Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Climate Warming and 21st-Century Drought in Southwestern North America



Since 2000, southwestern North America has experienced widespread drought. Lakes Powell and Mead are now at less than 50% of their reservoir capacity, and drought or fire-related states of emergency were declared this past summer by governors in six western states. As with other prolonged droughts, such as the Dust Bowl during the 1930s, aridity has at times extended from northern Mexico to the southern Canadian prairies. A synthesis of climatological and paleoclimatological studies suggests that a transition to a more arid climate may be occurring due to global warming, with the prospect of sustained droughts being exacerbated by the potential reaction of the Pacific Ocean to warming.