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By William deBuys

With its hovering azure sky and stark landscapes, the yank Southwest is among the so much hauntingly appealing areas on the earth. but dazzling inhabitants development, mixed with the intensifying results of weather swap, is riding the oasis-based society just about the threshold of a Dust-Bowl-scale catastrophe.

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5 Seager had access to an advance copy. “When Schubert published that paper, and actually before it came out,” says Seager, “I just looked in the model that day and said, well, does our model produce a Dust Bowl drought? ” Further investigation showed it “made a nice big drought in the Southwest in the 1950s,” which Schubert’s simulation had missed, and it also showed the Southwest turning dry in 1998, the approximate onset of the drought that produced widespread tree die-offs in 2002–2003. Things were getting interesting.

Not a disbeliever, but cautious, wondering whether more was claimed for the phenomenon than facts would support. ” But then came the two maps and the unignorable correspondence between real-world data and model simulations. High Blue: The Great Downshift of Dryness 35 “The modelers were looking at other things, but this fell out of it, and it looked like the pattern of what happened in the world. We subsequently did all kinds of statistical analyses: run the models with no forcing at all for a stable climate.

According to Seager, the future Southwest will be much drier than the conditions its present inhabitants consider “normal”; it will likely be as dry as its driest recent decades, and people will have to recalibrate their expectations to a new idea of what “normal” stands for. 4 Seager holds an endowed position at Lamont-Doherty, a research arm of Columbia University. He’s a Brit who came to the United States for education and stayed. I visited him at his Morningside Heights apartment on a day when the lab was closed and his son Angus was home from school, contending with homework at the dining table.

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