“This summer is worse than last; forest fires have already broken last year’s records. The rains haven’t come, and temperature records are falling like leaves from a dried-up tree. Springs, wells and irrigation ditches are bone dry. Farms are withering. We’ve all heard the gloomy scenarios of global warming: extreme weather, drought, famine, breakdown of society, destruction of civilization.
My current perch in Placitas, New Mexico feels like a front-row seat to the apocalypse.
Intuitive as the connection may seem, we don’t know if the current drought is a consequence of global warming, deBuys writes. Periodic, decades-long droughts have been relatively common in the last few thousand years, according to analysis of dried lake beds. Most of the area’s famously collapsed civilizations–Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, the Galisteo pueblos–are thought to have died out for lack of water in these extended dry periods, which deBuys calls “megadroughts.”
By contrast, the last century’s human population growth in the American Southwest occurred during a relatively wet period in the climactic record. We were due for another megadrought sooner or later, deBuys writes, which could be expected to dramatically alter human settlement patterns in the area. While this current heat may not be caused by global warming, he writes, climate change could nonetheless trigger the next megadrought.
In the Sandia Mountains above Placitas, last winter’s snowpack was relatively high. But the spring runoff never came, because the snow evaporated straight into the air of the hottest spring on record.”
Read more: AlterNet