Study: Warming Pushes Western US Toward Driest Period in 1,000 Years

During the second half of the 21st century, the U.S. Southwest and Great Plains will face unprecedented, persistent drought worse than anything seen in times ancient or modern, with the drying conditions driven primarily by human-induced global warming. The finding were part of a new study, "Unprecedented 21st-Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains," featured in the inaugural edition of the new online journal Science Advances, produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which also publishes the leading journal Science. The research indicated that the drying would surpass in severity any of the decades-long mega-droughts that occurred much earlier during the past 1,000 years--one of which has been tied by some researchers to the decline of the Anasazi or Ancient Pueblo Peoples in the Colorado Plateau in the late 13th century. Many studies have already predicted that the Southwest could dry due to global warming, but this is the first to say that such drying could exceed the worst conditions of the distant past. "The 21st century projections make the mega-droughts seem like quaint walks through the Garden of Eden," said Jason Smerdon, a co-author and climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, part of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.