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Aridification is the process of a region becoming increasingly arid, or dry. It refers to long term change, [1] rather than seasonal variation.

It is often measured as the reduction of average soil moisture content. It can be caused by natural or anthropogenic means such as climate change, reduced precipitation, increased evaporation, lowering of water tables or changes in ground cover. Its major consequences include reduced agricultural production, soil degradation, ecosystem changes and decreased water catchment runoff. [2]

Aridification affects the Colorado River basin and other parts of western North America. [3]

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Climate Statistics of weather conditions in a given region over long periods

Climate is the long-term weather pattern in an area, typically averaged over 30 years. More rigorously, it is the mean and variability of meteorological variables over a time spanning from months to millions of years. Some of the meteorological variables that are commonly measured are temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, and precipitation. In a broader sense, climate is the state of the components of the climate system, including the ocean, land, and ice on Earth. The climate of a location is affected by its latitude/longitude, terrain, altitude, and nearby water bodies and their currents.

Desertification Process by which fertile areas of land become increasingly arid

Desertification is a type of land degradation in drylands in which biological productivity is lost due to natural processes or induced by human activities whereby fertile areas become increasingly arid. It is the spread of arid areas caused by a variety of factors, such as climate change and overexploitation of soil as a result of human activity.

Drought Extended period of deficiency in a regions water supply

A drought is an event of prolonged shortages in the water supply, whether atmospheric, surface water or ground water. A drought can last for months or years, or may be declared after as few as 15 days. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region and harm to the local economy. Annual dry seasons in the tropics significantly increase the chances of a drought developing and subsequent bush fires. Periods of heat can significantly worsen drought conditions by hastening evaporation of water vapour.

Soil Mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that together support life

Soil is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that together support life. Earth's body of soil, called the pedosphere, has four important functions:

Soil erosion Displacement of soil by water, wind, and lifeforms

Soil erosion is the displacement of the upper layer of soil; it is a form of soil degradation. This natural process is caused by the dynamic activity of erosive agents, that is, water, ice (glaciers), snow, air (wind), plants, and animals. In accordance with these agents, erosion is sometimes divided into water erosion, glacial erosion, snow erosion, wind (aeolean) erosion, zoogenic erosion and anthropogenic erosion such as tillage erosion. Soil erosion may be a slow process that continues relatively unnoticed, or it may occur at an alarming rate causing a serious loss of topsoil. The loss of soil from farmland may be reflected in reduced crop production potential, lower surface water quality and damaged drainage networks. Soil erosion could also cause sinkholes.

Pedogenesis is the process of soil formation as regulated by the effects of place, environment, and history. Biogeochemical processes act to both create and destroy order (anisotropy) within soils. These alterations lead to the development of layers, termed soil horizons, distinguished by differences in color, structure, texture, and chemistry. These features occur in patterns of soil type distribution, forming in response to differences in soil forming factors.

Great Basin Desert Desert in the western United States

The Great Basin Desert is part of the Great Basin between the Sierra Nevada and the Wasatch Range. The desert is a geographical region that largely overlaps the Great Basin shrub steppe defined by the World Wildlife Fund, and the Central Basin and Range ecoregion defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and United States Geological Survey. It is a temperate desert with hot, dry summers and snowy winters. The desert spans a large part of the state of Nevada and extends into western Utah, eastern California, and Idaho. The desert is one of the four biologically defined deserts in North America, in addition to the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan Deserts.

Dryland farming Techniques for non-irrigated farming when it is normally required

Dryland farming and dry farming encompass specific agricultural techniques for the non-irrigated cultivation of crops. Dryland farming is associated with drylands, areas characterized by a cool wet season followed by a warm dry season. They are also associated with arid conditions, areas prone to drought and those having scarce water resources.

Environmental degradation Any change or disturbance to the environment perceived to be deleterious or undesirable

Environmental degradation is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as quality of air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems; habitat destruction; the extinction of wildlife; and pollution. It is defined as any change or disturbance to the environment perceived to be deleterious or undesirable.

Sierra Madre Occidental Mountain range along the Pacific coast of Mexico

The Sierra Madre Occidental is a major mountain range system of the North American Cordillera, that runs northwest–southeast through northwestern and western Mexico, and along the Gulf of California. The Sierra Madre is part of the American Cordillera, a chain of mountain ranges (cordillera) that consists of an almost continuous sequence of mountain ranges that form the western 'sounds' of North America, Central America, South America and West Antarctica.

Land degradation Process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by human-induced processes

Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by a combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land. It is viewed as any change or disturbance to the land perceived to be deleterious or undesirable. Natural hazards are excluded as a cause; however human activities can indirectly affect phenomena such as floods and bush fires.

Ecohydrology is an interdisciplinary scientific field studying the interactions between water and ecological systems. It is considered a sub discipline of hydrology, with an ecological focus. These interactions may take place within water bodies, such as rivers and lakes, or on land, in forests, deserts, and other terrestrial ecosystems. Areas of research in ecohydrology include transpiration and plant water use, adaption of organisms to their water environment, influence of vegetation and benthic plants on stream flow and function, and feedbacks between ecological processes, the soil carbon sponge and the hydrological cycle.

Water content Quantity of water contained in a material

Water content or moisture content is the quantity of water contained in a material, such as soil, rock, ceramics, crops, or wood. Water content is used in a wide range of scientific and technical areas, and is expressed as a ratio, which can range from 0 to the value of the materials' porosity at saturation. It can be given on a volumetric or mass (gravimetric) basis.

Biological soil crust

Biological soil crusts are communities of living organisms on the soil surface in arid and semi-arid ecosystems. They are found throughout the world with varying species composition and cover depending on topography, soil characteristics, climate, plant community, microhabitats, and disturbance regimes. Biological soil crusts perform important ecological roles including carbon fixation, nitrogen fixation and soil stabilization; they alter soil albedo and water relations and affect germination and nutrient levels in vascular plants. They can be damaged by fire, recreational activity, grazing and other disturbances and can require long time periods to recover composition and function. Biological soil crusts are also known as biocrusts or as cryptogamic, microbiotic, microphytic, or cryptobiotic soils.

Groundwater recharge Groundwater that recharges an aquifer

Groundwater recharge or deep drainage or deep percolation is a hydrologic process, where water moves downward from surface water to groundwater. Recharge is the primary method through which water enters an aquifer. This process usually occurs in the vadose zone below plant roots and, is often expressed as a flux to the water table surface. Groundwater recharge also encompasses water moving away from the water table farther into the saturated zone. Recharge occurs both naturally and through anthropogenic processes, where rainwater and or reclaimed water is routed to the subsurface.

4.2-kiloyear event Severe climatic event starting around 2200 BC

The 4.2-kiloyear BP aridification event was one of the most severe climatic events of the Holocene epoch. It defines the beginning of the current Meghalayan age in the Holocene epoch.

Geography of Australia Geographic features of Australia

The geography of Australia encompasses a wide variety of biogeographic regions being the world's smallest continent, while comprising the territory of the sixth-largest country in the world. The population of Australia is concentrated along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. The geography of the continent is extremely diverse, ranging from the snow-capped mountains of the Australian Alps and Tasmania to large deserts, tropical and temperate forests, grasslands, heathlands and woodlands.

Desert Area of land where little precipitation occurs

A desert is a barren area of landscape where little precipitation occurs and, consequently, living conditions are hostile for plant and animal life. The lack of vegetation exposes the unprotected surface of the ground to the processes of denudation. About one-third of the land surface of the Earth is arid or semi-arid. This includes much of the polar regions, where little precipitation occurs, and which are sometimes called polar deserts or "cold deserts". Deserts can be classified by the amount of precipitation that falls, by the temperature that prevails, by the causes of desertification or by their geographical location.

Ustic Soil type

Ustic is a class of soil moisture regime. It is one of a range of different soil moisture regimes, such as: aquic moisture regime, aridic moisture regime, udic moisture regime and xeric moisture regime. The ustic moisture regime is intermediate between the aridic regime and the udic regime.

Southwestern North American megadrought

The southwestern North American megadrought is a megadrought in the southwestern region of North America (SWNA) that began in 2000 and was ongoing as of 2022. This megadrought was the driest 22-year period since at least 800 and, if it persists through 2022, will match the duration of the severe late-1500s megadrought. The megadrought has prompted the declaration of a water shortage at Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States. Climate change models project drier conditions in the region through the end of the 21st century, though climate change mitigation may avoid the most extreme impacts.


  1. Heidari, Hadi; Arabi, Mazdak; Warziniack, Travis; Kao, Shih-Chieh (2020). "Assessing Shifts in Regional Hydroclimatic Conditions of U.S. River Basins in Response to Climate Change over the 21st Century". Earth's Future. 8 (10): e2020EF001657. doi: 10.1029/2020EF001657 . ISSN   2328-4277.
  2. "GLASOD Classification of Soil Degradation" (PDF). United Nations ESCAP. February 2000. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2019-09-04.
  3. University of Michigan (May 19, 2020). "But it's a dry heat: Climate change and the aridification of North America". Science Daily. Retrieved August 16, 2021. Journal Reference: Jonathan T. Overpeck and Bradley Udall. Climate change and the aridification of North America. PNAS, 2020 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2006323117