Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Extreme Drought Contributes to Global Warming Trend

Climate
Extreme Drought Contributes to Global Warming Trend

Northern Arizona University

A dried river in Arizona. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Findings from a new scientific study indicate a major carbon release from the extreme turn-of-the-century drought in western North America—the worst of the last millennium—with likelihood of even drier times ahead.

The study, titled Reduction in Carbon Uptake During Turn of the Century Drought in Western North America, published this week in Nature-Geoscience, was conducted by a team of researchers led by Christopher Schwalm, assistant research professor for Northern Arizona University's (NAU) School of Earth Sciences and Sustainability.

The scientists found a major drought that struck western North America in 2000 to 2004 significantly reduced carbon uptake and stressed the region’s water resources.

The study illustrates the impact of the drought as seen in reduced precipitation, decreased soil moisture, reduced river flows and lower crop yields. It also poses the question of how common such an extreme event might be in the future.

“To our surprise, the drought, which was severe with respect to recent and past conditions, is forecasted to become the wetter end of a new climatology,” Schwalm said. “And it would make the 21st century climate akin to mega-droughts of the last millennium.”

He said the severity of this widespread five-year drought, the worst of its kind over the past 800 years, inhibited carbon uptake, essentially contributing to global warming conditions.

And climate models demonstrate a continuing trend toward a warmer planet. Global circulation patterns are expected to shift in a way that would create drier conditions across western North America, expanding the region that is already chronically dry and making today’s drought conditions the new normal.

"At this point, our concerns go beyond carbon uptake,” Schwalm said. “We have to start looking at water resources, especially in parts of North America that already are dealing with water shortages.”

The study was based on analysis of data from NASA satellite remote sensing products and a suite of ground-based monitoring stations that directly measure carbon uptake and release. Data from the monitoring stations are assembled by a global community of scientists participating in FLUXNET, a network of micrometeorological tower sites that measure carbon, water and energy exchanges. The instruments help to monitor plant productivity, evapotranspiration, and carbon and water budgets.

The study was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Visit EcoWatch's CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.

 

Yves Adams / Instagram

A rare yellow penguin has been photographed for what is believed to be the first time.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Crystal building in London, England is the first building in the world to be awarded an outstanding BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) rating and a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum rating. Alphotographic / Getty Images

By Stuart Braun

We spend 90% of our time in the buildings where we live and work, shop and conduct business, in the structures that keep us warm in winter and cool in summer.

But immense energy is required to source and manufacture building materials, to power construction sites, to maintain and renew the built environment. In 2019, building operations and construction activities together accounted for 38% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, the highest level ever recorded.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Houses and wooden debris are shown in flood waters from Hurricane Katrina Sept. 11, 2005 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jerry Grayson / Helifilms Australia PTY Ltd / Getty Images

By Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich

Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.

Read More Show Less
A gray wolf is seen howling outside in winter. Wolfgang Kaehler / Contributor / Getty Images

Wisconsin will end its controversial wolf hunt early after hunters and trappers killed almost 70 percent of the state's quota in the hunt's first 48 hours.

Read More Show Less
Tom Vilsack speaks on December 11, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware after being nominated to be Agriculture Secretary by U.S. President Joe Biden. Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.

Read More Show Less