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John Wheel, WDAY, Published December 23 2013

Weather Talk: Could current West drought be start of a megadrought?

Tree ring and core sediment data indicate the American West has, in the past 2,000 years, endured several periods of severe drought lasting several decades.

These multidecade droughts are known as megadroughts. The current drought in the West has been ongoing since the year 2000. In that time, there have been wildfires, tree losses and water shortages of a caliber unobserved during the 20th century when the population of the West was exploding.

Edward Cook, of the Tree Ring Laboratory at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, has this month presented research indicating the current drought could be the start of the next megadrought. Long-term drought in the American West has been tied to a global weather pattern aberration that includes a cooling of the ocean over the tropical Pacific while the Atlantic Ocean warms, and just such a pattern has been observed since 1999.

If the drought continues, water shortages across the Southwest will worsen significantly.


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