New Video: Western Drought Will Never Go Back to Normal – Because There is No Normal Now

March 23, 2022

Last year I spoke to Park Williams and Ben Cook, authors of a study showing the uniqueness of the current dry spell in Western North America.
At that time, their 2019 study showed that the unfolding event was unparalleled in at least 500 or so years. The team, along with Jason Smerdon of Columbia, revisited the data in light of extreme dry conditions in 2020 and 21, and found that the current 22 year period is now dryer than any similar period since the 800s CE.


Following up on that, I checked in with Samantha Stevenson and Julia Cole, who have a new paper that dovetails nicely. The point that Stevenson and Cole make is that with rising temperatures, the atmosphere has capacity to hold more moisture, in fact, it “wants” to hold more moisture, what scientists call “increased evaporative demand”, or ED.
As they explain, in the current 22 years and counting spell, while we may at some point return to rains such as were common in the last century, 1980s and 90s, by then the Evaporative Demand will be greater due to higher temps, and the bar will be raised. It will take more rain just to bring the region back to what was once considered “normal”.

The soil conditions already in place due to warming would, in past decades, have been considered already a mega drought, but now, that’s only the baseline.

Each succeeding dry spell will be the same.

See clip from last year’s convo with Park Williams below.

3 Responses to “New Video: Western Drought Will Never Go Back to Normal – Because There is No Normal Now”

  1. Let that sink in: “since the year 800 there is no 22 year period cumulatively as dry as this current period”.

  2. ubrew12 Says:

    This is really useful information in a World that blames Western desiccation on (take your pick) 1) immigrants and overpopulation, 2) almonds, 3) greenies stopping us from building desalination units, and on, and on, and on.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      The desiccation is a problem on the supply side.

      The inappropriate growing of water-intensive crops, the wasteful appliances, the fondness for lush yards and the private swimming pools is a problem on the demand side.

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