SAN FRANCISCO — Desert order in some parts of the Southwest has grown in recent years in ways that suggest it is expanding, a study says.
The study of the region’s deserts by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley also shows a dramatic decline in the number of desert lakes, which in turn could mean that the region has more moisture than expected.
The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, underscore how climate change, pollution and land use changes are playing out in places that have historically been at the center of global warming.
“There are really many of these lakes that are actually getting drier,” said Matthew W. Schatz, a professor of earth systems science at Stanford who led the study.
“It’s a really unique phenomenon.
We’ve never seen anything like this in the last century.”
The study found that more than half of the area of the Mojave Desert, which includes some of the most biologically rich landscapes in the United States, is now in the process of losing its deserts.
Desperate for moisture, farmers have moved into areas that are already experiencing severe drought.
The authors of the study estimate that a similar trend is happening in other regions, including parts of central Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arizona.
“We’re seeing an intensification of this trend in desert areas,” said study co-author Christopher W. Denton, a researcher at Stanford.
In the past decade, the area covered by deserts has increased by about 10 percent, the researchers said.
Most of the increase in the region came during the Great Recession, when millions of people were forced to flee the Midwest and South to places like the U