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Sierra Daily

Apr 13, 2012

U.S. Drought Outpaces Climate Models

DrmonThe Winter That Wasn't has left 61% of the Lower 48 states in "abnormally dry" conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Half a billion trees have died in Texas, drought is leading to an increase in rabies, and Western states are bracing for a dangerous fire season. (For an ugly look at current conditions, click on the Drought Monitor's map at right.)

Current conditions are already outpacing climate models, like this study in Geophysical Research Letters, which forecasts a 7.5% drop in winter precipitation in the Southwestern United States in the years 2038 to 2070. As of mid-March, precipitation in Arizona and New Mexico was 50-to-70% of normal. Texas experienced an unusually wet winter for a change, but, warns meteorologists, it would take a hurricane this summer to end the state's catastrophic drought.

HS_PaulRauberPAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber.


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