The southwestern United States and the Great Plains could see three-decade megadroughts in the second half of this century, making the current four-year drought in California look like an opening act, according to a research team from NASA and Cornell and Columbia universities.
“If the current pace of climate change continues unabated,” the Washington Post reports, parts of the country can expect “major water shortages and conditions that dry out vegetation, which can lead to monster wildfires in southern Arizona and parts of California.”
“We really need to start thinking in longer-term horizons about how we’re going to manage it,” said co-author Toby Ault of Cornell. “This is a slow-moving natural hazard that humans are used to dealing with and used to managing.”
Natural weather changes in the 12th and 13th centuries created a 10% chance that megadroughts would occur in North America, Fears writes. “Based on climate models the researchers used for the study, there is an 80% chance that such an extended drought will strike between 2050 and 2099, unless world governments act aggressively to mitigate impacts from climate change.”