Utah is in for longer, worse droughts than ever

>> Monday, April 23, 2007

Another article I found in the Salt Lake Times

"Drought in Utah: Learning from the Past — Preparing for the Future" was issued this month by the state's Division of Water Resources. A dozen experts from the division prepared the document, with Brian King as the primary author.

The report emphasizes the need to diversify water supplies in order to mitigate future droughts. It praises Salt Lake City for taking such measures, ensuring a reliable supply.

"Drought can never fully be mitigated and an element of 'coping' or 'living with drought' will always exist," it points out. But action can lessen the severity of coming dry cycles.

A surprising finding is that for more than a century, Utah has enjoyed an unusually stable climate.

That is the same period during which many scientists have claimed human-caused global warming has accelerated. But whether this phenomenon — if it actually exists — missed Utah or its effects aren't fully felt yet in the Beehive State — or if it is actually beneficial to the state — the fact remains that the past 111 years of instrumented weather records show unusually good water supply.

Dendrochronology, the study of tree rings, lays out tangible evidence of year-by-year weather conditions stretching back more than 2,000 years.

The width of tree rings, reflecting trees' yearly growth, tell of wet or dry conditions.

"Analysis of this record indicates that many droughts, before the advent of the instrumental record, were more severe, more frequent and impacted larger areas," the report states.

"On average, drought contained in the reconstructed ... record (roughly 1,900 years before the instrumental record) was approximately 10.9 years in length compared to the average drought duration of 6.8 years during the last 111 years (instrumental record)."


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