Western Central Europe, North America, China, and other parts of the Northern Hemisphere faced water shortages, extreme heat, and soil moisture drought conditions throughout the summer of 2022
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The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) categorizes drought in a region according to soil moisture, streamflow, and precipitation levels. Regional designations can vary and are primarily based on historical weather patterns. Drought can adversely affect many aspects of the U.S. agricultural sector. In regions that rely on rainfall for agricultural production, drought can diminish crop and livestock outputs and may severely affect farm profitability. Drought also reduces the quantity of snowpack and streamflow available for diversions to irrigated agricultural land. These impacts can reverberate throughout the local, regional, and national economies. Locally, droughts can reduce farm income and negatively impact food processing and agricultural service sectors, while food prices may increase at the regional and the national levels.
Climate Change Response Program Natural Resource Stewardship and Science. National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior.
of glaciers and ice sheets. And of those that remain, most are
shrinking at an accelerated rate.
These changes not only affect what we see on the
landscape—they also alter part of Earth’s natural water
storage system, affecting everything from wildlife to
agriculture to human health.
Scientists from the United States Geological Survey (USGS)
and National Park Service (NPS) work together to monitor
and measure glacier loss. If these changes continue, we will
face a future much different than the present, including a
Glacier National Park without glaciers.
Climate change is a major contributor to the prolonged and intensifying drought that has impacted the western US since early 2020, as well as the underlying megadrought that has been ongoing since 2000. Rising temperatures due to climate change lead to earlier snowpack melt, increased evaporation from streams and lakes, and increased evapotranspiration from soils and plants. Climate change also increases the risk of seasonal precipitation extremes—including longer and hotter periods with little precipitation that dry out the soil as well as heavier rain and snow events leading to excessive runoff and flooding. Many events have contributed to the severity of the western drought including consecutive dry and warm winters, rapid snowmelt, and record hot summer temperatures.
A 22-year megadrought has made the Western United States the driest it has been since at least the year 800, according to a new study. A megadrought is essentially a prolonged drought that lasts for two decades or longer.
While the term may bring to mind the windswept sand dunes of the Sahara or the vast salt pans of the Kalahari, it’s an issue that reaches far beyond those living in and around the world’s deserts, threatening the food security and livelihoods of more than two billion people.
The combined impact of climate change, land mismanagement and unsustainable freshwater use has seen the world’s water-scarce regions increasingly degraded. This leaves their soils less able to support crops, livestock and wildlife.