Distinguished Lecture Series: Dr. Benjamin Cook
Title: (The past and future of drought in the Western United States)
Abstract: The Western US has recently experienced several record breaking droughts that have had substantial impacts on water resources, agriculture, and ecosystems in the region. Climate change is expected to increase drought risk and severity through both localized precipitation declines and more widespread warming that will reduce the winter snowpack and increase evaporative losses. These impacts and mechanisms have already begun to manifest during the most recent events, and the effects of climate change have already been detected for droughts over California, the Pacific Northwest, and the Upper Colorado River Basin. Critically, continued warming in the future is expected to further increase drought risk in the Western US, with future events likely to eclipse even the worst multi-decadal megadroughts of the Medieval Climate Anomaly. Future drought impacts on ecosystems and people are likely to be more complex, however, depending on a variety of social, biological, and physical factors that are, at present, incompletely resolved.
Bio: Benjamin Cook is a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, specializing in the study of drought and climate change. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Virginia in 2007 and was awarded a NOAA Global Change Postdoctoral fellowship from 2007-2009. His work has contribute to a variety of drought topics, including the North America megadroughts of the Medieval Era, the Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s, the impact of climate change on the recent drought in California, and wine harvest sensitivity to drought and temperature. His book, "Drought: An Interdisciplinary Perspective”, will be published by Columbia University Press in 2018.