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Severe Drought in U.S. West Fueled by Climate Change by City Tech Blogger The Urban Environmentalist

Drought occurs when there is a lack of precipitation for a long length of time (often for a season or longer). Drought indicators include rainfall, temperature, river discharge, ground as well as reservoir water depth, soil moisture, especially snowpack. Warming temperatures have a direct impact on the risk of drought in many places of America, as well as worldwide. Climate change is anticipated to worsen droughts in regions like the Southwest of the United States. Drying out soils as well as vegetation is a side effect of increased evaporation caused by higher temperatures. Because of this, times of little precipitation tend to be drier than they’ve been in colder temperatures. Water availability is also being affected by climate change.

The Northern Hemisphere is experiencing less snowfall due to rising winter temperatures, particularly in the Sierra Nevada in California (Yale Climate Connections, 2022). Even if the overall yearly precipitation remains constant, a reduced snowpack can be an issue. This is due to the fact that many watershed management methods rely on snowmelt in the spring. Furthermore, snowmelt also provides cold water for salmon and other cold-water organisms in some environments. A decrease in the amount of snow on the ground also raises the warmth of the surrounding area, making dryness even worse. Precipitation variability is expected to rise as the planet warms, according to certain climate models. Higher water storage throughout drought years as well as increased risk of floods and dam failure during extreme precipitation times are the result of this. Between December 2011 and March 2019, California was hit by an exceptionally long drought, which was only partially interrupted by the coldest winter in U.S. history (Yale Climate Connections, 2022). And over a dozen Central and Western states had a prolonged drought in 2020 that was aggravated by heat waves. Wildfires in the Western United States burned a record amount of land because of the extreme dryness and heat.

In December 2020, the worst drought conditions since 2012 covered the largest area of land in the United States. In 2021, the drought in the West has continued to worsen, while record temperatures there in Pacific Northwest has made matters worse. Drought has long been a problem in the United States. The Dust Bowl of 1930s and the droughts of the 1950s are examples of recent dry periods that paleoclimate studies have documented (US EPA, 2022). In light of an increasingly hot and dry future, we might learn from these past examples about our vulnerability to drought. Human-caused changing climate is influencing the 21st-century mega-drought with in Western United States and northern Mexico by analyzing patterns between 1901 and 2018 in simulated temperature, humidity levels, and precipitation data. 46 percent of this drought’s severity can be attributed to human-caused warming, according to the conclusions of the study. It is difficult to link human activity to global droughts patterns because of the lack of uniformity in drought in different places. That being said, mounting evidence points to a global connection between climate change and drought. Droughts that affect agriculture as well as ecosystems are expected to grow in severity and frequency even as climate heats by a half degrees C (0.9-degree Fahrenheit), per an August 2021 report by International Panel on Climate Change. There are now 1.7 times as many agricultural as well as ecological droughts as there were between 1850 and 1900, when people had little impact on climate change (US EPA, 2022).

There is a direct link between droughts as well as global warming according to scientists. When two occurrences are linked, it doesn’t mean one produced the other. Baseball attendance grows in tandem with ice cream sales, but this does not suggest that consuming ice cream drives people to go to the games. Attending a baseball game does not necessarily lead to a person’s desire to consume ice cream. A rise in droughts can be challenging since they are so unpredictable. As a result, they might occur on a regular basis or perhaps once every few years, linger for years or even decades, and induce varied degrees of dehydration along their course of occurrence. So, it’s hard to tell if random events are influenced by human-caused warming. However, the more dryness coincides with rising temperatures, diminishing rainfall, and computer model predictions, the surer scientists are that climate change is real.

Identifying and improving a company’s drought resilience is a top priority for governments and businesses alike. Water conservation and efficiency improvements in landscape, city designs, and water infrastructure can help them prepare for future drought as well as the effects of climate change. Drought emergency plans can be developed, and farmers can be encouraged to grow drought-resistant crops with the help of these organizations. Drought resistance can be improved as a co-benefit of other stresses, such as constructing green buildings enabling stormwater, boosting energy efficiency of a building, and employing renewable power like solar (which is not dependent on water) (Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 2022).

 image: https://calmatters.org/environment/2021/10/california-drought-newsom-emergency/




Yale Climate Connections. 2022. Climate change and droughts: What’s the connection? » Yale Climate Connections. [online] Available at: <https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2021/08/climate-change-and-droughts-whats-the-connection/> [Accessed 20 February 2022].

US EPA. 2022. Climate Change Indicators: Drought | US EPA. [online] Available at: <https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/climate-change-indicators-drought> [Accessed 20 February 2022].


Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. 2022. Drought and Climate Change | Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. [online] Available at: <https://www.c2es.org/content/drought-and-climate-change/> [Accessed 20 February 2022].

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