Environmental Monitor

From February 2015 to November 2015 I was a freelance science writing intern for Fondriest Environmental's magazine Environmental Monitor, which covers technological advancements in monitoring systems for air and water quality in oceans, lakes, rivers and streams. Here you will find my entire collection of short briefs and longer form features written for the magazine. 

North American megadroughts represent an unprecedented climate shift

By Cassie Kelly, February 26, 2015

Graph showing the drought risk (percent chance of occurrence) for an 11-year period in the Southwest compared to historical data. Credit: Benjamin I. Cook, et al

Graph showing the drought risk (percent chance of occurrence) for an 11-year period in the Southwest compared to historical data. Credit: Benjamin I. Cook, et al

A study published in Science Advances predicts that future droughts will last much longer than originally estimated. The research compares future drought projections to records from the past 1,000 years in the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains.

The researchers from NASA, Cornell, and Columbia found that these exceedingly long droughts, referred to as “megadroughts,” are becoming more common because carbon emissions in the atmosphere are changing the climate.

The study states that the current droughts “will likely exceed even the most severe megadrought periods of the Medieval era … representing an unprecedented fundamental climate shift with respect to the last millennium.”

If the carbon levels reach 650 parts per million by 2100, as they are expected to, the researchers calculate an 80 percent chance of a multidecadal drought.

The researchers warn that “future droughts will occur in a significantly warmer world with higher temperatures than recent historical events, conditions that are likely to be a major added stress on both natural ecosystems and agriculture.”

Here's a link to the story in Environmental Monitor.