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In a stark new report, a team of NOAA and independent researchers found the 2020-2021 drought across the Southwest is the worst in the instrumental record, which dates to 1895.

Why it matters: They also concluded that global warming is making it far more severe, primarily by increasing average temperatures, which boosts evaporation.

State of play: The Southwest is facing historic water woes, with the first-ever federal water shortage declaration at Lake Mead, the nation's largest reservoir by surface volume.

  • This triggered cutbacks in Colorado River water allocations to Arizona and other states, a waterway that 40 million people rely on for irrigation and drinking water.
  • A dangerous wildfire scenario continues to play out, especially in California, where the Dixie Fire is now the state's second-largest on record, approaching the rare category of a "gigafire," by charring at least 1 million acres.
  • The report found that the 20-month period from January 2020 to August 2021 was the driest such period on record, as well as the third-warmest.

Threat level: The study ties the heat directly to climate change, and warns the severity of such drought events is sure to worsen barring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Higher temperatures cause spring snowpack to disappear early and accelerates the drying of soils.

The big picture: The drought is occurring in the context of the first climate change-induced "megadrought," which research shows began in 2000 and is exceptional on millennial timescales, study co-author Justin S. Mankin of Dartmouth University, told Axios.

Go deeper

NOAA is raising its climate profile, its head says

The Nation Hurricane Center in Miami. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images

Richard W. Spinrad is the first Senate-confirmed administrator of NOAA in five years, which has its advantages in Washington.

What they're saying: “That immediately gets doors open and gets me access,” Spinrad told Axios in an interview following an interagency climate and equity roundtable in Detroit on Tuesday.

Biden: "Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been"

President Biden speaks during the 40th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S Capitolon Oct. 16. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden speaking at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday honored members of law enforcement who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 2021 and saluted those who are currently serving.

Driving the news: "We expect everything of you, and it's beyond the capacity of anyone to meet the total expectations. Being a cop today is one hell of a lot harder than it's ever been," Biden said.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.