By William deBuys

With its hovering azure sky and stark landscapes, the yankee Southwest is without doubt one of the such a lot hauntingly attractive areas in the world. but astonishing inhabitants progress, mixed with the intensifying results of weather switch, is riding the oasis-based society just about the edge of a Dust-Bowl-scale catastrophe.

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Additional resources for A great aridness : climate change and the future of the American southwest

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If the air held more water vapor, the sky would whiten overhead, as it does at the horizons, where the light that reaches our eyes has more atmosphere and diffusing vapor to travel through. Overhead the light we see is blue because the gases of the atmosphere allow reds and yellows to pass 18 A Great Aridness unobstructed, but absorb the shorter-wave blue portion of the sun’s spectrum and bounce it around before reflecting it down to us. That’s why the otherwise white sun appears yellow in a blue sky: blues and violets have been subtracted from its light.

So does dust— or, rather, the absence of dust, most of the time—and so does altitude: the higher you go, the bluer the sky. The thread we need to follow here is aridity, and it traces back to the core dynamics that produce the planet’s climate. It leads to laboratories where scientists have undertaken to model global climate and predict its future behavior. What they are learning does not bode well for the North American Southwest, but an understanding of what they have to say may prove vital to the region’s survival.

The first time I saw those two together, that was that eureka moment. ’ Oh, my gosh! The correspondence between these maps was just too striking, at least subjectively at first. I mean, you have to do rigorous statistics to say whether, well, that could have just happened by chance. ” The implication of the correspondence between the actual observed data and the output from the models was that the major twentieth-century regional patterns—things like the ups and downs of precipitation, the drying in the Sahel, and the increasing wetness in the eastern United States—were not random.

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