Climate hazard scientists connect 2018's Four Corners drought directly to human-caused climate change

phys.org | 7/15/2019 | Staff
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The western United States has experienced such intense droughts over the past decade that technical descriptions are becoming inadequate. In many places, conditions are rocketing past "severe," through "extreme," all the way to "exceptional drought."

The 2018 Four Corners drought—centered on the junction between Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico—put the region deep in the red. An abnormally hot spring and summer indicated that climate change was clearly at work, but that was about as much as most people could say of the situation at the time.

Climate - Scientists - UC - Santa - Barbara

Climate scientists from UC Santa Barbara's geography department have now distilled just how strong an effect human-induced warming had on that event. Their findings appear in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society's annual issue dedicated to explaining extreme weather events during the previous year. The team found that 60 to 80% of the region's increased potential for evaporation stemmed from human-induced warming alone, which caused additional warming of 2 degrees Celsius.

"I was really stunned at how big an effect we found with just a 2-degree warming," said Chris Funk, director of the university's Climate Hazards Center, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist and one of the study's coauthors.

Results - Author - Emily - Williams - Student

"The results were much more pronounced than we had expected," added lead author Emily Williams, a doctoral student in the Department of Geography. Her work focuses on end-to-end attribution, which determines exactly how much a specific natural event was exacerbated by climate change, and then links those changes to both the sources of greenhouse gasses and the impacts of warming on people and ecosystems. It's a challenging task that requires sophisticated climate models, comprehensive databases and the development of exciting new science.

Williams wanted to determine to what extent the Four Corners drought was exacerbated by climate change. To make the task more manageable, she limited the scope of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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