Tag: drought

Global warming will devastate marginal farming areas

Southwest will be hit especially hard

Climate scientists have a pretty good understanding of how global warming will affect agriculture in different parts of the world. Is anybody listening? @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Most agriculture in the southwestern U.S. is already marginal, possible only because U.S. taxpayers support cheap water for questionable crops. And because of global warming, the outlook is grim as the region continues to warm and dry.

By 2050, Arizona cotton production will drop to less than 10 percent of the crop yield under optimal irrigation conditions, a new MIT study projects. Similarly, maize grown in Utah, now only yielding 40 percent of the optimal expected yield, will decrease to 10 percent with further climate-driven water deficits. Continue reading “Global warming will devastate marginal farming areas”

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Southern Colorado Plateau has dried 17 percent since 1985

New study projects impacts for world’s drylands

Hikers enjoying the view at Colorado National Monument, near Grand Junction. Researchers say recreation economies in the world’s drier zones are likely to take a big hit from global warming in the next few decades. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Global warming is bad enough on its own for the world’s drylands, but when you add in the impacts of population growth, development and the increasing demand for water, the future looks downright grim.

The end result will be conditions that are detrimental to the recreation economy, wildlife habitat, water availability and other resources in hyper-arid landscapes, according to a recent paper published in Ecosphere. Drylands are of concern because broad-scale changes in these systems have the potential to affect 36 percent of the world’s human population. Continue reading “Southern Colorado Plateau has dried 17 percent since 1985”

Droughts and fires affecting Western U.S. air quality

New study tracks increase in summertime haze in Colorado wilderness

Summit County firefighters extinguish a small wildfire between Keystone and Montezuma late March, 2012.
Summit County, Colorado, firefighters extinguish a small wildfire between Keystone and Montezuma late March, 2012. A new University of Utah study suggests that more drought and wildfires will worsen air pollution in the high country of the West, even spreading to pristine wilderness areas. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Longer and hotter droughts and wildfires are polluting the once clear blue skies of the high country in the West, according to new research from the University of Utah.

The study, published this week in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found a link between the severity of drought in the Intermountain West and summertime air quality. Climate projections suggest that drought and wildfire risk will continue to increase in coming decades.

“If you take that into the future, we’re going to see significant hazing of the West,” said University of Utah atmospheric scientist Gannet Hallar. Continue reading “Droughts and fires affecting Western U.S. air quality”

Massive forest death continues in California

Latest survey tallies more than 100 milion dead trees

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A stand of pine-beetle killed lodgepole pines on the White River National Forest. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

California’s long-term drought has claimed another 36 million trees, the U.S. Forest Service said this week, announcing the results of a new aerial survey. Since 2010, more than 100 million trees have died across 7.7 million acres, the agency said.

The die-off intensified in 2016, after four years of drought,  with mortality increasing 100 percent. Millions of additional trees are weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years. Forest Service leaders once again emphasized that their ability to address safety issues linked with dead trees has been severely hampered by climate change and limited resources.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said a broken budget for the Forest Service sees an increasing amount of resources going to firefighting while less is invested in restoration and forest health.  Continue reading “Massive forest death continues in California”

Study eyes ‘flash drought’ forecasts

State officials hope to be well-prepared for the next inevitable drought in Colorado.
State officials hope to be well-prepared for the next inevitable drought in Colorado.

Soil moisture, snowpack data help inform new forecast modeling

Staff Report

Some droughts creep up on you, while others seem to come out of nowhere, like in 2012 when spring came early and a hot, dry summer parched fields and forests and led to a busy wildfire season, including the destructive Waldo Canyon blaze near Colorado Springs.

Seasonal forecasts issued in May 2012 did not foresee a drought forming in the country’s midsection. But by the end of August,  the drought had spread across the Midwest, parching Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri. Now, after analyzing conditions leading up to the drough, researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, say similar droughts in the future could be predicted by paying close attention to key indicators like snowmelt and soil moisture.  Continue reading “Study eyes ‘flash drought’ forecasts”

Study says global warming ups odds of Southwest megadrought

Heat-trapping greenhouse gases may dessicate Colorado River Basin

The paradox of water in the desert, illustrated by a NASA satellite image of the Colorado River.
Megadroughts ahead? Satellite photo of the Colorado River Basin via NASA.

Staff Report

It’s very likely the southwestern U.S. will be hit by droughts unlike any seen since the region was settled by Europeans. Global warming has driven the odds of a 10-year drought to at least 50 percent, and the chances of a 35-year megadrought range from 20 to 50 percent during the next century, according to a new study led by researchers with Cornell, the University of Arizona and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Global warming is “weighting the dice” for megadroughts, said lead study author Toby Ault, explaining that the buildup of greenhouse gases is shifting the climate dramatically. The study is set to be published in an upcoming issue of the  American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate. Continue reading “Study says global warming ups odds of Southwest megadrought”

California tree deaths part of global wave of forest mortality

Climate change is wiping out forests on a staggering scale

forests dying because of global warming
Red and dead lodgepole pines in Colorado. @bberwyn photo.
A beetle-killed lodgepole pine branch in Summit County, Colorado.
A beetle-killed lodgepole pine branch in Summit County, Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

California’s multiyear drought killed even more trees than previously thought, the U.S. Forest Service announced this week. Aerial and ground surveys show that 26 million trees across six counties in Southern California died, in addition to the 40 million trees that died statewide from 2010 to October 2015. Four years of drought, high temperatures and an outbreak of tree-killing bark beetles all contributed the historic levels of tree die-off, the agency said.

The tree mortality in California is the latest crest in a wave of forest die-offs in the past few decades linked with global warming. In the Southwest, an outbreak of ips beetles after the 2002 drought killed 80 percent of the piñon pine forests in the Four Corners region.

Around the same time, pine beetles started spreading across northern Colorado, parts of Wyoming and North Dakota, ultimately killing millions of acres of forest. And just as the pine beetle infestation waned, a spruce beetle outbreak in southern Colorado started to spread. Since 1996, spruce beetles have killed trees across about 1.5 million acres of forest.

Huge swaths of Colorado aspen forests also died in the early 2000s in a mortality event linked with extreme heat, and forest researchers say hardwood forests in the northern U.S. are also at risk from global warming. Continue reading “California tree deaths part of global wave of forest mortality”