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Water is life. So smart reporting on water issues is a vital public service, especially with the ever-growing demand on western watersheds.

Study: Warming's Pushing The West Into A 'Megadrought'

Mike Duniway

A new study in the journal Science says that human-driven climate change is pushing the American West into a megadrought, and into its driest period in more than 400 years.

 Click 'play' to hear the audio version of this story.

The research found that yes, we are in a cyclical pattern of dryness in the West. But it also found human-driven climate change has made it much worse.

"When you have these changes that are induced by humans, it took what would have been a regular drought within the normal range of variability, to an extreme megadrought," said study co-author Andrew Badger, a hydrological scientist with the Universities Space Research Association and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Researchers found that the period between 2000 to 2018 was the area's driest 19-year stretch since the late 1500s. And the megadrought period before that was more than 1000 years ago.

"This appears to be just the beginning of a more extreme trend toward megadrought as global warming continues," the study states.

In addition to hydrological and climate change modeling, researchers looked at thousands of tree rings to calculate past soil moisture levels.

Find reporter Madelyn Beck on Twitter @MadelynBeck8

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio News

Madelyn Beck is a regional Illinois reporter, based in Galesburg. On top of her work for Harvest Public Media, she also contributes to WVIK, Tri-States Public Radio and the Illinois Newsroom collaborative.
Madelyn Beck
Madelyn Beck is Boise State Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. She's from Montana but has reported everywhere from North Dakota to Alaska to Washington, D.C. Her last few positions included covering energy resources in Wyoming and reporting on agriculture/rural life issues in Illinois.
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