Scientists say Southwestern U.S. now faces 50 percent chance of decades-long 'megadrought'

Scientists say Southwestern U.S. now faces 50 percent chance of decades-long 'megadrought'
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Scientists warn in a new study that there is a 50 percent chance of a 30-year "megadrought" suffocating the Southwest, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The study from Cornell University, the University of Arizona, and the U.S. Geological Survey will be published in the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate next month. Scientists used climate model projections to determine which areas the conditions would most affect (New Mexico, Arizona, and California appear to be the states most likely to suffer from extreme drought; Australia, southern Africa, and parts of the Amazon could also face such harsh conditions). The resulting megadrought would produce conditions not seen since the 1930s Dust Bowl era, scientists say, and they cautioned governments to heed the findings and begin creating contingency plans in the event of shrinking water resources.

The study's lead author noted that the projections are not certain, but that if climate change continues at its current rate, the drought affecting the Southwest could become much worse.

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"I am not trying to say this is imminent," Toby Ault, assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell, said. "But the risk is high."

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