How Climate Change Spurs Megadroughts

By Shannon Osaka. Originally published at Grist as part of the Parched series; cross posted from Yale Climate Connections

On an afternoon in late June, the San Luis Reservoir – a nine-mile lake about an hour southeast of San Jose, California – shimmered in 102-degree heat. A dusty, winding trail led down into flatlands newly created by the shrinking waterline. Seven deer, including a pair of fawns, grazed on tall grasses that, in wetter times, would have been at least partially underwater. On a distant ridge, wind turbines turned languidly.

That day, the reservoir, California’s sixth-largest and a source of water for millions of people, was just 40% full. Minerals deposited by the receding waters had turned the reservoir’s lower banks white, like the rings on a bathtub. Discarded clothing, empty bottles, and a lone shoe sat scattered across the newly exposed, parched ground. An interactive graphic in the visitor’s center reported that this year’s snowpack – which provides the water that travels from the Sacramento River Delta into the reservoir itself – was zero percent of the yearly average.

Depending on how you look at it, California – and most of the American West – has either entered its third catastrophic drought of the past 10 years, or has been in a constant, unyielding “megadrought” since 2000. Reservoirs are emptying; lawns are turning brown; swaths of farmland that have coaxed lettuce, almonds, and alfalfa out of the dry ground for decades are going fallow. The Colorado River, which originates in the snow-capped Rocky Mountains and provides water to some 40 million people in the Southwest, has slowed to a trickle. That waterway also feeds the largest reservoir in the United States, Lake Mead, 40 miles east of Las Vegas, which in recent months has seen water levels so low that bodies have emerged from its shrinking, normally crystalline waters. The Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency responsible for many supersized water projects, has asked states to cut their use of water from the Colorado River by 2 to 4 million acre-feet, an amount close to all the water that California receives from the Colorado in a single year.

Throughout the West, anxiety about drought is as palpable as the dryness of the air; talk of water fills newspapers and conversations alike. “Aridification kills civilizations. Is California next?” read one Los Angeles Times headline in June. In February, scientists confirmed that the current, decades-long “megadrought” is the worst in 1,200 years. They also confirmed that rising temperatures – driven by human consumption of fossil fuels – were partly to blame.

In one sense, the climate change link seems obvious. Since 1850, global temperatures have climbed 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit); in areas of the U.S. hit hardest by drought, the increase is even higher. Temperatures in California have risen about 3 degrees F since 1896; in Arizona, they have gone up by 2.5 degrees.

But the connection between climate change and drought is not as straightforward as it seems. Some areas are likely to get wetter while others get drier. Still others may accumulate the same total rainfall, but in inconsistent patterns: More rain might fall in fewer, more intense bursts, followed by longer dry spells. “It’s complicated,” said Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist at NASA and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

But scientists can say some things with certainty. As the world gets hotter, soils are getting drier; it takes more and more precipitation to water the same crops and fill the same reservoirs. Rising temperatures, therefore, are digging the American West and other arid regions into a deeper and deeper hole. The more the world warms, the more rain will be needed to compensate, and that will force people to rethink how – and where – they will live and eat when the water dries up.

One problem with linking drought and climate change is that there is little agreement on what drought actually is. “No two people – including no two scientists – really agree on even how to define drought,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. A drought, in its most general sense, is simply a lack of water relative to some long-term average – but where that dearth of water appears can change how the drought is defined, studied, and managed. Climate scientists and meteorologists talk about “meteorological drought” (a lack of rainfall), farmers worry about “agricultural drought” (a lack of soil moisture), and water managers try to avoid “hydrological drought” (a lack of groundwater or water in reservoirs).

This complexity has resulted in conflicting messages about the role of human-caused global warming in the droughts that have ravaged the American West and the rest of the world. Thanks to the science of extreme event attribution, which connects weather extremes to global warming, it has become commonplace to cite climate change as a factor in devastating heat waves or torrential floods. But droughts are trickier. Drought depends on both the rain that falls and how quickly it is evaporated and used.

On the rainfall side of things, climate change’s influence in California, Nevada, Arizona, and other Western states remains murky. In recent years, rain and snowfall in California have become more variable; the dry years are drier, the wet years wetter. In 2017, Lake Oroville served as a sobering illustration of this whiplash when – in the span of less than four months – the reservoir north of Sacramento went from less than half full to nearly overflowing, causing the main spillway to collapse. Some 188,000 local residents were evacuated. Swain and his colleagues estimate a 25- to 100-percent increase in such “extreme dry-to-wet precipitation events” in California over the next century.

But even with this volatility, total precipitation in the West is expected to stay roughly the same. Swain said scientists expect the Pacific Northwest to get somewhat wetter; Arizona and New Mexico somewhat drier. The clearest link between drought and climate change right now, therefore, is not a lack of rainfall – it’s rising temperatures.

The atmosphere is like a sponge: It sucks up water from soils, plants, rivers, oceans, and lakes. Any time rain falls, some of it will evaporate, returning back into the sky before it can be piped into homes, fields, or aqueducts. Scientists have a measure for how “thirsty” the atmosphere is, or how much water the sky absorbs: evaporative demand. As temperatures go up, evaporative demand increases. The sky gets thirstier.

“A very basic rule is that if you’re going to have a warmer atmosphere then you need more precipitation to compensate,” said Park Williams, a hydroclimatologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “If you turn the heater up in your house and you don’t give your plants extra water, you see the same thing.”

Christine Albano, an ecohydrologist at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, studies evaporative demand and how it might change under global warming. “A warmer atmosphere can hold more water,” she explained. And, she added, the changes are nonlinear – a small change in temperature could lead to a much larger change in how thirsty the sky is. In a paper published earlier this year, Albano and her co-authors found that evaporative demand has increased over the past 40 years, most dramatically in the U.S. Southwest around the Rio Grande River. In that region, evaporative demand increased by 8 to 15% – meaning that the area would require 8 to 15% more rainfall to maintain the same water levels.

And as temperatures warm, the situation will get even worse. “For every raindrop, we’re going to get less of that going into our streams and rivers,” Albano said.

That thirsty atmosphere has been behind most of the studies that have found a clear link between global warming and persistent droughts. The last catastrophic drought in California, which stretched from 2011 to 2017, drained reservoirs and forced farmers to pump groundwater from the state’s disappearing underground aquifers. Some scientists looked for a direct link between climate change and the lack of rainfall but did not find convincing evidence. Those who looked at the effect of temperature on soil moisture and general aridity, however, found something more interesting: that human-caused climate change had turned what would have been a more moderate drought into a devastating one. In a paper published in 2015, Williams, Cook, and others found that skyrocketing temperatures, brought on by human-caused global warming, had made the drought 15 to 20% more intense.

Similar results have been found all over the globe. A few years ago, scientists analyzed the European drought of 2016 to 2017 – which helped spark deadly wildfires in Portugal – and found that it had been made worse by high evaporative demand. To the south, the Horn of Africa has been ravaged by a series of droughts over the last decade, causing successive crop failures and threatening millions with severe hunger and starvation. In 2015, scientists searching for ties to climate change found no connection to the region’s low rainfall. They did, however, find a link between rising greenhouse gas emissions and the high temperatures that have helped to desiccate the landscape of Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia.

Temperature has also been implicated in the study of the decades-long “megadrought” in the American West, a loosely defined term that has been used to indicate droughts that last two decades or more. Scientists have spent decades drilling holes in trees to collect tree ring records, a science known as dendrochronology, which can be used to estimate soil moisture levels going back for millennia. (Some records have even been collected from ancient wooden ladders in the cliff dwellings of Chaco Canyon.) According to those records, 19 of the last 23 years were drier than the average over the past millennium.

Williams, the UCLA scientist, says that this megadrought is being made even worse by climate change. “Forty percent of the severity of the drought conditions in this megadrought is attributable to human-caused climate trends,” largely from rising temperatures, Williams said.

Sixty percent of the megadrought, Williams cautioned, could simply be seen as simply bad luck; even without humans burning fossil fuels, megadroughts have endured for decades in the past, starving the landscape and local species of water. But what was previously just bad luck is now getting a boost from climate change. “It’s only going to get warmer,” Williams said. “It’s going to take more and more good luck to bail us out of drought – and less and less bad luck to fall back in.”

Climate change is also undermining one of the American West’s most treasured tools for managing drought: snowpack. In the Sierra Nevadas of California and in the Colorado Rockies, snow falls during the winter and then acts as a natural reservoir, slowly releasing water as it thaws during the hot, dry summer season. But as temperatures rise, more precipitation is falling as rain instead of snow, and any remaining snow is melting more quickly and earlier in the season. By 2050, scientists estimate that the mountains of the Western U.S. will lose around 25% of their snowpack. In 60 years, they warn, there may be no snowpack at all.

And as the planet heats up, megadroughts such as the one raging in California, Arizona, and New Mexico are expected to return again. And again. According to one study by Cook, the NASA scientist, and others, the risk of a 35-year-long drought hitting the American Southwest was less than 12% between 1950 and 2000. But if countries fail to take aggressive action to combat climate change, and the world continues to warm, the risk of such a drought will climb to more than 80%.

These Landsat satellite images of Lake Powell, a reservoir on the Colorado River in Utah and Arizona, were taken in the spring when lake levels are traditionally at their lowest before mountaintop snow begins to melt and run into the watershed. The images capture years with the two highest and lowest levels over the past 22 years.

The American West is built on a strange, hodgepodge system of water that, for the last century, has somehow sustained millions of residents in the most arid parts of the country. Reservoirs, dams, and aqueducts carry water from where it is plentiful – the peaks of the Sierra Nevadas, the banks of the Colorado River – and deliver it to where it is scarce: fast-growing metropolises like Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles. In California, 75% of the state’s rain and snow falls north of Sacramento, but 80% of its water demand comes from the southern two-thirds of the state. This imbalance is corrected artificially: A long cement aqueduct carries water from the north of the state to the south, shuttling through the dry, crackling Central Valley. More comes from the Colorado River, which brings water from the east to Los Angeles and Southern California.

This system has faced numerous droughts before. In dry times, policymakers call for cutbacks and march down the list of water rights-holders and inform each how their supply will be curtailed. The last big drought in California, which reached its peak in 2014 and 2015, saw residents “drought-shaming” one another for maintaining lush lawns (Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called such shaming a civic duty) and an enormous backlash against almond growers, after news broke that it takes a gallon of water to produce a single almond.

But the sheer longevity of the current dry period has even the most experienced water managers worried. That complex system of dams, aqueducts, and reservoirs that funnels water to Western states for lawns, golf courses, and farms is cracking under the strain. “We built these amazing places based on the promise of water,” said John Fleck, a professor of water policy and governance at the University of New Mexico. “And they’re good things – I don’t want to demonize what we did. But they were based on the promise of water that wouldn’t be there.”

The California Aqueduct – pictured here in 2010 near Palmdale – carries water from Northern California’s mountains to communities in the south. (Photo credit: Ben+Sam / CC BY-SA 2.0)

To be sure, the current drought and even the overlapping, decades-long “megadrought” will eventually end. “I don’t expect it to be as dry as it has been the past few years forever,” Williams said. But the slow-moving disaster has demonstrated just how shaky the West’s foundation is. And it is a warning that the water system of the present may not hold for the future.

What will happen next? Nearly 40 million people live in California alone; another 12 million reside in New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada. And in the wake of the pandemic, southwestern states are growing fast, as people look for more affordable housing, strong job markets, and warmer weather. But that warmer weather has a darker side. Not far from Phoenix, Arizona – one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. – one community is already running out of water. As the Colorado River and the snowcaps of the Sierra Nevadas continue to dry up, the water flowing to the West’s sprawling suburbs and millions of acres of farmland will slow to a crawl. When that happens, communities will need to adapt. Agricultural water use will have to decline – even if that means destroying livelihoods that have continued uninterrupted for decades. Lawns will dry up; lush golf courses will disappear. The very character of the West – and of many arid parts of the globe – will be transformed. “In some ways it’s really simple,” Fleck said, of the climate-changed drought future. “The West will be less green.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. The Rev Kev

    A rather ominous post. I don’t think that the Los Angeles Times gets it going by their headline “Aridification kills civilizations. Is California next?” A megadrought does not hit just one particular State but goes for an entire region as in likely all the States in the American west. Bit of a quandary if you lived there. Do you stay and hope that the rains come back again one day or do you sell out and leave to go elsewhere while your property still has value.

    1. Leroy R

      “…hope that the rains come back again one day…”

      That seems to be a very big problem, since drought will be a permanent feature based on what has been done and is being done to our planet. It appears trajectory is not in the right direction.

    2. Michael.j

      I agree that this is a continental problem.

      As they say, “a word is worth 10e-3 pictures”. I’m earth.nullschool watcher and follow the jet stream and such daily. It’s quite addicting. These past few years I’ve been watching that high that keeps regenerating over the the SW that is so powerful it rises to the stratosphere and deflects the jet streams and moisture north. The jet streams are so weak and variable they do not look anything like the “old days”, due to the lost temperature differential between the Arctic and the Equator.

      This not only effects the SW, but also the much of the country including the grain belt. Our national grain yields keep dropping each year, which with current agricultural technology is what will be a primary determinant in extinction.

      1. GF

        The “Four Corners” high pressure that forms in the hot summer months and parks over the Four Corners area (with some wobbling around – it isn’t stationary but it is large) has a clockwise circulation that draws moisture north through AZ, NM, NV and SE CA from the Gulf of CA, is responsible for the summer monsoon rain we are experiencing now.

        Our house, in west central AZ, has had over 9.5″ of rain since June 24. The monsoon lasts until the end of Sept. and a normal monsoon for us is about 7.5″ for the entire period June – Sept. We still have a month to go so we could get more rain. The previous six months (Jan – June) we only had 2.5″. So the rain is variable. Last year’s monsoon dumped just over 16″ of rain as it was one of the wettest on record. Fun times.

      2. phichibe

        The jetstream weakness as you put it can be in the form of Rossby waves,, undulations in the jetstream that look like standing waves in acoustics. Where there are troughs colder air from north of the jetstream penetrates south and where there are ridges (=crests) hotter air from south of jetstream flows northward. WHen these Rossby waves are ‘pinned’ over a specific location then the result is a heat dome or a polar vortex, as the case may be. The nightmare scenario of climate doomsayers like Guy Macpherson has been that a five or seven wave Rossby wave pins heat domes over two or more of the world’s agriculture regions during the growing season. It looks like that is partially happening now with heat domes and droughts over western China, the northern Great Plains in the US, the UK, and parts of southern Europe. Add to the mix the uncertainty brought by RUssia’s invasion of Ukraine and it could be a catastrophe that accelerates much more quickly than thought possible, much like the GFC in 2008.


        1. ScottD

          A met called the Texas drought back in late February. He said the cold snap cooled the Gulf of Mexico by a few degrees, and the lower moisture levels would delay the spring rains, and once the soil dried out temperatures would be high enough to create high pressure over tx/OK and therefore little or no precipitation. As usual, the drought would last until some tropical system disturbed the upper level flow.

    3. Anthony G Stegman

      it is ironic that the Los Angeles Times is directly responsible for the helter skelter growth of southern California. Growth that can never be sustained for centuries, regardless of climate change and droughts. Former governor Jerry Brown’s father Edmund “Pat” Brown schemed and deceived the voters into approving the mega water project that bears his name. It will all come tumbling down, sooner or later. I’m not sure that time has arrived, but it will arrive. Hubris and greed are a toxic combination.

    4. drumlin woodchuckles

      And to whom do you sell it? Hopefully to global warming deniers who helped create the problem.

      Same as with the seaside property owners of Florida, Louisiana, etc. Those who “get it” would like to sell out and go while they can. But sell out to whom? Hopefully to the sort of global warming deniers who did their best to obstruct the rest of us from solving the problem. And basically succeeded.

    5. Peter

      I agree. Talking about 30 years, 50years is just silly. 10 years from now it will be unstoppable, and we will not have to worry about any IFs because it will be obvious and accelerating.
      People talk and talk about climate change and addressing it. Stop talking about it and address it. The bottom line is that you do not worry about cost or anything related. If you look at reality, it is easy – NO AMOUNT of money is too much and NO period time too fast to address this – it can be done we have all the tools we need. Stop and talk and get going – the climate deniers and the fossil fuel criminals have to be stopped and we have to ALL work together, or we will all die together. What makes this almost funny if it was not so catastrophic is that the more money we spend and the faster we spend it will result in financial returns that will end up being the best investment EVER MADE plus we get out planet back.

  2. Petter

    >>Sixty percent of the megadrought, Williams cautioned, could simply be seen as simply bad luck; even without humans burning fossil fuels, megadroughts have endured for decades in the past, starving the landscape and local species of water. But what was previously just bad luck is now getting a boost from climate change. “It’s only going to get warmer,” Williams said. “It’s going to take more and more good luck to bail us out of drought – and less and less bad luck to fall back in.”

    Maybe I’m dense but given the known physics and modeling what role does luck play in this? And if it’s also about luck, is there anything we can do to enhance our luck? Rain dances, sacrifice Russians?

    1. juno mas

      “Luck” is likely being used as a replacement term for randomness. And since the water infrastructure was designed for that randomness to occur in specified (anticipated) amounts and locations it seems “luck” is going to be essential for survival.

    2. Anthony G Stegman

      40 million people living in California is not due to luck. Previous mega-droughts occurred when human populations were much smaller, and wildlife populations were far more robust and able to withstand stresses such as droughts. The landscape has been raped, pillaged, and plundered to such a degree that even the smallest stress can cause major problems. There is no viable mitigation for the damage that has already been done. Things will only go from bad to worse.

  3. Martin

    One has to wonder how is wildlife dealing with this. Us humans are struggling to take care of ourselves, all the while neglecting the rest of the creatures and plants. Is wildlife collapsing in western US? Is there any data on this?

  4. Kris Alman

    Homeowner associations box residents in 20th Century manicured lawns and landscapes. Owning a home in Ft Collins, I was angry when our HOA Board bought additional water rights for $25,000 5 years ago without consulting residents about xeriscaping alternatives. Because the front lawns are maintained by the HOA, we are now in a spiral of continuous irrigation maintenance and escalating water usage. The central homes in our neighborhood are simply not getting water to their yards. Without reserves, there is neither money to invest further in fixing the irrigation systems nor to invest in xeriscaping. As the water evaporates, so go the financial resources. Surely we will see more wildfires threaten neighborhoods as happened in nearby Boulder County last December.

    The positive feedback loops of end-stage climate change are devastating-a monster that rapidly evolves from and thrives on 20th Century neoliberalism.

  5. Carolinian

    An excellent article with great clarity of explanation. My friend in Az wants out–as much because of the real estate development and crowding as the prospects of water shortages.

    While the article says the situation may improve, one thing that seems obvious is that greater political control over agriculture stake holders will have to happen. When the crunch comes it seems unlikely that Ca is going to sacrifice everything for the benefit of almond growers.

    As for Oprah and her tankers of lawn water, cry me a river–so to speak.

    1. Karl

      The U.S. depends on California for about 25% of its food supply. If California’s farms get less (or more expensive) water, which seems inevitable, we’ll see more food inflation across the country.

      In addition to lower supplies of surface water due to drought, the State is restricting pumping of groundwater to prevent over-draft of aquifers and to stem the water well drilling “arms race” over the last decade:

      Today, overdrafted water represents about 15 percent of net water use in the [San Juaquin] Valley, a historical imbalance rate of about 1.8 million-acre feet per year.

      Some of the highest-value crops produced in the State, including Nuts and fruits of all kinds, alfalfa and other grasses require a very high 3.7 acre-ft of water per acre. Wine grapes do a better job of conservation but still consume almost 3 acre-ft per acre. Plentiful cheap water seems to be a key success factor in the California agriculture business model — and the U.S. food supply model.

      1. Carolinian

        Don’t most of those almonds go overseas and are therefore not part of the US food supply? I’d have a hard time remembering the last time I ate an almond. And unlike some other crops the trees have to be heavily watered through wet years and dry. This has been talked about here.

        Undoubtedly they are high value for the almond growers. But when serious water shortages kick in will that political clout last?

        As for fruits and vegetables, my parents grew up around peach orchards. Much of that production could return to the Southeast and Florida. To be sure these places lack California’s more favorable climate and high sunshine but that too is no doubt in many ways about profit.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        The food from California is all fun food and luxury food. It is all the things that make our food-lives most enjoyable. But it is not life-support staple survival food.

        If California quits the agriculture business the rest of the country can still grow enough cabbages and potatoes to avoid famine. No one ever died of an avocado deficiency. Or a fine wine deficiency.

  6. Phenix

    HOAs are awful. I have never heard a good story. They seemed locked into a Home Depot/big box store of your choice advertisement. Every person that refuses to comply is sued into compliance. Has anyone coined a term for HOAs, big box stores, and lawn maintenance crews that all work together to create a suburban environment that destroys the local ecology.

    HOAs could focus on native plants, organic controls, and appropriate landscaping for their local environment but I have never heard of this happening.

    My neighbors are the same. They irrigate their dead grass and continue to mow the lawn despite the lack of green growth.

    I transitioned my front lawn into a native stronghold with sour cherries and a few non-native berry producing plants. My neighbors called out the township to stop me but since it’s my property I have to stay with in some guidelines namely an 8 in rule for grass.

    1. LifelongLib

      May I suggest that you and other people who agree with you get on your HOA and change its policies? Although it sounds like your neighbors don’t share your views, and you may be trapped in a “tyranny of the majority”…

  7. Cristobal

    Thank you. A good post that explains things clearly. This is all true, but what are we doing about it? Whining about automobiles? Using too much carbon based energy sources? Sorry, but that train has left the station and we now have to deal with the consequences (not to say that we should ignore those issues). People are going to move.. Regional economies are going to collapse. We could for example focus on little things we can do to mitigate the problems in the meantime. We could implement systems to capture the heavy rainfalls that do occur rather than let the water flow out. Building designs that rely on shade (trees preferebly but other options exist) and ventalation rather than air conditioning, which really just pumps the hot air outside. Many exting means of irrigation are wasteful, better ones exist. Get used to the fact that people in Kansas do not need to eat lobsters. If you want a lobster, go to the coast for gods sake. No one needs to go without a good steak, but grass fed livestock rather than the disgusting feed lot system can produce better meat with less environmental impact – less will be produced and it will cost more, but after all it is a luxury. Hogs! the Iberian hogs are skinny and roam the woods eating acorns, and are the absolute best quality. We can´t get rid of the damn cars unless people are provided with a means to get where they need to go. More trains, more intracity transport (trams, trolleys, subways) and start building them now. The settlement pattern in the US is not conducive to a more effficient movement of people but we have to start sometime. The real estate market will be turned upside down. Forest fires will increase. We need to give our bloated and hapless military something useful to do – A fire fighting corps. The Spanish military has a UME (Unidad Militar Emergenca) that is sent to where ever there is a big forest fire, earthquake, volcano, or whatever. It is too small, but a good start. I could go on. Small scale electrical generation such as home or municipal solar and wind is certainly the future, but will seriously compromise the revenue streams of those who hold the bonds on the generation and distribution systems. I could go on, as could most of the folks who read this blog. The only short term thing I can suggest is to round up all the leaders of the US and the European Union, dress them all in brightly colored uniforms, and send them to the Russian front in Ukraine.

    1. Karl

      That’s an excellent compendium of solutions. One of my favs is this suggestion of yours:

      We can´t get rid of the damn cars unless people are provided with a means to get where they need to go. More trains, more intracity transport (trams, trolleys, subways) and start building them now.

      One thing our politicians can do is enact a national policy to 1) build much more extensive urban mass transit systems but perhaps more importantly 2) require that public access to all federally funded mass transit be free of charge.

      The national goal should be a bus and commuter train at every stop every 15 minutes from 6am to 8pm. Get on, get a seat, and get off. No more scrounging for $2 fare when everyone is glad you aren’t on the road adding to congestion and pollution. Pretty soon, more people will start using this convenient alternative to the horrendous daily auto commute if only because Americans don’t like to pass up freebies.

      Universal, free public transportation is something that can be readily achieved in a decade. It might even save $billions on road construction, and help keep gasoline prices down. What a deal! Perhaps it’s too good a deal, which is why it’s not being advocated by either party to the best of my knowledge.

      1. Karl

        Big problem with getting this dream accepted:

        – Autos promote status seeking and individualism
        – Mass transit promotes egalitarianism and communitarianism

        In short: Mass transit is the slippery slope to socialism. No can do.

  8. Wukchumni

    But scientists can say some things with certainty. As the world gets hotter, soils are getting drier; it takes more and more precipitation to water the same crops and fill the same reservoirs. Rising temperatures, therefore, are digging the American West and other arid regions into a deeper and deeper hole. The more the world warms, the more rain will be needed to compensate, and that will force people to rethink how – and where – they will live and eat when the water dries up.
    In the past year i’ve come across about 10 Giant Sequoias of size (think around 1,500 years old and 12-15 feet wide @ eye-level) that had toppled over with greenery still intact on most of them, and the cause of death isn’t unusual-that’s how they finally die by keeling over, but it’s the number of them in a short period of time. These are trees that went through the great droughts in Cali lasting over 200 years and one of about 140 years, along with the mini ice age, so they’ve seen a lot, but not this hot.

    The Brobdingnagians have no tap root and the roots spread out like a family tree not far under the surface and above ground on occasion for 40-50 feet from the radius of the tree.

    With soil drying out and less moisture @ where they’ve made a living for so long, could that be the reason for their downfall?

    Stay tuned, if there are a bunch more instances of them opting for la vida horizontal, that’s no bueno for upright canaries in a coal mine.

  9. Mike

    Endless blabber. How long have we been reading about water issues in the west (decades) except for now you insert global warming into the picture? Regardless of AGW the water infrastructure of the west can’t support the people. Knowing more about droughts, which the region has experienced for Millenia, does not change the picture. Too many people, too much consumption, period the end.

    This region would experience mega drought regardless of AGW. People need to learn to live within the confines of their local environment or become more transient. There were 14 mega droughts from 800-1600 AD in the southwest, one maybe lasting up to a century…

    File away this info, take the next pot of money going to the researchers (who will continue to regurgitate the same info again) and give it to people who will actually do something about it. We spend billions a year on climate research and it gets us no closer to learning to love and respect nature.

    1. tegnost

      the problem for wetlands is they are just so…flat… almost like a pre leveled site for a gigantic data center! Plus free water to cool the monstrosity! So no. No. Wetlands don’t need to be restored, which is of course why they are not being restored… Malls! We can make a giant Parking Lot! john prine
      We were fighting back then, but we lost… joni mitchell gillian welch on the current state of affairs
      mothers don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys…or maybe you should…

  10. Albo's Elbow

    Will someone write a piece titled “How Climate Change spurs Mega Rains” because that’s what parts of OZ have been experiencing for most of this year. The rebranding of Global Warming to Climate Change was a master stroke in marketing.

  11. eugene linden

    Kind of disappointed that the article never mentioned the role in the drought of the poleward movement of the major cells that mark the evaporation and precipitation zones between the equator and the poles — the Hadley, Ferrel, and Polar cells. As the earth has warmed the Hadley Cell (between the equator and about 20 degrees north) has expanded, shifting the system poleward and putting much of the Southwest in a rain shadow. Same thing has been happening in the southern hemisphere, which helps explain the megadrought in Australia. I know there’s been some back and forth on this, but I think the expansion of the Hadley cell since the 1980s has been incontrovertible.

  12. Mark A Oglesby

    This summer we drove past Shasta Lake in northern California (I hadn’t been there since the late sixties) and I was horrified, saddened while sickened to my core. I look at photos of Lake Mead and Powell, again, horrified. And the worst cut of all, we’ve done this to ourselves. Is there any hope? Certainly, but little I’m afraid as our political as well as economic systems will never change. And will We the People mass together to save our nation, our world? Doubtful I’m afraid. I’m reminded of the end of the film ‘Dr. Strangelove’ as the nukes are going off and the song ‘We’ll Meet Again’ sung by Vera Lynn plays in the background: Hopeless!

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Perhaps “We the People” should study what the Kosovo Albanians did to survive under the Milosevich occupation before the total war itself broke out. I dimly remember reading that Ibrahim Rugova was still trying to model non-violent resistance leadership in Kosovo, and that the Albanians there were evolving a whole separate survival society to do the various economic survival things for eachother that the Milosevich authorities tried to outlaw them from doing within the “formal economy”. Was it working? Were they achieving survival?

      If they were, then those of ” We the People” who have decided that “We the People” are functional Albanians and the government is our functional Milosevich Occupation Regime might try to figure out how to “seccede in place” and grow our own separate survival counter-economy to protect ourselves against the Mainstream Milosevich Occupation Economy and Society and Government.

Comments are closed.