From Charlemagne to Climate Change:

The current water woes of the American Southwest and its arid future

Dr. Jason E. Smerdon

Lamont Research Professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Co-Director of the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development, Earth Institute
Co-Senior Director for Education at the Columbia Climate School


Lily Jamali

JRN'07, Senior reporter, NPR's Marketplace

This is not a drill, or a far-flung fantasy; Southwestern US is facing a critical megadrought. The last two decades have been the driest since 800 CE, and pioneering studies by Columbia Scientists and other institutions have proven that the anthropogenic impact on the climate is a major contributing factor. The water level at the region's two largest reservoirs is at a record low, resulting in contention between seven states and millions of their residents for their diminishing share of hydroelectric power as well as agricultural and residential water demand. This is especially daunting in anticipation of the hottest period of the summer.

Please join this special session as Prof. Jason E. Smerdon, one of the authors of the recent groundbreaking article in Nature Climate Change about this megadrought discusses the unfolding crisis, its trajectory, its economic toll, and its impact on sustainability of life in the region.

Time will be allocated for Q&A.

Cosponsored by:
  • Columbia University Club of New York

Jason E. Smerdon is a Lamont Research Professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. He also holds appointments at Columbia University as an Earth Institute Faculty Member and as Co-Director of the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development. He teaches courses on climate, environmental change and sustainable development to undergraduate and graduate students. Smerdon also lectures widely in public and private settings on the subject of climate change and its social dimensions.

Smerdon’s research focuses on climate variability and change during the past several millennia and how past climates can help us understand future climate change. He publishes widely in the scientific literature on paleoclimate reconstruction techniques, the dynamics of past climate change and variability, and on assessing climate model simulations of the past and future using paleoclimatic information. In 2013, Smerdon served as a Contributing Author to Assessment Report Five (WG1) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He is co-author (with Ed Mathez) of the textbook Climate Change: The Science of Global Warming and Our Energy Future (Columbia University Press, September 2018).

Smerdon received his B.A. in physics from Gustavus Adolphus College and his Ph.D. in applied physics from the University of Michigan.

Lily Jamali is a senior reporter covering business and the economy at American Public Media's Marketplace, airing on hundreds of NPR stations across the country. Prior to Marketplace, Lily spent three years as co-host and correspondent at KQED’s The California Report. While at KQED, she closely followed and routinely broke exclusive stories about PG&E’s bankruptcy. Lily has also worked as an anchor for Bloomberg TV Canada, reporter and producer at Reuters TV in New York and San Francisco, and as a freelance foreign correspondent in Central and South Asia, and Latin America.

Lily holds a Master’s degree from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, an M.B.A. in Finance from New York University’s Stern School of Business, and a Bachelor’s degree in English from UCLA. This year, she was part of the KQED/California Newsroom team honored as finalist for the Scripps Howard Award and an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. Her investigations have won top honors from the Association of Business Writers (SABEW) and the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal chapter. She was also part of the KQED/California Newsroom team that won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for continuing coverage.


August 02, 2022 at 6:30pm - 8pm


Washington, DC
United States

Miyako Yerick


Will you come?