Excellent article on the climate impacts of these wildfires via smoke injection reaching the stratosphere!https://www.nature.com/articles/s41612-018-0039-3https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/ ... te-change/
A vast region of the western United States, extending from California, Arizona and New Mexico north to Oregon and Idaho, is in the grips of the first climate change-induced megadrought observed in the past 1,200 years, a study shows. The finding means the phenomenon is no longer a threat for millions to worry about in the future, but is already here.
The study, published in the journal Science on Thursday, compares modern soil moisture data with historical records gleaned from tree rings, and finds that when compared with all droughts seen since the year 800 across western North America, the 19-year drought that began in 2000 and continued through 2018 (this drought is still ongoing, though the study’s data is analyzed through 2018) was worse than almost all other megadroughts in this region.
The researchers, who painstakingly reconstructed soil moisture records from 1,586 tree-ring chronologies to determine drought severity, found only one megadrought that occurred in the late 1500s was more intense.
“The megadrought era seems to be reemerging, but for a different reason than the [past] megadroughts,” said Park Williams, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University.
Although many areas in the West had a productive wet season in 2019 and some this year, “you can’t go anywhere in the West without having suffered drought on a millennial scale,” Williams said, noting that megadroughts contain relatively wet periods interspersed between parched years.
“I think the important lesson that comes out of this is that climate change is not a future problem,” said Benjamin I. Cook, a NASA climate scientist and co-author of the study. “Climate change is a problem today. The more we look, the more we find this event was worse because of climate change.”
from Journal Science:https://science.sciencemag.org/content/368/6488/314
A trend of warming and drying
Global warming has pushed what would have been a moderate drought in southwestern North America into megadrought territory. Williams et al. used a combination of hydrological modeling and tree-ring reconstructions of summer soil moisture to show that the period from 2000 to 2018 was the driest 19-year span since the late 1500s and the second driest since 800 CE (see the Perspective by Stahle). This appears to be just the beginning of a more extreme trend toward megadrought as global warming continues.
Science, this issue p. 314; see also p. 238
Severe and persistent 21st-century drought in southwestern North America (SWNA) motivates comparisons to medieval megadroughts and questions about the role of anthropogenic climate change. We use hydrological modeling and new 1200-year tree-ring reconstructions of summer soil moisture to demonstrate that the 2000–2018 SWNA drought was the second driest 19-year period since 800 CE, exceeded only by a late-1500s megadrought. The megadrought-like trajectory of 2000–2018 soil moisture was driven by natural variability superimposed on drying due to anthropogenic warming. Anthropogenic trends in temperature, relative humidity, and precipitation estimated from 31 climate models account for 47% (model interquartiles of 35 to 105%) of the 2000–2018 drought severity, pushing an otherwise moderate drought onto a trajectory comparable to the worst SWNA megadroughts since 800 CE.https://science.sciencemag.org/content/368/6488/261
Trees are the living foundations on which most terrestrial biodiversity is built. Central to the success of trees are their woody bodies, which connect their elevated photosynthetic canopies with the essential belowground activities of water and nutrient acquisition. The slow construction of these carbon-dense, woody skeletons leads to a slow generation time, leaving trees and forests highly susceptible to rapid changes in climate. Other long-lived, sessile organisms such as corals appear to be poorly equipped to survive rapid changes, which raises questions about the vulnerability of contemporary forests to future climate change. The emerging view that, similar to corals, tree species have rather inflexible damage thresholds, particularly in terms of water stress, is especially concerning. This Review examines recent progress in our understanding of how the future looks for forests growing in a hotter and drier atmosphere.