Tags: Global Warming | Global Warming | Dust Bowl | Climate Change

Can Global Warming Lead to Dust Bowl's Return? 4 Scientists Discuss Possibility

By    |   Monday, 09 Feb 2015 12:46 PM

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was a period of such extreme drought during the Depression that the era was nicknamed the "Dirty Thirties." Currently, many states are in conditions of extreme, prolonged drought, which many scientists believe have been brought on by climate change. With the rise in temperatures and accompanying complications, some scientists have hypothesized that global warming may lead to a second Dust Bowl.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, during January 2015, "the highest level of drought — D4, or exceptional drought — was noted in portions of California (32 percent), Nevada (12 percent), Oklahoma (6 percent), and Texas (2 percent). California also led the nation with 78 percent coverage of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4)."

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In 1934, 80 percent of the United States was in drought, the highest level ever recorded. Over 100 million acres in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas were affected and more than 850 million tons of topsoil blew away each year, according to USA Today.

Thomas Gill, a geologist at the University of Texas at El Paso has spent more than a quarter century studying weather and earth sciences. He recently received a grant from NASA to study climate change and the potential for another Dust Bowl. According to Gill, "Climate change played a role in the Dust Bowl. Any researcher who studies dust is aware of this iconic event, and hopes that there is some aspect of their work that can prevent a similar extreme incident, or provide better warning about its approach."

In an article by National Geographic, "Parched: A New Dust Bowl Forms in the Heartland," Kansas State climatologist Mary Knapp says, "If you have a long enough period without rain, there will be dust storms and they can be every bit as bad as they were in the Thirties."

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Live Science reports that Michael Wehner, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has conducted a study to predict future drought conditions in the United States. According to Wehner's findings, "normal conditions in the United States by the end of the century would be the same as the 1930s Dust Bowl. The risk of a Dust Bowl has increased, and will continue to increase, quite a bit over the course of the 21st century.''

Although predictions of a second Dust Bowl are not directly provided, U.S. Geological Survey reports, "Drier conditions projected to result from climate change in the Southwest will likely reduce perennial vegetation cover and result in increased dust storm activity in the future." USGS ecologist Seth Munson says, "Accelerated rates of dust emission from wind erosion have large implications for natural systems and human well-being, so developing a better understanding of how climate change may affect wind erosion in arid landscapes is an important and emerging area of research."

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The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was a period of such extreme drought during the Depression that the era was nicknamed the "Dirty Thirties." Currently, many states are in conditions of extreme, prolonged drought, which many scientists believe have been brought on by climate change.
Global Warming, Dust Bowl, Climate Change
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2015-46-09
Monday, 09 Feb 2015 12:46 PM
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