In spite of political disagreements and the controversy associated with climate change, four university experts staged an online press conference last week to highlight their conclusions connecting drought to climate change as compiled in the recent National Climate Assessment Southwest Report.

According to that report, not only is the changing climate a contributing factor to the current drought, but with the current effects and future outlook for dry weather, conditions are forecast to intensify as a result of higher temperatures caused by the warming climate.

Meteorologist is not optimistic about Southwest weather.

Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwest United States is one of a series of regional reports prepared for the 2013 National Climate Assessment. It is a landmark study in terms of its breadth and depth of coverage.

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The report is coordinated by the Southwest Climate Alliance, a consortium of researchers affiliated with the NOAA Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments in the Southwest, specifically, the California–Nevada Applications Program, Climate Assessment for the Southwest, Western Water Assessment and the Department of the Interior Southwest Climate Science Center.

The report blends the contributions of 120 experts in climate science, economics, ecology, engineering, geography, hydrology, planning, resource management, and other disciplines to provide the most comprehensive and understandable, analysis to date about climate and its effects on the people and landscapes of the Southwest.

During last week's press conference, scientists and economists from Nevada, California, Kansas and Arizona stressed the importance of recognizing the drought’s connection to climate change, particularly its implications for local water supplies, agricultural productivity and long-term changes in land use across the West and Southwest. Without exception, each of the participating scientists agreed that higher average temperatures caused by a warming climate are making the current drought a record-breaking event.

"Western and Southwestern states are feeling the effects of reduced water supply, and these are the types of scenarios expected under climate change conditions," said Dr. Thomas Piechota, Interim Vice President for Research, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and lead author on the National Climate Assessment Southwest report. "Nevada now has clear indications of drought, and this extends to varying extents to the Colorado River basin and across the region. These are the type of conditions that the National Climate Assessment report characterized, and as snowpack and streamflow amounts continue to decline we will see decreased water supply for cities, agriculture and ecosystems."

Nearly 97 percent of Nevada is experiencing drought, with nine counties in Nevada declared disaster areas. The federal government has declared parts of 10 other western and central states as natural disaster areas because of the drought: California, Arizona, Kansas, Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Oklahoma and Colorado. Oregon, while not in the 11-state region of drought emergencies, also has severe drought conditions.