Global Warming and Future Droughts

The scientists at GISS completed research in February 2007 linking future global warming with droughts in certain parts of the world, including the southwestern United States. They used records of the Sun's output in a model to illustrate how a climate dominated by greenhouse gases would ultimately change rainfall patterns. What they found was that the same areas that experienced droughts in ancient times would experience them again.

One of the consequences of global warming is drought. This region in Utah has already experienced drought conditions, leaving the reservoir at lower than normal capacities for the past two years, as seen by the exposed shoreline several feet above the present waterline.

(Nature's Images)

Drew Shindell, GISS team leader, said that there is already evidence that some rainfall patterns may be changing. Examples can be seen in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. If these trends continue, in a couple of decades there could be serious water resource challenges for many people in the world. Their model showed water stress could occur in the southwest United States, Mexico, parts of North Africa, Australia, and the Middle East. Areas suffering drought are also more likely to have erosion problems, making it difficult to support populations. Researchers believe the same climate change and drought scenarios may have been the demise of past civilizations, such as the Pueblo people of Arizona and New Mexico who abandoned cities in the 1300s. These people had built massive tribal houses, many into cliffs, that could house 500 people or more. These villages thrived as the inhabitants traded with others as far away as South America. Then, suddenly, these civilizations disappeared, leaving priceless artifacts behind.

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