Megadrought in Southwest Is Now the Worst in at Least 1,200 Years, Study Confirms

State of the Planet Blog | Kevin Krajick
February 14, 2022

The drought that has enveloped southwestern North America for the past 22 years is the region’s driest megadrought—defined as a drought lasting two decades or longer — since at least the year 800, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Thanks to the region’s high temperatures and low precipitation levels from summer 2020 through summer 2021, the current drought has exceeded the severity of a late-1500s megadrought that previously had been identified by the same authors as the driest in 1,200 years.

University of California Los Angeles geographer Park Williams, the study’s lead author, said with dry conditions likely to persist, it would take multiple wet years to remediate the effects. “It’s extremely unlikely that this drought can be ended in one wet year,” he said. The study was coauthored by Jason Smerdon and Benjamin Cook of the Columbia Climate SchoolRead More

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