Dust bowl looms if US Southwest drought plans fail

November 3rd, 2011

Published on New Scientist.com, by Peter Aldhous, November 01, 2011.

THEY like their beef in Texas. So when Texan ranchers started offloading their cattle at bargain prices because pastures were parched – as they did this summer – it was a clear sign that this was no ordinary drought.  

While rains in October brought some relief, further drought is forecast, which will add to losses already exceeding $5 billion. The bigger question is whether the Texan rancher’s pain is a harbinger of things to come for the entire Southwest – and if so, what the broader impact on Americans living in the region will be.

Climate models indicate that the Southwest will get drier in the coming decades, threatening water supplies already under pressure from a growing population and ageing infrastructure.

Interactive graphic: Parched future for the Southwest … //

… In the longer term, there will be changes in store across the region. People may have to get used to the idea that water recovered from treated sewage is fit for drinking and not just for industrial use, for example.

The cost of failing to plan for a drier future could be a replay across the Southwest of the hardship faced by Texans in 2011. But agencies that are planning for climate change say it will be possible to adapt. “It’s a manageable situation,” says Thomas Buschatzke of the Arizona Department of Water Resources. “But it’s not a situation that’s going to manage itself.” (full text).


Your clever body: Thinking from head to toe, by David Robson, October 21, 2011;

the devil shivered in his sleeping bag, by Neil Pederson, September 4, 2011;

Office of Academic and Research Programs: A Guide to Educational Programs in Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of Academic and Research Programs, The Earth Institute at Columbia University, 81 pdf-pages, Fall 2011;

Imaging the Sources of Great Alaskan Earthquakes;

Vanishing Tropical Glaciers.

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