Letters and Politics

The West Without Water

B. Lynn Ingram is Professor of Geography and Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Frances Malamud-Roam is an Associate Environmental Planner and Biologist at Caltrans, and visiting scholar in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science at the University of California, Berkeley. They co-wrote The West without Water: What Past Floods, Droughts, and Other Climatic Clues Tell Us about Tomorrow.

About the book:

The West without Water documents the tumultuous climate of the American West over twenty millennia, with tales of past droughts and deluges and predictions about the impacts of future climate change on water resources. Looking at the region’s current water crisis from the perspective of its climate history, the authors ask the central question of what is “normal” climate for the West, and whether the relatively benign climate of the past century will continue into the future.

The West without Water merges climate and paleoclimate research from a wide variety of sources as it introduces readers to key discoveries in cracking the secrets of the region’s climatic past. It demonstrates that extended droughts and catastrophic floods have plagued the West with regularity over the past two millennia and recounts the most disastrous flood in the history of California and the West, which occurred in 1861–62. The authors show that, while the West may have temporarily buffered itself from such harsh climatic swings by creating artificial environments and human landscapes, our modern civilization may be ill-prepared for the future climate changes that are predicted to beset the region. They warn that it is time to face the realities of the past and prepare for a future in which fresh water may be less reliable.

 

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