By the end of the 21st century, the average drought conditions in the Southwest US will exceed even the worst conditions during the megadroughts in the Medieval period
Droughts have intensified in already dry regions around the world, including in the Southwest United States and in Australia throughout the first decade of this century. The severity of these droughts has been attributed to global warming and climate change, which climate models predict should make traditional weather patterns more extreme, so dry regions will get drier.
However, there’s an inherent difficulty in determining the causes behind contemporary droughts because of their naturally long timescales. During the medieval 12th and 13th centuries, North America experienced ‘megadroughts’ spanning 1000 years! With such long timescales, it’s hard to know whether the intense dry spells we see now in California and nearby states are due to natural climatic variability or spurred on by anthropogenic carbon emissions. Is man-made global warming to blame?
A recent paper in Science Advances provides a comprehensive answer to this question. The group from…
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