A new study published in the forthcoming issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate suggests that the American Southwest faces at least a 50 percent chance of a decade-long drought. Moreover, the possibility of a “megadrought” lasting up to 35 years has a likelihood between 20 and 50 percent.
“For the southwestern U.S., I’m not optimistic about avoiding real megadroughts,” Toby Ault, Cornell assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and lead author of the paper, told the Cornell Chronicle.
“As we add greenhouse gases into the atmosphere — and we haven’t put the brakes on stopping this — we are weighting the dice for megadrought.”
As of August 12, most of California is suffering what is considered an “exceptional drought,” while “Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas loiter in a substantially less severe D1 moderate drought,” reports The Chronicle.
The possibility of a long-term drought is expected to pose serious problems for the region’s widespread agriculture.
“This will be worse than anything seen during the last 2,000 years and would pose unprecedented challenges to water resources in the region,” said Ault.