HomeNewsAmerican West Experiencing Worst Drought in 1,200 Years: Report

American West Experiencing Worst Drought in 1,200 Years: Report

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

The ongoing drought bearing down on the American West is one of the worst we’ve seen in recent history. However, now, a new study reveals our nation is actually experiencing the worst we’ve seen in 1,200 years.

Deemed the “Western megadrought” by Yahoo News, the decades-long dry spell plaguing the American West marks the driest 22-year period in at least 1,200 years. To no surprise, the cause of the disaster is the widespread heating of our planet.

According to the outlet, scientists conducting the study researched major droughts spanning Southwestern North America to 800 A.D. During which, they found the current drought outranks the severity of a record megadrought during the late 16th century.

Within the confines of the study’s timeline, the authors concluded the current drought marks the most severe 22-year stretch on record. The devastation compares to seven other major droughts that took place previously. Those date between the 800s and 1500s, and lasted between 23-30 years.

Further, while America’s current drought continues, it’s likely that, based on earlier findings, the megadrought could endure for years.

According to UCLA climate scientist and the study’s lead author, Park Williams, humans have had a significant impact on the drought’s endurance.

“The results are really concerning, because it’s showing that the drought conditions we are facing now are substantially worse because of climate change.”

‘Exceptional Luck’ Necessary to End Record Drought

Droughts are natural devastation, just like floods, twisters, earthquakes. However, the ongoing megadrought, which would have happened anyway based on predictions, has only been intensified due to climate change.

Williams revealed, without the current drought, the American West would have experienced an intense “bad luck period” naturally. Therefore, study contributors found it would have been less severe without the abundance of greenhouse gases trapped within our atmosphere. However, since this remains the case, Williams said, “there is quite a bit of room for drought conditions to get worse.”

Other participating scientists described the current trend as aridification, a significant drying of the area with increasing temperatures. Williams compared the phenomenon to the way “our houseplants dry out when we turn on the heater.”

Interestingly, without human influence, the study shows drought-stricken areas often go through extreme periods of wet and dry. The outlet referred to this concept as “yo-yoing” back and forth. As such, without climate change’s added intensification, the current megadrought would have seen a much-needed break between 2005 and 2006. Earlier predictions would have seen a wet period around that time.

Instead, Williams stated, “it would take exceptional luck to end this drought in the next few years.”

For now, populations in drought-stricken regions may not feel like they’re living through such a traumatic natural disaster. Williams attributes this to the current buffers in place, such as groundwater and reservoirs.

However, as society rapidly uses up these resources without regard for the current crisis, he stated, “we’re at real risk of those backstops not being there for us in 10 or 20 years.”