Climate change could turn Southwest into "Dustbowl"
Rhett A. Butler,
April 5, 2007

Global warming threatens to create a dustbowl in the American Southwest according to a new study published in the journal Science.

The research, led by Richard Seager of Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, uses projections from 19 climate models to show that the Southwestern United States and parts of northern Mexico will dry significantly this century and could become as arid as the North American dust bowl of the 1930s.

Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
The researchers warn that the transition to drier climate may already be underway with the recent prolonged drought in the region. Unlike previous El Nino-related drought in the region, the new aridity appears to be "caused by a poleward expansion of the subtropical dry zones."

"We show that there is a broad consensus amongst climate models that this region will dry significantly in the 21st century and that the transition to a more arid climate should already be underway," they write. "If these models are correct, the levels of aridity of the recent multiyear drought, or the Dust Bowl and 1950s droughts, will, within the coming years to decades, become the new climatology of the American Southwest."

The researchers predict that the drier climate will be "unlike any climate states that exist on record for the area" -- a forecast that does not bode well for one of the fastest growing population centers in the United States.

CITATION: Richard Seager, Mingfang Ting, Isaac Held, Yochanan Kushnir, Jian Lu, Gabriel Vecchi, Huei-Ping Huang, Nili Harnik, Ants Leetmaa, Ngar-Cheung Lau, Cuihua Li, Jennifer Velez, Naomi Naik (2007) "Model Projections of an Imminent Transition to a More Arid Climate in Southwestern North America" / 5 April 2007 / Page 1 / 10.1126/science.1139601.


News options Liquid error: Template not found languages/english/includes/x/_76.liquid

Rhett A. Butler, (April 05, 2007).

Climate change could turn Southwest into 'Dustbowl'.