has a significant negative impact on agriculture and ecosystems. California is one of the leading exporters of fresh produce in the country. However, most of the west is accustomed to drought because eleven of the past fourteen years have been drought years.
Scientists have studied the rings inside trees to determine current drought data. Tree rings are known to be wider in wet years while in dry years they are much narrower. They found that a similar “mega-drought” of mass proportions hit the region in the 13th century. Water conservation methods as well as ne irrigation systems have been considered. However, the problem with new water conservation plans is that being in a current drought doesn’t allow California to conserve much water in the first place.
Even the infamous “Dust Bowl” that hit the American Midwest in the 1930’s is known to have been exceeded by past droughts from the last 2,000 years. Now with a very modernized west home to over 70 million people, the implications of the expected mega-drought are much greater.
Climatologist, Mark Svoboda, at the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln has shown concerning stating the current conditions are not nearly as bad as they may become in coming years. There are already reports of wells running dry in Southern California despite severe water usage regulations that include; no watering of lawns if there is excess run off, no hosing down of sidewalks and driveways, and no landscaping that would require greats amount of water.
The recent rise in wildfires, water shortages, and impactful losses in the agricultural economy has dramatically effected the west for the past three years. With these concerning side effects of the drought and the already very dry years, it is expected by some scientists that the mega-drought has already hit the west.
By Audrey Madden
Photo by – IRRI Photos – Creative Commons License