“We now have enough observations of current drought and tree-ring records of past drought to say that we’re on the same trajectory as the worst prehistoric droughts,” says bioclimatologist Park Williams, from Columbia University.
The drought registered in the southwestern North American (SWNA) region between 2000-2019 exceeds the former three megadroughts in history and is competing to the worst one dating back in 1575 to 1603. Although the drought was to be expected, its pace and severity were doubled because of global warming.
The previous megadroughts were provoked by the cooling ocean temperatures that blocked storms to reach SWNA. Today, this natural phenomenon was doubled by humans and their fossil-fuel usage. It increased the average temperature up to 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit).
Massive Drought To Affect North America
The precipitation decreased and the droughts became longer, drier, and wider. The hotter air is absorbing whatever leftover moisture there is in the ground. The soil moisture levels went back to those in 800 CE.
Scientists warned about this scenario a long time ago. But “possibility” isn’t enough when it comes to economic interests. Now, Williams says that “we’re no longer looking at projections, but at where we are now.” Would facts be enough to change something?
The most unsettling finding is that the 20th century was the most humid century of the last 1200 years. So, it would be fair to say that Earth took care of itself these past hundred years. It also led us to believe that we are not the parasites destroying mother Earth with our obsession with technology and evolution. But we are and Earth’s natural defense system wrongfully let us believe that the damage we cause isn’t havoc.
“It doesn’t matter if this is exactly the worst drought ever. What matters is that it has been made much worse than it would have been because of climate change,” said environmental scientist Benjamin Cook, from Columbia University.