Study: Current drought will match duration of 1500s megadrought this year
Feb 14, 2022, 7:14 PM
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY – The Western United States is experiencing its driest conditions in 1,200 years and the drought likely will not end soon according to a new study released Monday.
“A previous reconstruction back to (the year) 800 indicated that the 2000–2018 soil moisture deficit in southwestern North America was exceeded during one megadrought in the late-1500s,” the study in the journal Nature Climate Change stated.
The study authors called the climate trends from 2000 – 2021 the “driest 22-yr period since at least 800. This drought will very likely persist through 2022, matching the duration of the late-1500s megadrought.”
Further, the study indicated the drought, which is already at historic proportions, will only get worse this year.
The study concluded that 42% of the drought can be blamed on human activity.
Researchers say it will take several years of above-average precipitation to end the drought.
“Exceptionally dry soil in 2021 was critical for the current drought to escalate and overtake the 1500s megadrought as the period with the highest 22-yr mean severity,” the study states. “The 2021 soil moisture anomaly was nearly as dry as that of 2002, the driest year in the 1901–2021 observational record and notable for its severe impacts on forest ecosystems and wildfire.”
Utah’s not the only state seeing dry conditions.
The drought has been hard on the Colorado River Basin which feeds into Lake Powell and Lake Mead which are at historically low levels.
Last month, Los Angeles saw less than a tenth of an inch of rain which is the city’s eighth driest January on record.
In September the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the summer of 2021 was the hottest on record for the lower 48 states.