July 11, 2013--Climate change's heat intensifies drought in the USA (USA Today)

While drought has several causes, climate scientists say global warming is a long-term contributor that could be exacerbating current conditions, especially in the already-arid Southwest. They say it will likely do more damage in the future. Why? Higher temperatures cause more water to evaporate, and unless there's enough rain to offset it, the ground dries up. More heat is on the way, too. U.S. temperatures are expected to rise 3 to 10 degrees by 2100, partly because of the heat-trapping greenhouse gases emitted in the burning of fossil fuels, according to a draft copy of the third National Climate Assessment, a federal report compiled by hundreds of government and academic scientists. As a result, the report expects summer droughts to intensify in most U.S. regions as well as enduring water shortages in the Southwest, Southeast and Hawaii. Drought, which struck as much as two-thirds of the land in the 48 contiguous states last year, still afflicts 44% of that area and 87% of Texas, reports the U.S. Drought Monitor. The National Weather Service predicts it will persist or intensify in much of the western U.S., including the western half of Texas where drought caused billions of dollars in damage in 2011 from crop failures, herd die-offs and wildfires. "Climate change is likely prolonging the duration and severity of naturally occurring drought in the Southwest," says Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He says the main cause of U.S. drought today is a lack of rainfall, but by century's end, the key culprit might be higher temperatures.

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