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CosmosUp | August 18, 2019

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NASA: U.S will Face Historic Megadrought Soon

NASA: U.S will Face Historic Megadrought Soon
Editors

The drought in California, going into its fourth year, has been in the news, especially since California produces much of the country’s food. But a new NASA study, published this week in the journal Science Advances, suggests that the U.S. could be looking at much worse.


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According to this new research there is a good chance that a ‘megadrought’, a drought lasting for several decades causing significant loss of soil moister, may soon be on the way for the Southwest and Central Plains.

“Natural droughts like the 1930s Dust Bowl and the current drought in the Southwest have historically lasted maybe a decade or a little less,” Ben Cook, climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City, and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “What these results are saying is we’re going to get a drought similar to those events, but it is probably going to last at least 30 to 35 years.”



“Nearly every year is going to be dry toward the end of the 21st century compared to what we think of as normal conditions now,” added Benjamin Cook. “We’re going to have to think about a much drier future in western North America.”

NASA’s data-rich study examined the growing rate of emissions of carbon dioxide and complex simulations run by 17 computer models, which all arrived at similar outcomes, according to Cook. The U.S. could see less rain — but the biggest problem will be the heat, which will increase evaporation and dry out the soil.

Kevin Anchukaitis, a climate scientist who was not involved in the study said, “It is rare to see all signs pointing so unwaveringly toward the same result, in this case a highly elevated risk of future megadroughts in the United States.”

The droughts represent events that nobody in the history of the U.S. has ever had to deal with. Even in the modern era, droughts such as the ongoing droughts in California and the Southwest, these normal droughts act as major stressors on water resources in the region. So we expect that with these much longer droughts, it’s going to be even more impactful and cause even more problems for agriculture and ecosystems in the region.
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