Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

A Navajo woman fills bottles of water at a public tap on June 5, 2019 in Thoreau, New Mexico. Up to 40 percent of Navajo Nation households don't have clean running water at home and are forced to rely on weekly and daily visits to water pumps. Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The U.S., like much of the world, has the compounding problem of a growing population and an increased likelihood of drought due to the climate crisis. In fact, the Southwest is already in the throes of its worst drought in 1,200 years while Colorado and California are seeing how drought has turned their forests into tinder boxes. Now, a new study has identified ways to revamp how water is utilized to thrive in a time of water scarcity.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Flames from the Lake Fire burn on a hillside near a fire truck and other vehicles on Aug. 12, 2020 in Lake Hughes, California. Mario Tama / Getty Images

An "explosive" wildfire ignited in Los Angeles county Wednesday, growing to 10,000 acres in a little less than three hours.

Read More Show Less
Trump arrives for a news conference in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Aug. 12, 2020. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration continued its war on appliance efficiency Wednesday with a proposal to increase the water that can flow from showerheads.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch

Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs. Mathias Appel / Flickr

Koala populations across parts of Australia are on track to become extinct before 2050 unless "urgent government intervention" occurs, warns a year-long inquiry into Australia's "most loved animal." The report published by the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW) paints a "stark and depressing snapshot" of koalas in Australia's southeastern state.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A crowd awaits the evening lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota on June 23, 2012. Mindy / Flickr

Fire experts have already criticized President Trump's planned fireworks event for this Friday at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial as a dangerous idea. Now, it turns out the event may be socially irresponsible too as distancing guidelines and mask wearing will not be enforced at the event, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
The gates of the unusually low drought-affected Carraizo Dam are seen closed in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico on June 29, 2020. RICARDO ARDUENGO / AFP via Getty Images)

Puerto Rico's governor declared a state of emergency on Monday after a severe drought on the island left 140,000 people without access to running water, despite the necessary role that hand washing and hygiene plays in stopping the novel coronavirus, as The Independent reported.

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
A park ranger addresses the crowd at Mt. Rushmore in Pennington, South Dakota on Aug. 17, 2017. Steve Elliott / CC BY-SA 2.0

For the last decade, fireworks have been banned at Mt. Rushmore due to environmental concerns and public health concerns. President Trump, however, is not somebody who seems to care about either, so he's planning on going ahead with his fireworks show on July 3 at the iconic site.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Green living spruce and gray dead spruce in the Harz mountain region on May 7, 2020 near Clausthal-Zellerfeld, Germany. Jens Schlueter / Getty Images

More than a third of the world's old growth forests died between 1900 and 2015, a new study has found.

Read More Show Less
With the water level of the Missouri River at an all-time low and falling on June 30, 2002, a bait and dock manager at Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Mobridge, South Dakota points out the dry, cracked mud where boat launching river water used to stand. MARLIN LEVISON / Star Tribune via Getty Images

For the first decade of the 2000s, the Missouri River, the nation's longest river, was drier than it's been in more than 1,200 years. The culprit is the climate crisis, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS.

Read More Show Less

Trending

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.

An approximately one-year-old puma in the streets of Santiago, Chile on March 24, 2020, in search for food as fewer people are outside due to the pandemic. ANDRES PINA / ATON CHILE / AFP via Getty Images

A third cougar has been sighted wandering through a residential neighborhood in the Chilean capital of Santiago as millions of the city's residents are under lockdown measures in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Read More Show Less
A California newt (Taricha torosa) from Napa County, California, USA. Connor Long / CC BY-SA 3.0

By Tara Lohan

Aerial photos of the Sierra Nevada — the long mountain range stretching down the spine of California — showed rust-colored swathes following the state's record-breaking five-year drought that ended in 2016. The 100 million dead trees were one of the most visible examples of the ecological toll the drought had wrought.

Now, a few years later, we're starting to learn about how smaller, less noticeable species were affected.

Read More Show Less