The American west has spent the last two decades in what scientists are now saying is the most extreme megadrought in at least 1,200 years. In a new study, published on Monday, researchers also noted that human-caused climate change is a significant driver of the destructive conditions and offered a grim prognosis: even drier decades lie ahead.
Turning up the temperature – the result of human caused warming – has played a big part. Other studies show how the climate crisis “will increasingly enhance the odds of long, widespread and severe megadroughts”, the researchers write. Noting that as the west is now in the midst of the driest 22-year period in knowable history, “this worst-case scenario already appears to be coming to pass”.
Worryingly, the west is experiencing a point on an upward trajectory, the researchers warn. There have been many studies showing the connection between human-caused warming, drought, and how these climate catastrophes compound. A large body of research has shown how heat waves will get larger, more extreme, and more frequent. But the evidence offered in this study casts these conditions into broader historical context, showing just how rapidly – and steeply – these changes are developing.US west ‘megadrought’ is worst in at least 1,200 years, new study says | Drought | The Guardian