The historic melting of ice in the Arctic could portend drier weather 3,000 miles away in the U.S. Southwest, according to some computer models. While those models predicted such climactic shifts decades from now, the unprecedented and unexpected melting of the Arctic could even be influencing the drought in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona today, according to Copley News Service.
While the science to back up such a hypothesis is years away, the conditions on the ground reflect the predictions of the computer model. The only difference is the time scale, with the model predicting these conditions in 2050, not today.
Arctic sea ice retreated to a record minimum extent this summer, and the thickness of more permanent ice also decreased significantly, according to NASA analyses. So much ice melted that the fabled Northwest Passage -- an ice-free shipping route across the top of the world -- opened for the first time in history.
At the same time, the West has been experiencing drought and excessive heat, contributing to a dramatic wildfire season that has claimed more than 8 million acres. While the region is no stranger to drought, the desert and its surroundings are home to an increasingly large population (the fastest growing in the United States) that would be affected by increased drought conditions.
Here's a closer look at drought conditions currently affecting the region, courtesy of the U.S. Drought Monitor:
Color indicates the severity of drought along a gradient, with yellow representing abnormally dry conditions, and red representing "extreme drought" -- the second-highest classification of drought.
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