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We're Already Topping Dust Bowl Temperatures - Imagine What'll Happen if We Fail to Stop 10F Warming

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This heat wave has broken thousands of temperature records. Climate Central reported Saturday, "In many cases, records that had stood since the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s have been equaled or exceeded, and this event is likely to go down in history as one of America's worst."

In general, we expect the greatest number of temperature records to be set during a widespread drought. I explained why that is that the case in my Nature article last year on "The next dust bowl" (full text here):

 Warming causes greater evaporation and, once the ground is dry, the Sun's energy goes into baking the soil, leading to a further increase in air temperature. That is why, for instance, so many temperature records were set for the United States in the 1930s Dust Bowl; and why, in 2011, drought-stricken Texas saw the hottest summer ever recorded for a US state.

Why is this bad news? Because the Earth has warmed only a bit more than 1F since the catastrophic Dust Bowl - and we are poised to warm an astounding 9-11F this century if we stay anywhere near our current greenhouse gas emissions path.

Much as our current monster heat wave has been made worse by human activity (man-made global warming) so too was the Dust Bowl - but in that case it was bad agricultural practices. As NOAA's  discussion of "The Dust Bowl Drought" explains:

The drought came in three waves, 1934, 1936, and 1939-40, but some regions of the High Plains experienced drought conditions for as many as eight years. The "dust bowl" effect was caused by sustained drought conditions compounded by years of land management practices that left topsoil susceptible to the forces of the wind.


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