The need for water in the West will continue unless emissions are curbed.

Written by on September 30, 2021

(SILVER SPRING, Md.) — The thirst for water in the Western U.S. will likely not be quenched in the near future.

Drought conditions are expected to persist in the West, which is already amid a decades-long megadrought, through 2022 and beyond, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s drought outlook.

The drought will remain the worst from California to the Northern Plains, according to the report.

Precipitation totals in the Southwest over the 20 months from January 2020 and August 2021 are the lowest on record since at least 1895, according to the report. The 2021 to 2022 winter season is forecast to be drier than average.

The megadrought that’s plaguing much of the West is a direct consequence of climate change, experts have told ABC News.

The new NOAA report did not outright blame warming temperatures across the globe for the regional drought, but stated the drought is occurring due to “successive seasons of below average precipitation that appear to have come from natural, but unfavorable, variables in the atmosphere.”

NOAA scientists did concede that continued greenhouse gas emissions will exacerbate drought conditions in the Southwest and that “increasing atmospheric demand for water” will only end if human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.

“Continued warming of the U.S Southwest due to greenhouse gas emissions will make even randomly occurring seasons of average- to below-average precipitation a potential drought trigger and intensify droughts beyond what would be expected from rainfall or snowpack deficits alone,” the report stated.

La Nina is expected to develop in the coming months will bring some relief to the drought in the Pacific Northwest, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has announced.

While the impacts from La Nina can vary and be hard to predict, it typically brings drier than average conditions across the southern U.S., including parts of the Southwest, and above average rain conditions in the Pacific Northwest, especially along the coast, which could help to alleviate drought conditions there.

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