The La Niña pattern of droughts may not hold true forever, Seager added. As climate change alters atmospheric circulation, it will do the same to age-old assumptions. Crop failures and dust storms are shifting northward compared with the 1930s drought.
"In the past, we've always had these droughts, we know now in recent years they're related to tropical sea surface temperature anomalies," Seager said. "The fact is, things do seem to be evolving the way we would expect them to be [with climate change], and if that is so, in key regions in the Southwest such as California and the Colorado [River] headwaters, there will be a notable and appreciable reduction in soil moisture within the near-term future, the next two decades or so."
The panel also included Donald Wuebbles, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Camille Parmesan, a professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas, Austin.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500