Mega-Droughts Stalk the Southwest

A few weeks ago, I mused that the American Southwest may be on borrowed time. Forget that.

The Southwest is toast.

A new paper in Nature spells doom. From the abstract:

The potential for increased drought frequency and severity linked to anthropogenic climate change in the semi-arid regions of the southwestern United States is a serious concern. Multi-year droughts during the instrumental period and decadal-length droughts of the past two millennia were shorter and climatically different from the future permanent, ‘dust-bowl-like’ megadrought conditions, lasting decades to a century, that are predicted as a consequence of warming.

Nature’s Quirin Schiermeier has an article on the study, and this eye-popping quote from Richard Seager, a Columbia University climate researcher:

The drying we expect for the twenty-first century is entirely the result of increased greenhouse forcing.

But we’re not there yet, Seager tells Nature:

A signal of anthropogenic drying is emerging, but it is still small. I’d expect that by mid-century the human signal will exceed the amplitude of natural climate variability. Then we can safely say that the Southwest has entered a new climate stage.

UPDATE: Prehistoric drought in the SW is a big interest of mine, so I’m going to provide all the relevant press coverage links, as they come in. John Fleck, a science writer for The Albuquerque Journal, has a story and a post at his blog.

Category: climate science, drought, southwest

Repurposing Journalism

I hadn’t paid much attention to the nifty online current events encyclopedia being built at the NYT until I read this post. The “topics pages” strike me as quite useful for casual readers seeking additional context and information on subjects covered in Times news stories and blog posts.

For example, today’s NYT profile of Kenneth Cuccineli, Virginia’s Republican attorney general, includes a “Related” link to the “Global Warming” topic page. I checked out the page for the first time and was blown away by its streamlined (yet in-depth) summary of where the science, politics, and policy issues are situated today.

I wonder if the Times’ long-range plan includes licensing these curated topic pages to other newspapers and media outlets. Seems like they should be able to leverage this budding parallel content factory into some source of revenue, which then could be used to help shore up financing for traditional reporting and news gathering.

Category: Journalism