Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Extreme Drought Contributes to Global Warming Trend

Climate

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.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A bushfire burns outside the Perth Cricket Stadium in Perth, Australia on Dec. 13, 2019. PETER PARKS / AFP via Getty Images

By Albert Van Dijk, Luigi Renzullo, Marta Yebra and Shoshana Rapley

2019 was the year Australians confronted the fact that a healthy environment is more than just a pretty waterfall in a national park; a nice extra we can do without. We do not survive without air to breathe, water to drink, soil to grow food and weather we can cope with.

Read More Show Less

By Fino Menezes

Everyone adores dolphins. Intelligent, inquisitive and playful, these special creatures have captivated humans since the dawn of time. But dolphins didn't get to where they are by accident — they needed to develop some pretty amazing superpowers to cope with their environment.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Protesters face off against security during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images

In just two weeks, three states have passed laws criminalizing protests against fossil fuel infrastructure.

Read More Show Less
Donald Trump and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listen to White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx speak in the Rose Garden for the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on March 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has bowed to the advice of public health experts and extended social distancing measures designed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus till at least April 30.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Charli Shield

At unsettling times like the coronavirus outbreak, it might feel like things are very much out of your control. Most routines have been thrown into disarray and the future, as far as the experts tell us, is far from certain.

Read More Show Less