Climate change could revive medieval megadroughts in US Southwest | Study picks apart factors that caused severe, long-lasting droughts and suggests increased risk for future

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Climate change could revive medieval megadroughts in US Southwest

Study picks apart factors that caused severe, long-lasting droughts and suggests increased risk for future

Date:
July 24, 2019
Source:
Earth Institute at Columbia University

Dry pasture, central valley of California (stock image).
Credit: © AlessandraRC / Adobe Stock

About a dozen megadroughts struck the American Southwest during the 9th through the 15th centuries, but then they mysteriously ceased around the year 1600. What caused this clustering of megadroughts — that is, severe droughts that last for decades — and why do they happen at all?

If scientists can understand why megadroughts happened in the past, it can help us better predict whether, how, and where they might happen in the future.

A study published today in Science Advances provides the first comprehensive theory for why there were megadroughts in the American Southwest. The authors found that ocean temperature conditions plus…

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