Scientists Warn Climate Change Could Bring the Dust Bowl Back Out of the History Books
If there’s anything that just about sums up the desperation of the Great Depression in one filthy package, it’s photos of the Dust Bowl, when over-farming resulted in roving dust storms choking large swathes of the Great Plains region. Now, scientists are projecting that climate change could bring those hardscrabble days to a dystopian landscape near you.
In a study published on July 17 in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers at Princeton University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory used satellite data from 2003-2015 to resolve some of the lingering uncertainty on prior dust activity models. Their research projects that “climate change will increase dust activity in the southern Great Plains from spring to fall in the late half of the twenty-first century – largely due to reduced precipitation, enhanced land surface bareness, and increased surface wind speed.”
In other words, deforestation and the mega-droughts which are increasingly becoming a feature of our changing climate are likely to create conditions ideal for the return of massive dust storms. On the flip side, the researchers projected a decrease in dust activity in the northern Great Plains during the spring due to “increased precipitation and reduced bareness.”