On hurricanes and drought (sub. req.):
The same global forces that unleashed Katrina on New Orleans may be quietly sapping the West of its water.
Drought and hurricanes seem to go hand-in-hand, said Julio Betancourt, a drought researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey in Tucson.
Betancourt is among a growing number of researchers pointing to a warming Atlantic as the guilty party. Already implicated in a burst of increased hurricane activity since the mid-1990s, the Atlantic is now being fingered as a suspect in western droughts.
But while the dramatic arrival of a hurricane is hard to ignore, drought has a way of quietly creeping in, said University of New Mexico scientist Lou Scuderi.
“Droughts— they’re just sort of there,” Scuderi said. “They’re persistent.”
The most recent piece of evidence comes from a team of scientists studying repeated multiyear droughts in the upper Colorado River basin— water supply to much of the western United States.
When the Atlantic warms— as it began to do in the mid-1990s— the Colorado River tends to dwindle, said Denver-based U.S. Geological Survey climate researcher Gregory McCabe.