Reduction in Carbon Uptake During Turn of the Century Drought

Clark University’s Christopher Williams trained as a land surface hydrologist and terrestrial ecosystem ecologist.  Clark University’s website reports on his work:

“Chris investigates how earth’s biosphere responds to natural and human perturbations such as severe drought events, bark beetle outbreaks, fires, harvesting, and land cover changes.”

“In normal climate conditions North America absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, serving as an offset to anthropogenic, or human-produced, carbon emissions.  Our study shows how this typical carbon uptake was severely impaired by a large-scale and persistent drought striking western North America from 2000 to 2004.”

Williams noted, “The event was truly extreme, not only relative to the climate of recent decades but also when compared to climate reconstructed over the past 1000 years. Those longer-term records indicate that the 2000 to 2004 drought was the most severe region-wide event of its kind in the past 800 years.”

Williams added that climate models are pointing to a continued trend toward a warmer planet. Global circulation patterns are expected to shift in a way that would create drier conditions across western North America, expanding the region that is already chronically dry and making today’s drought conditions the new normal. If this comes to pass, he said, not only would carbon uptake be severely reduced, it also would trigger a whole host of significant water resource challenges, especially difficult for a region already subject to frequent water shortages.

November 25, 2013
Speaker Series videos