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Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life
One of the beavers released into England's Somerset county this January, which has now helped build the area's first dam in more than 400 years. Ben Birchall / PA Images via Getty Images

England's Somerset county can now boast its first beaver dam in more than 400 years.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A boy plays in the rubble of his Nicaragua home, destroyed by Hurricane Eta, as Hurricane Iota approaches on Nov. 15, 2020. Maynor Valenzuela / Getty Images

Hurricane Iota, the 30th named storm and 13th hurricane of a record-breaking season, is now bearing down upon Central America less than two weeks after Hurricane Eta devastated the region.

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To truly get the most out of life, a person needs to be able to get a good night's sleep, which has led many to wonder if there is anything behind the idea of CBD for sleep improvement.

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UN secretary Ibrahim Thiaw tells DW how consumers can combat desertification and drought. Rainer Jensen / picture alliance / Getty Images

By Sonya Diehn

More than 2 billion hectares of previously productive land is degraded. For Desertification and Drought Day on June 17, DW spoke with Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

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Soybean crops affected by a drought near Navasota, Texas on August 21, 2013. Bob Nichols / USDA / Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

By Keith Schneider

In many ways, the story of Texas over the last century is the state's devout allegiance to the principle that mankind has dominion over nature.

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Smoke from the East Troublesome fire in Colorado on Oct. 22, 2020. RubyT / Flickr

Thousands of homes were evacuated Wednesday after a Colorado wildfire exploded in size, growing at a rate of 6,000 acres per hour.

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Wildflowers blooming in box gum grassy woodland. Jacqui Stol, Author provided

By Jacqui Stol, Annie Kelly and Suzanne Prober

In box gum grassy woodlands, widely spaced eucalypts tower over carpets of wildflowers, lush native grasses and groves of flowering wattles. It's no wonder some early landscape paintings depicting Australian farm life are inspired by this ecosystem.

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Heavy Smoke rises from the Cameron Peak fire as it continues to burn on Oct. 5, 2020 in Larimer County near Fort Collins, Colorado. Helen H. Richardson / MediaNews Group / The Denver Post via Getty Images

For the second time this year, Colorado is battling the largest wildfire in state history.

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A swamp wallaby searches for food in a bushfire-scorched forest on February 3, 2020 in Braidwood, Australia. John Moore / Getty Images

By Tara Lohan

A hailstorm in South Texas. Tornadoes in Tennessee. Wildfires across the West. A barrage of Gulf Coast hurricanes. Those are among the record 22 weather and climate disasters that each topped $1 billion in damages last year in the United States.

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The August Complex Fire in California has now burned more than 1 million acres. Pacific Southwest Forest Service, USDA / CC BY 2.0

The August Complex Fire in California has now burned more than 1 million acres, making the fire the state's first gigafire. For context, that means the Northern California inferno has now burned an area larger than the entire state of Rhode Island, as Vox reported.

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The Sierra Nevada mountains are among the ranges most at-risk for early snowpack melt. CampPhoto / Getty Images

As the planet warms, mountain snowpack is increasingly melting. But "global warming isn't affecting everywhere the same," Climate Scientist Amato Evan told the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.

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A UN report, The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019, was released to mark the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. Colin Anderson Productions pty ltd / Stone / Getty Images

A new report from the United Nations found that political leaders and industry leaders are failing to do the necessary work to stop the world from becoming an "uninhabitable hell" for millions of people as the climate crisis continues and natural disasters become more frequent, as Al-Jazeera reported.

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A winding, dry river in Nevada. A severe drought has engulfed the American Southwest since 2000 Bim / E+ / Getty Images

A severe drought that has engulfed the American Southwest since the year 2000 is likely to soon be the most severe drought since the 800s, according to a new study published in Science.

"This appears to be just the beginning of a more extreme trend toward megadrought as global warming continues," the authors wrote in the study.

A team of researchers from Columbia University conducted the study. They described the ongoing dry spell, which has helped intensify wildfire seasons and threatened water supplies for people and agriculture, as an "emerging megadrought," according to The New York Times.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed. By comparison to the previous 19 years, 2019 was actually a fairly wet year. Unpredictable climate variability may also bring enough rain to the region to end the drought, but global warming boosts the chances that the drought will endure.

"We know that this drought has been encouraged by the global warming process," said lead author A. Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, as The New York Times reported. "As we go forward in time it's going to take more and more good luck to pull us out of this."

Scientists have suspected for a while that that the dryness is evolving into a megadrought. The new research not only confirms their suspicion, but also concludes this megadrought may be as bad or worse than anything known before.

"We now have enough observations of current drought and tree-ring records of past drought to say that we're on the same trajectory as the worst prehistoric droughts," said Williams, in a statement, as USA Today reported. This is "a drought bigger than what modern society has seen."

The researchers say that man-made global warming caused about half of this drought. Changes in the climate have contributed to dwindling reservoirs and harsher wildfire seasons.

It all could get much worse.

"Anthropogenic global warming and its drying influence in (southwestern North America) are likely still in their infancy," the study warns, as CNN reported. "The magnitude of future droughts in North America and elsewhere will depend greatly on future rates of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions globally."

Without a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, these droughts are just the beginning.

"The effects of future droughts on humans will be further dependent on sustainable resource use because buffering mechanisms such as ground water and reservoir storage are at risk of being depleted during dry times," the study continues, according to CNN.

To conduct the study, the researchers performed a comprehensive long-term analysis of thousands of square miles, stretching across nine states from Oregon and Montana down through California, Arizona, New Mexico and part of northern Mexico. They looked at 1,200 years of tree ring data, modern weather observations and dozens of climate models, according to CBS News.

The tree rings allow scientist to gauge soil moisture dating back centuries. Williams and his team identified dozens of droughts across the region, starting in 800 AD. Four of those stand out as megadroughts — with extreme dryness that lasted for decades — in the late 800s, mid-1100s, the 1200s and the late 1500s.

The team then compared the ancient megadroughts to soil moisture records from the years 2000 to 2018. The current drought ranked as the second-driest, already outdoing the three earliest ones and on par with the fourth period which spanned from 1575 to 1603, as CBS News reported.

The warmer air during this drought is pulling more moisture from the ground, intensifying dry soils. Furthermore, temperatures in the West are expected to keep rising, meaning this trend is likely to continue.

"Because the background is getting warmer, the dice are increasingly loaded toward longer and more severe droughts," said Williams, as CBS News reported.

Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life
One of the beavers released into England's Somerset county this January, which has now helped build the area's first dam in more than 400 years. Ben Birchall / PA Images via Getty Images

England's Somerset county can now boast its first beaver dam in more than 400 years.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A boy plays in the rubble of his Nicaragua home, destroyed by Hurricane Eta, as Hurricane Iota approaches on Nov. 15, 2020. Maynor Valenzuela / Getty Images

Hurricane Iota, the 30th named storm and 13th hurricane of a record-breaking season, is now bearing down upon Central America less than two weeks after Hurricane Eta devastated the region.

Read More Show Less

To truly get the most out of life, a person needs to be able to get a good night's sleep, which has led many to wonder if there is anything behind the idea of CBD for sleep improvement.

Read More Show Less
UN secretary Ibrahim Thiaw tells DW how consumers can combat desertification and drought. Rainer Jensen / picture alliance / Getty Images

By Sonya Diehn

More than 2 billion hectares of previously productive land is degraded. For Desertification and Drought Day on June 17, DW spoke with Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Read More Show Less

Trending

Soybean crops affected by a drought near Navasota, Texas on August 21, 2013. Bob Nichols / USDA / Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

By Keith Schneider

In many ways, the story of Texas over the last century is the state's devout allegiance to the principle that mankind has dominion over nature.

Read More Show Less
Smoke from the East Troublesome fire in Colorado on Oct. 22, 2020. RubyT / Flickr

Thousands of homes were evacuated Wednesday after a Colorado wildfire exploded in size, growing at a rate of 6,000 acres per hour.

Read More Show Less
Wildflowers blooming in box gum grassy woodland. Jacqui Stol, Author provided

By Jacqui Stol, Annie Kelly and Suzanne Prober

In box gum grassy woodlands, widely spaced eucalypts tower over carpets of wildflowers, lush native grasses and groves of flowering wattles. It's no wonder some early landscape paintings depicting Australian farm life are inspired by this ecosystem.

Read More Show Less
Heavy Smoke rises from the Cameron Peak fire as it continues to burn on Oct. 5, 2020 in Larimer County near Fort Collins, Colorado. Helen H. Richardson / MediaNews Group / The Denver Post via Getty Images

For the second time this year, Colorado is battling the largest wildfire in state history.

Read More Show Less

Trending