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Dust Storm Marks Beginning of Southwest's "Permanent Drought"

A massive dust storm has swept into the Phoenix area and drastically reduced visibility across the valley.

The wall of dust moved across the desert from the south on Tuesday and descended on the valley by nightfall. KSAZ-TV reported the storm appeared to be roughly 50 miles wide.

A 2-mile high, 50-mile wide Dust Storm enveloped Phoenix yesterday.  Tonight, on NBC (video here), Brian Williams called it “The Dust Storm that Swallowed Up an American City.”

Back in April, the USGS released a report on Dust-Bowlification that concluded drier conditions were projected to accelerate dust storms in the U.S. Southwest.  In large parts of Texas and Oklahoma now,  the drought is more intense than it was during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

In 2007, Science (subs. req’d) published research that “predicted a permanent drought by 2050 throughout the Southwest” — levels of aridity comparable to the 1930s Dust Bowl would stretch from Kansas to California.  Last year, a comprehensive literature review, “Drought under global warming: a review,” by NCAR found that we risk multiple, devastating global droughts worse than the Dust Bowl even on moderate emissions path.  Another study found the U.S. southwest could see a 60-year drought this century.

So the monster dust storm — a haboob — that hit Phoenix is just the shape of things to come for the entire Southwest. Something future generations can thank us for again and again for a long, long, long time:  NOAA: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe.

Joseph Romm's picture

Thank Joseph for the Post!

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Amelia Timbers's picture
Amelia Timbers on Jul 8, 2011 8:54 pm GMT

Lolz. Well, Romm aside, this weather pattern for the Southwest has been predicted in spades as a near term consequence of global warming.

Amelia Timbers's picture
Amelia Timbers on Jul 9, 2011 6:29 am GMT

Luckily, TEC has had lots of writing on this topic. I’ll dig some up for you

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