You ain’t seen nothing yet: Western states face decades-long megadroughts

“Megadroughts” that last for decades are threatening to strike already parched Western U.S. states by the end of the century, a new study finds, with one model predicting that a drought lasting about 35 years may be a “near certainty.”

A megadrought would bring back the devastating dustbowl conditions of the 1930s to California, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado, but would last for a much longer period of time, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

“Using a combination of temperature and precipitation models,” the Guardian reports, “the study predicts a 70 percent chance of a megadrought by the end of the century, should rainfall levels remain the same, with a 90 percent chance of an elongated drought should rainfall decrease, as most climate models forecast.”

“We can’t rule out there could be a 99.9 percent chance of a megadrought, which makes it virtually certain,” Toby Ault, a scientist at Cornell University and lead author of the study, told the Guardian.

“A megadrought occurring again in the Southwest in the coming decades would impose unprecedented stresses on water resources of the region, and recent studies have shown that they are far more likely to occur this century because of climate change compared to past centuries,” write the study authors, scientists from Cornell University, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Indeed, California’s six-year-long drought has already changed the landscape, according to the Guardian: “Areas of the Sierras have burned a few times and the forests aren’t recruiting back, they are turning into grasslands and bush lands,” Mark Schwartz, professor of environmental science at the University of California, told the newspaper.

Full article: You ain’t seen nothing yet: Western states face decades-long megadroughts (Intellihub)

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