Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Drought in the West linked to warmer temperatures

08.10.2004


Historical study shows elevated aridity in periods of warming



Severe drought in western states in recent years may be linked to climate warming trends, according to new research led by scientists from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University to be posted October 7 on Science magazine’s website, www.sciencemag.org. This research was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Analyzing aridity in the western U.S. over the past 1,200 years, the study team, which also included scientists from the University of Arizona, University of Arkansas, and NOAA, found evidence suggesting that elevated aridity in the U.S. West may be a natural response to climate warming. "The Western United States is so vulnerable to drought, we thought it was important to understand some of the long-term causes of drought in North America," said lead author Dr. Edward R. Cook of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory’s tree ring laboratory.


The study revealed that a 400-year-long period of elevated aridity and epic drought occurred in what is now the western U.S. during the period A.D. 900-1300. This corresponds broadly to the so-called "Medieval Warm Period," a time in which a variety of paleoclimate records indicate unusual warmth over much of the Northern Hemisphere. The authors of the new study argue that there are climate mechanisms involved that make warming climate conditions likely to lead to increased prevalence of drought in the western, interior region of North America. Looking at implications for the future, the authors express concern. "Any trend towards warmer temperatures in the future could lead to a serious long-term increase in aridity over Western North America," they write in the paper.

Co-author Dr. David Meko of the University of Arizona tree ring lab notes that the drought that has gripped the western United States for the past four years "pales in comparison with some of the earlier droughts we see from the tree-ring record. What would really put a stress on society is decade-long drought." "If warming over the tropical Pacific Ocean promotes drought over the western U.S., this is a potential problem for the future in a world that is increasingly subjected to greenhouse warming," Dr. Cook added.

The study’s authors used tree ring records to reconstruct evidence of drought, and also looked at a number of independent drought indicators ranging from elevated charcoal in lake sediments to sand dune activation records. The team then used published climate model studies to explore mechanisms that link warming with aridity in the western U.S.

In addition to the paper in Science, they also used the data to create a CD-ROM called the North American Drought Atlas, the first of its kind, providing a history of drought on this continent. The atlas contains annual maps of reconstructed droughts over North America, an animation of those maps showing aridity over time, and a time series plot of each reconstruction with associated plots of calibrated and verification statistics. The North American Drought Atlas CD-ROM can be obtained by contacting Dr. Edward R. Cook at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (drdendro@ldeo.columbia.edu).

Mary Tobin | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.columbia.edu
http://www.sciencemag.org

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

nachricht How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>