Worst Drought in 1,000 Years Could Begin in Eight Years

Buried in technical detail, a recent study predicted the US West would very soon enter a devastating 75 to 200 year long megadrought. Mass media didn't notice. Apparently the language "severe, but temporary, long term decrease" in stream flow wasn't clear.

Beginning in just eight years, we could see permanent climate conditions across the North American Southwest that are comparable to the worst megadrought in 1,000 years.

The latest research from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University published in December 2012 has some truly astounding news. The megadroughts referred to in the paper published in Nature Climate Change happened around about 900 to 1300 AD and are so extreme that they have no modern counterpart for comparison (these megadroughts will be referred to in the following as the "12th century megadrought"). The research was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

We have been warned for decades that we would be facing a megadrought if we did not do something about climate pollution. We did not, and now according to the projections of a new study, that is just what the future may hold. And remember, projected conditions similar to the worst megadrought in 1,000 years would be the baseline conditions. Dry periods, which we normally refer to as drought times today, would be superimposed on top of the megadrought extremeness.

The new scenarios are the simple end result of greenhouse gases emitted to our atmosphere ... updates the old scenarios prepared in 2000 with current greenhouse gas data. It also reflects a revelation in research that because we have failed to act on climate change, the old worst-case scenario was optimistically good.

The new models have more grid squares (higher resolution) ...

The new models also include volcanoes, changes in the sun's strength and more complex interactions between clouds and pollutants like nitrous oxides and sulfur dioxides (both manmade and natural), and their results agree better with observations of our past climate...

That we could slip into profound continuous drought so soon is certainly a surprise to most of us, to say the least. The typical consensus opinion of unrestrained climate pollution impacts by the year 2100 only tells us that permanent drought will come to many parts of the world and, basically, that dry areas could become drier. The news that we could be experiencing permanent drought on the scale of megadrought proportions - beginning in only eight years - should be considered a global threat of the highest order.

So why, once again, is there no alarm? The prepublication press release for this paper came out on December 23...

This "most severe, but temporary, long-term decrease in flow recorded" is the concept we need to understand. This is the megadrought reference. A 10 percent reduction beginning 2021 to 2040 is extreme enough for these researchers to compare the average conditions projected for the very near future to the 12th Century megadrought. This single message is critical and it was missed by popular reporting. Just to be sure I am clear: this quote "temporary, but long-term decreases in flow" here refers to these 75- to 200 year-long megadroughts, the last one occurring about 1,000 years ago or in the 12th Century. These droughts were temporary, like the droughts of today, but in the near future, conditions comparable to these droughts will be the average climate condition. Dry periods that we know as drought today will be on top of megadrought dryness.

" The most telling example of this climate confusion comes at the bottom of the Columbia University press release. This statement by Mingfang Ting, one of the paper's authors and a specialist in precipitation extremes, tells us: "For Texas, the models predict that precipitation will decrease and evaporation rates will also go down in spring and summer, but only because "there is no moisture to evaporate." [emphasis mine]

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Deniers of global warming now have a new delusion to chew on. Look at the evidence, think about consequences of the evidence, explore options to reduce or change the actual causes, plan for the worst, and be flexible. These are key processes to face life's challenges. 

Denial of evidence changes nothing. 

Worst Drought in 1,000 Years Could Begin in Eight Years

Thanks Ruth Anthony-Gardner 

Thanks for pointing this out! The prediction isn't just for a year or two; "temporary" over time scales of centuries and millennia is still several human lifetimes!

(Photo based on skeleton by Laurent Orseau)

Drought forecast to persist in much of U.S., especially the West

A NOAA report predicts drought conditions will persist in much of the U.S., especially in the West.

More than two-thirds of the country is under abnormally dry to exceptional drought conditions, "which, although serious, is a slight improvement since fall 2012," said the National Drought Early Warning Outlook.

While the report said the drought was over in most of the nation east of the Mississippi River, the portion of the country still facing drought — most of the West and Florida — should expect it "to persist or intensify."

NOAA predicted that most of the United States would have higher-than-usual temperatures over the next three months and that much of the West, down through Texas, the Gulf Coast and the Southeast would have below-normal precipitation.

Snowpack in several river basins in Colorado, Wyoming and Mew Mexico is "less than 50% of normal," the outlook said. If the snowpack does not recover in the next two months, farms and municipalities in California and other Western states could face considerable challenges this summer.

The Interior Department identified areas of concern for greater wildfire risk, including Upper Plains states like the Dakotas and Montana; the Southwest; Florida; and eastern Colorado down into Oklahoma and Texas.

New climate models predict that the US Southwest monsoon will come later.

Climate Change Will Delay Southwest Monsoon Season

Climate change models say that the summer southwest monsoon season will return to the American southwest, but it will start coming later in the year, which is a problem because crops will just be starting to grow as the days get shorter in the fall.

The new models suggested that global climate change will set up a chain reaction that delays the monsoon rains. Drier winters, with less rain or snow to the north, will create drier conditions that make it more difficult for clouds to form in the spring and early summer. The rains wouldn’t be able to begin until wetter air eventually arrived on changing air streams in September or October. In the past, the southwest monsoon generally occurred in July and August.

Farmers and ranchers in the study region, which includes northern Mexico as well as southern Arizona and New Mexico, depend upon the monsoon rains for most of the year’s rainfall.

Study: Climate Change May Dry Up Important U.S. Reservoirs Like Lak...

A new study by researchers with Colorado State University, Princeton and the U.S. Forest Service predicts changes in future water yields in 2020, 2040, 2060 and 2080.

Research published in Environmental Science and Technology found that by 2050 one third of U.S. counties could face “high” or “extreme” risk of water shortage. And the International Energy Agency determined that if current policies remain in place, fresh water use by the energy industry alone could more than double ... by 2035.

... here’s the projected changes in annual water consumption under that same permutation, accounting for the effects of climate change:

In some key areas, including the Southwest, parts of California, and the central and southern Great Plains, “important reservoirs are left with little or no water” in some scenarios. In the Colorado River Basin, for instance, “Lakes Powell and Mead are projected to drop to zero and only occasionally thereafter add rather small amounts of storage before emptying again.”

In many ways the problem is already beginning to bite. It looks like the historic droughts that have wracked the West, the Southwest and the Plains areas for the last two years may very well continue through the spring and summer.

Drought that ravaged U.S. crops likely to worsen in 2013, forecast ...

The good news is that only 51% of the US is currently in drought. The bad news is that

The annual spring outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adm...(NOAA) predicted hotter, drier conditions across much of the U.S., including parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas,...

“It’s a mixed bag of flooding, drought, and warm weather,”...

... drought conditions were likely to remain in the central and western parts of the country, and could expand in California, the Southwest, the southern Rockies, and Texas. The Florida panhandle should also anticipate drought conditions, according to the forecast. Scientists warned of an increased risk of wildfires, because of the dry conditions, for parts of Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

... we do not have the buffer or carryover we did coming into 2012,” ...

Other areas of the country however were in line for floods, with the most significant along the Red and Souris Rivers in North Dakota.

Some flooding was also expected along the upper Mississippi into Southern Wisconsin, Northern Missouri, and parts of South Dakota and Iowa.


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