During historic time, inhabitants of the Great Plains have experienced a succession of climatically driven cycles of economic boom and bust. Drought has been the primary driver of bad times because of its impact on water supplies, crops, and grazing land. In addition, prolonged droughts have set the stage for massive wind erosion and huge dust storms. With or without global warming, droughts will continue to occur and will affect the economy and social fabric of the region. Droughts cannot be prevented, but an improved understanding of their causes and effects can provide a basis for planning that will minimize negative impacts on society.
The period during which meteorological data have been recorded in eastern Colorado is far too short to encompass the full range of variability possible under the present climate. An understanding of the long-term pattern of climate change is required to plan for changes that are likely to occur in the near future and to anticipate the effects that these changes will have on humans and the environment. This map is part of a U.S. Geological Survey project, the purpose of which is to determine the range of climate variability possible on the western Great Plains in the 21st century and to achieve a better understanding of the effects of slight changes in climate on dune reactivation, dust-storm generation, water supplies, land use, and wildlife habitat.
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