How long can this last?

Drought periods are characterized by unusually dry conditions. But what are megadroughts, and how bad are they currently affecting parts of the United States?

According to Professor Ashok Mishra of Clemson University’s Glenn Department of Civil Engineering, although there is no clear definition of what a megadrought is, in general these events are defined as droughts, lasting several decades, i.e. two or more.

“While there may have been some wet spells, most of the period remained dry,” he added. newsweek,

Where in America is experiencing a megadraught?

Death Valley National Park, California
Stock Image: A lonely cliff at Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park, California. Large parts of the American West are experiencing drought.

vast areas of the western United States are currently affected by a megadraughtincluding states like california, OregonWashington, Colorado, Nevada as well as Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Montana and New Mexico.

“The major drought that started in 2000 is almost in its twenty-third year,” Mishra said.

Recent research has suggested that it originated in southwestern North America at least as early as 800 CE. Ranks as the driest period of 22 years since

Jonathan Deason, co-director of the Environment and Energy Management Institute, said, “80 percent of the 17 western states involved in the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s operations have experienced severe or worse droughts at times during the past two decades. experienced the situation.” Feather George Washington University, and a professor at the School of Engineering and Applied Science newsweek,

“And overall, more than 20 percent of the land area in the western states has been in severe, extreme or exceptional drought conditions for most of the time since the turn of the century,” he said.

How long will Megadrott last?

Like most droughts, it is difficult to predict how long the current event will last, according to Rick Relia, director of the Darin Fresh Water Institute at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

“Megadrots are relatively rare—scientists have documented only eight megadrots in the region during the past 1,200 years,” They told newsweek, “These eight megadroughts have lasted for 20-30 years, suggesting that the current drought may end in the coming years.”

But Deason said he doesn’t expect many years of relief, if any, that, even when dry conditions ease, are going to take years of above-average rainfall for a significant improvement to occur. .

“The rainfall data for 2022 essentially shows no relief yet for the vast majority of these regions,” Deason said.

While Earth observation system models are, theoretically, able to provide insight on the occurrence, duration and severity of megadroughts, their predictions are still highly uncertain.

“There is clearly a lot of room for improvement and the research community is actively working toward that goal,” said Efthimios Nikolopoulos, an engineering professor at the Florida Institute of Technology. newsviK.

What has been the impact of Megadraught?

According to Mishra, megadroughts have a significant impact on water resources, environment and many socio-economic factors.

“These effects have already been observed Meidi Lake [the largest reservoir in the United States in terms of water capacity] and Powell Lake, where the water level reached the lowest level on record,” Mishra said.

“Groundwater is most vulnerable during megadrought because of limited recharge associated with reduced rainfall and increased temperatures and increased groundwater demand over a decade’s time.”

Droughts are causing water scarcity and declining quality of drinking water in some areas, as well as reducing the amount of water available for crops, industries and households.

Lake Mead, Nevada
Drought-hit Lake Mead on June 24, 2022. The US Bureau of Reclamation reported that the water level in Lake Mead, the largest artificial reservoir in North America, has fallen to a record low.
Mario Tama / Getty Images

“The longer the drought persists, the more state and local governments will have to limit available water and prioritize how to allocate it,” Relia said.

it’s also growing airborne particulate matterAccording to Deason, which is a major cause of adverse respiratory effects on people.

“The impacts of megadroughts to the natural and built environment are serious,” Nikolopoulos said. “They lead to other threats, such as wildfires, and to the degradation of land and ecosystems affecting agriculture, the economy, and biodiversity.”

On a socio-economic level, the megadrought affecting the United States has had a profound effect, according to Deason.

“The megadrought has not only had a huge negative impact on the reduction of agricultural production and increased food prices, but has also led to economic effects that are reverberating throughout the economy in terms of lost jobs and reduced living standards, Not to mention the effects on human nutrition,” he said.

However, mega drought is affecting not only human society. The impact on wildlife has also been significant.

“The impacts on wildlife are also widespread, requiring migration up and down rivers from salmon, which many plants and animals depend on lakes and rivers to survive,” Relia said.

“This includes millions of migratory water birds that are critically dependent on thousands of water bodies for food and rest during their long journeys north and south across the continent.”

Is Climate Change Playing a Role in the Megadrought?

While natural climate variability is an important factor driving the current megadrought, anthropogenic global warming is also thought to play a major role.

“While we know that the worldwide megadrought occurred long before humans existed, there is little doubt that anthropogenic effects on Earth’s atmospheric temperature are playing a large role in creating these conditions,” Deason said. .

The contribution of human-caused climate change can be difficult to quantify, but the latest research shows that human-caused climate change has contributed to about 40 percent of the current drought, according to Relia.

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