Definition: The gradual change of a region from a wetter to a drier climate.
The American West is drying out. I live in one of the states where this is a concern, but most people I know aren’t talking about it. It’s almost as though people don’t want to know that water is depleting. As long as it’s out of sight, out of mind, it’s not actually happening. But it is. It is happening. The Great Dry Out is starting now.
Aridification is nothing new. The planet has seen it before. The Sahara used to be green. Green was also the color of The Great Victoria Desert, The Gobi Desert, The Kalahari Desert, The Arabian Desert, hell, even Antarctica used to be lush.
The world is never stagnant. One look at Paleohistory confirms that. Regional climate patterns linked to extended periods of heat and drought upended prehistoric life across the Southwest thousands of years ago. The same factors that caused aridification then (the warming Pacific and the shrinking of sea ice) are happening again now due to greenhouse gases.
“Extreme heat,” “Megadrought,” “Aridification,” “Extreme Wildfire,” “Hot Droughts,” “Airpocalypse,” these are all new terms that I’ve added to my lexicon in recent months. New research reveals a creeping, permanent dryness expanding across the United States. After nearly two decades of declining water flows into the Colorado River Basin, scientists have decided the word drought doesn’t cut it anymore. The current megadrought in the Southwest is defined not so much by declining precipitation (although that does certainly affect it) but more by increasing temperatures from climate change. And those temperatures are going to continue to climb as long as we keep burning greenhouse gases. Aridification is the New Megadrought. Drought is temporary. Aridification is permanent. “Hot droughts” are more severe and longer-lasting by the steadily warming temperatures associated with human-caused climate change.
The greening of the Sahara was caused by the Earth’s constantly changing orbital rotation around its axis, which is a pattern that repeats itself every 23,000 years, according to Kathleen Johnson, an associate professor of Earth systems at the University of California Irvine. Could the Sahara ever be green again? Yes, it could, but only if humans go away. We are the reason why the Sahara will never be green again so as long as we walk the Earth. A new study suggests humans played a big role as to why the Sahara went brown. Author David Wright, an environmental archeologist at Seoul National University, says that as humans spread west from the Nile river 8,000 years ago, they brought with them sheep, cows, and goats that gobbled up, mowed down, and trampled over native vegetation. This transformed the landscape and altered the local climate. As that sunlight was reflected, the energy associated with the light went back into the atmosphere and heated it. A heated atmosphere tends to have fewer clouds than a cooler atmosphere,” said Wright. Fewer clouds mean less rain. That’s what happened in the Sahara.
Behind the phenomena of global warming and climate change lies the increase in greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. A greenhouse gas is any gaseous compound in the atmosphere that is capable of absorbing infrared radiation, thereby trapping and holding heat in the atmosphere. By increasing the heat in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases are responsible for the greenhouse effect, which ultimately leads to global warming.
It’s our greenhouse gas emissions that are causing runaway climate change. We are the cause of all the wildfires and weather changes. We are the ones behind the wheel and steering this planet through the solar system. It feels as though we broke through the metaphorical guardrail long ago. There’s no steering a vehicle when it’s flying down a hill because gravity has already taken over.
So, the question remains: can we stop any of this? Can we stop the Great Salt Lake from drying out, or prevent Lake Mead from going dry, or prevent any number of California lakes from drying up? The answer is yes. Yes, we can stop all of this from happening, but only if we make drastic changes now. Like, right now. We need to keep global warming under 1.5 C, else a quarter of the planet could become arid. A 1.5 degrees Celsius increase will see more hot days, especially in the tropics. At 1.5 degrees Celsius warming, about 14 percent of Earth’s population will be exposed to severe heatwaves at least once every five years, while at 2 degrees warming that number jumps to 37 percent. Extreme heatwaves will become widespread at 1.5 degrees Celsius warming.
There are little things a person can do to actively prevent the world from getting warmer: weatherize your home, power your home with renewable energy, invest in energy-efficient appliances, reduce water waste, eat less meat (livestock products are among the most resource-intensive to produce), buy better light bulbs, unplug electronics, drive a fuel-efficient car, plant more trees, and overall shrink your carbon profile. The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.
If we all focus on reducing our carbon footprint, the world might allow us to stick around longer. If not, well, then, don’t bother packing your swimsuit because there won’t be any lakes to dive into.
thanx for reading!