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Southwest US faces megadrought

  • Written by  Tom Hart
  • Published in Climate
Southwest US faces megadrought Shutterstock
01 Oct
2014
Scientists at Cornell University have predicted that the US Southwest faces a 20–50 per cent chance of experiencing a decades-long ‘megadrought’ this century

This August California experienced an exceptional drought, while Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas experienced moderate to exceptional droughts. ‘With ongoing climate change, this is a glimpse of things to come. It’s a preview of our future,’ said study co-author Toby Ault, an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell.

A megadrought in the region could last up to 30 years. ‘The West and Southwest must look for mitigation strategies to counter megadroughts,’ said Ault. ‘This will be worse than anything seen during the last 2,000 years and would pose unprecedented challenges to water resources in the region.’ These are conservative predictions, according to the study.

Computer models generated for the study show that California, Arizona and New Mexico are most at risk from a megadrought. ‘These results help us take the long view of future risk in the Southwest – and the picture is not pretty,’ said study co-author Professor Julia Cole. ‘We hope this opens up new discussions about how to best use and conserve the precious water we have.’

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