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Arizona faces megadrought, worst drought in 1,200 years

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 10:17 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Arizona is one of several southwestern states facing a megadrought, which means a drought that’s lasted 20 years or longer.

According to a new study by Nature Climate Change, the current drought is the worst in 1,200 years.

″In particular, southern Arizona is really in the bullseye of that megadrought,” climate change expert, Dr. Jessica Tierney said.

We are feeling the impact of the 20 year drought that started back in 2000. This is due to a rise in temperatures due to climate change and a lack of precipitation.

″Tucson, Arizona for example, is a place that’s warming faster than other places. Our temperatures have really shot up here in the last two decades,” she said.

Last year, the Colorado River entered a stage of restrictions. Arizona will see an 18% reduction in the state’s Colorado River supply, but Dr. Tierney says the current drought situation could lead to more water restrictions.

According to the study, about 40% of the megadrought can be directly linked to human-caused climate change. Humans have been emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide which traps heat.

″So, if we hadn’t had human-caused climate change, we still might be experiencing drought, but the study suggests that it wouldn’t have been a megadrought. It wouldn’t have been nearly as extreme. It might not have even been classified as a 20 year drought if it weren’t for human-caused climate change,” Dr. Tierney explained.

She says it will take several seasons of wet conditions to lessen the drought. Even thought we had an active 2021 monsoon, it only helped prevent wildfires temporarily. The dry vegetation left will now be fuel for wildfires.

Dr. Tierney says if we can limit warming, we can limit drought.

“It’s never too late. If we limit emissions, then a lot of this stops. We all as a society need to shift to burning less fossil fuels and that’s really the only way to avoid a worse outcome, a drier outcome,” she said.

There are some easy ways you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These include using you vehicle less by using a bike or walking, using solar energy, adjusting your thermostat, and using energy-saving lightbulbs.

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