Atmospheric conditions and human actions combined to drive the 1930s megadrought
Farms failed and livestock starved in the central United States during the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s. The event was not just the region’s worst dry spell in modern memory — it was the worst in North America over the past millennium, researchers report in Geophysical Research Letters.
“Not only did 1934 [the first year of the Dust Bowl] stand out in terms of extent and intensity, but it was the worst by a fair margin,” says Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and a co-author of the study. The drought takes its name from a period in April 1934, when winds blew dust from the US Great Plains as far east as North Carolina and as far south as Florida.
Cook and his colleagues used the North American Drought Atlas, a 2,005-year record derived from tree-ring chronologies that reconstructs drought and precipitation patterns. They found that the 1934 drought covered more than 70% of western North America and was 30% more intense than the second most severe drought in the region, which happened in 1580.
Keep reading this article in Nature.