90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Mega-Droughts In Our Future

Could devastating mega-droughts – some lasting decades – be the new normal in big parts of the United States? We’ll look at the forecast.

In this Aug. 3, 2012 photo, Tony Frost, of Frost Farms, surveys a pond in the cattle pasture that serves as the water source for his cattle that has nearly dried up in Tallula, Ill. After months of drought, the central Illinois creeks and ponds that the 300 cows and calves drink from on the farm are dry or close to it. Frost has to buy and haul water, about 4,000 gallons a day, split up in four trips to different pastures. (AP)

In this Aug. 3, 2012 photo, Tony Frost, of Frost Farms, surveys a pond in the cattle pasture that serves as the water source for his cattle that has nearly dried up in Tallula, Ill. After months of drought, the central Illinois creeks and ponds that the 300 cows and calves drink from on the farm are dry or close to it. Frost has to buy and haul water, about 4,000 gallons a day, split up in four trips to different pastures. (AP)

We need to sit and really think a bit about this summer’s extremely widespread record heat and drought. We’d like to think it will come and go. Of course we would.

But history shows us that’s not always the way things work. The five-year drought in the American West that began the last decade was the worst in 800 years. Eight hundred!

Scientists are talking about this century shaping up as a very likely century of mega-drought. With profound implications for crops, forests, water – for how and where we live. This hour, On Point: what if drought is here to stay?

- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Christopher Williams, professor of geography at Clark University.

Richard Seager, professor at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

Michael Wehner, staff scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times “By many measurements, this summer’s drought is one for the record books. But so was last year’s drought in the South Central states. And it has been only a decade since an extreme five-year drought hit the American West. Widespread annual droughts, once a rare calamity, have become more frequent and are set to become the ‘new normal.’

Reuters “Light showers and cooler temperatures forecast for the next week will bring welcome relief to drought-stressed corn and soybean crops in the U.S. Midwest but serious damage has already been done to crops, an agricultural meteorologist said on Monday.”

CNN “President Obama is calling on Congress to pass a bill to help farmers respond to the nation’s intense drought, saying, ‘Too many Americans are suffering right now to let politics get in the way.’ ”

CBS “Dire fire conditions, like the inferno of heat, turbulence, and fuel that recently turned 346 homes in Colorado Springs to ash, are now common in the West. A lethal combination of drought, insect plagues, windstorms, and legions of dead, dying, or stressed-out trees constitute what some pundits are calling wildfire’s ‘perfect storm.’ ”

 

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Apr 1, 2015
In this Dec. 19, 2014 file photo, oil pump jacks work in unison, in Williston, N.D. The number of drill rigs in western North Dakota's oil patch has slipped to a five-year low with the falling price of oil.  (AP)

American energy production at a time of low oil prices. Oil, gas, wind, solar. And what the changed oil price landscape means.

Apr 1, 2015
Characters and logo from BabyFirstTV , a television and digital entertainment group specifically targeting infants and babies younger than two years old. (BabyFirstTV / Facebook)

A new network aimed exclusively at infants and toddlers. We weigh the impact.

RECENT
SHOWS
Mar 31, 2015
Jazz icon Billie Holiday performs in New York City's Club Downbeat in February 1947.  (Library of Congress / Creative Commons)

A meditation on the life and music of Billie Holiday. The lady who sang the blues.

 
Mar 31, 2015
Some of the hundreds of people who gathered outside the Indiana Statehouse on Saturday, March 28, 2015, for a rally against legislation signed Thursday by Gov. Mike Pence stand on the Statehouse's south steps during the 2-hour-long rally. (AP)

Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Critics call it anti-gay. Business leaders say bad for the economy. The governor’s not backing down. We’ll dive in.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: March 27, 2015
Friday, Mar 27, 2015

More on the incessant email debate, plus some goats living their best lives and the sad allure of Manhattan’s shuttered Pommes Frites.

More »
2 Comments
 
Mobile Payments Offer Convenience If You Keep Your Email Safe
Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Thinking about moving your wallet to your phone? You can! And maybe you should? But TechCrunch senior writer Josh Constine has a few things to tell you before you do.

More »
1 Comment
 
Using Technology To Get Your Kids Outside
Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

The latest and greatest — using apps to make natural exploration more fun for your kids.

More »
Comment