Climate Change Could Change Southwestern Landscape
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. A new study looks at drought from the forests’ perspective. If the Southwest is warmer and drier as climate models suggest, widespread tree death is likely.
Scientists from several organizations including the University of Arizona, the U.S. Geological Survey and Los Alamos National Laboratory combined tree-ring records that go back to 1000 A.D. with climate research and computer-model projections. They got a pretty grim picture for forests in the southwest.
A major drought in the late 1500s caused massive tree die-offs. Park Williams, a Los Alamos researcher and the lead author, has predicted similar mega-drought conditions by the 2040s.
"By the 2040s forest drought stress in our average year will be as strong or stronger than the worst years of the 1500s mega-drought," Williams said.
The study showed the impacts will take place across the landscape, not just on one species or site. The paper was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.