CLIMAS principal investigator Jonathan Overpeck discussed drought variability over the last 1,000 years in North America in a recently published article in Nature. Overpeck, drew on insights from a recent, peer-reviewed article by Benjamin Cook and others (2013). The article stated that the intense drought that covered about 50 percent of the continental U.S. in the summer of 2012—dubbed a pan-continental drought—has occurred in about 12 percent of the years in the last 1,000. While widespread drought may be more common than previously thought, recent research has also noted that climate changes can exacerbate drought conditions by making them hotter. In light of a history of widespread and intense drought that may become exacerbated by warming temperatures, Overpeck noted that policy-makers and resource managers should consider strategies like injecting extra water into the ground during wet periods for storage, making water use more efficient, perfecting the reuse of water, and maintaining water use in activities where users can sell their water when less-flexible users, like urban sectors, need help in dealing with extended drought.
Read Overpeck abstract (article requires subscription)