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Human 'Fingerprint' On Drought Goes Back 100 Years, How Is Drought Affecting The World Today?

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Drought is costing the United States $9 billion each year. It can contribute to increasing food prices and barren fields, and threaten ecosystems as well as the supply for drinking water.   ( Luis Iranzo Navarro-Olivares | Pixabay )

A new study used comprehensive data, as well as data provided by trees to see the human fingerprint on global droughts in the past 100 years.

What are some of the most significant impacts of drought on the world today?

Human ‘Fingerprint’ On Global Drought

For a study, researchers of NASA’s Goddard Institute For Space Studies scoured the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which averages the soil moisture over long periods of time, as well as data from tree rings, which can actually indicate which years were drought years, and which years were wet years, to have a look at possible human influences on the global drought patterns.

Interestingly, they did find a “human fingerprint” on global droughts as far back as the early 20th century, suggesting that human-generated greenhouse gas emissions have been affecting global drought risks for the past 100 years. Unfortunately, researchers say that the risks are likely to grow in the coming decades, which could lead to even more severe consequences.

Global Drought

Drought is a prolonged dry period that can happen in any part of the world. The phenomenon leads to serious issues such as water and food shortages that result in health consequences for the population, and drought-related deaths are often experienced in countries that are also experiencing civil and political unrest. In fact, from 1970 to 2012, the 1975, 1983, and 1984 severe droughts in Africa caused nearly 680,000 deaths.

In the United States, drought costs $9 billion in losses each year, ranking it the second in weather-related economic impacts. In the last decade alone, drought has been experienced in the Southeastern and Western United States, and in the Midwest. In fact, California experienced its driest year ever in 2013, while in 2011 Texas experienced its driest year since 1895.

Impacts Of Drought

Apart from the economic impacts of drought in terms of losses, it may also lead to higher prices in food, water, and electricity. Farmers and ranchers may also end up losing money when their crops die, in paying more to buy food for their animals, and in having to have new wells drilled.

Droughts can also cause wildfires, which leads to the loss of animal habitat, and the same problem goes for fish and other creatures when their habitats dry up. Similarly, droughts could also deplete the sources of food for animals, and cause them to migrate and lead to even greater stress for species that are already endangered or threatened.

There are many more social, economic, and environmental impacts of droughts, and in some places, people are already experiencing the consequences of this severe water shortage. Unfortunately, the problem is looking like it will only get worse in the years to come. As such, it may perhaps be wise to be more conscious of how we use resources in such a way that may increase our resilience to such phenomenon, whether for short-term dry spells or severe droughts.

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