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Southwest U.S. could face 35-year 'megadrought'

"This will be worse than anything seen during the last 2,000 years and would pose unprecedented challenges to water resources in the region," Toby Ault said.
By Brooks Hays   |   Aug. 29, 2014 at 4:29 PM
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ITHICA, N.Y., Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Much of the Southwest United States, the next century could feature a drought that lasts several decades -- or what climate scientists call a megadrought, one that lasts 35 years. By comparison, the Dust Bowl, which decimated farms in the 1930s, lasted less than eight years.

According to a new study, there is at least a 50 percent chance that most of the Southwest will face a decade-long drought at some point in the next 100 years. And the chance that states like Arizona, California and New Mexico will suffer a megadrought, researchers say, lies somewhere between 20 to 50 percent. For some portions of the region, the chance of a decade-long drought is as high as 90 percent.

The probabilities are based on new climate change models developed by researcher Toby Ault. Ault, an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric science at Cornell, augmented current models with paleoclimate and instrumental data. His efforts were assisted by scientists from Arizona and the U.S. Geological Survey.

"This will be worse than anything seen during the last 2,000 years and would pose unprecedented challenges to water resources in the region," Ault said in a press release.

Much of the Western United States is currently suffering severe drought. Land is so parched, in fact, that recent studies showed it's rising.

Ault's research was recently detailed in the Journal of Climate, put out by the American Meteorological Society.

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