US Southwest May Enter Into Permanent Drought-Like Conditions by Mid-Century

US desert southwest photo

photo: Kevin Dooley/Creative Commons

If you closely follow the water issues that plague the US southwest, the precipitation predictions for the region, and have a notion of the development patterns there that headline may seem obvious. But if you haven't this is the thumbnail sketch of the situation, with some help from The New York Times:A new article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows how a mega-drought lasting 60 years in the 12th century could be a sign of things to come. Conditions then were then roughly similar to those today and that drought was the worst in the past 1200 years, according to tree ring records. The study's author says that those conditions represent a conservative worst-case scenario of what the Southwest is in for as average temperatures continue to climb and precipitation patterns change.

On top of that is climbing and unsustainable water use, as the population of the Southwest climbed from 2.1 million to 50 million over the past century and "old-style, very European ideas about water" (as in "green lawns and unlimited swimming pools and inefficient irrigated agriculture") were implemented.

Summing up, Richard Seager, from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, notes that while much of what we're seeing is caused by natural variability,

There is this background steady drying of the region that is occurring due to rising greenhouse gases, and variability is moving around that. In the worst-case scenario, it looks to me like models are going over more towards permanent drought-like conditions by the early part of the middle of this century.

All I can say is that when we look back, and if we did not act (though better water use and migration out of the region), let no one say they didn't see this coming. The evidence is there in abundance evidence for genuine, unexaggerated catastrophe being a real possibility. At this point it borders on willful ignorance coated with a liberal dosing of hubris to not radically act to stop climate change as much as is possible at this point.

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More on Global Climate Change:
Hey Southeast US! Here's Where Climate Change is Really Going to Hurt
Climate Change to Kill 5 Million People Globally by 2020 & It Just Goes Up Each Year After That
4°C Warming Means Your Future (Yes, Yours) is Very Unpleasant

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