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Renewable Vibes > News > Enviroment > The current “hot drought” experienced in the West is unparalleled in over five centuries.

The current “hot drought” experienced in the West is unparalleled in over five centuries.

New Research Shows Unprecedented Hot and Dry Conditions in the West

There is growing evidence that human-caused climate change is leading to unprecedented heat and dryness in the Western United States. A recent study, published in January, used tree ring analysis to demonstrate that the region has experienced the hottest and driest conditions in at least the past five centuries.

The study builds upon previous research, including a study from last year, which revealed that the past 20 years in the West have been the driest in 1,200 years due to climate change. This combination of extreme heat and dry conditions creates a positive feedback loop known as “hot drought,” where each factor amplifies the other.

Lead author of the study, Karen King from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, emphasized the severity of the hot drought, stating that it makes future projections and mitigation measures more uncertain. This has significant implications for Nevada, the driest state in the country, which heavily relies on the shrinking Colorado River, as well as the entire Southwest region.

King raised concerns about the predictability of when this prolonged drought will end, stating, “When you have these compound extreme climatic events, the consequences are also compounded. With this increased association of heat and drought, it almost makes it more uncertain: Are we going to be able to predict when this mega-drought ends?”

To investigate historical temperature changes, scientists examined the length and width of tree rings dating back to 1553. Denser rings indicate warmer temperatures, while less dense rings indicate cooler temperatures. Recent advancements in dendrology, the study of tree rings, have made it possible to measure ring density using reflected blue light, which is a safer, easier, and less costly method compared to older techniques involving X-rays.

David Meko, a professor of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona, who was not involved in the study, emphasized the significance of this research in understanding the climate footprint of droughts. He highlighted the importance of historical heat analysis in helping people comprehend the impacts of human-caused climate change on today’s temperatures.

While there is still much to learn in this field, Meko suggested that future research will focus on understanding winter temperature lows and estimating the amount of snowmelt over centuries. These insights are crucial for understanding the long-term effects of climate change.

In conclusion, the study’s findings highlight the unprecedented nature of the current hot and dry conditions in the Western United States. They underscore the urgent need for climate action and a better understanding of historical climate patterns to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the region.

Karen E. King et al, Increasing prevalence of hot drought across western North America since the 16th century, Science Advances (2024). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adj4289

This article was originally published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal and is distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

West’s ‘hot drought’ is unprecedented in more than 500 years (2024, February 4) retrieved 4 February 2024 from

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