The Western part of the United Stated will be facing the worst droughts in the last 1000 years due to climate change, scientists say.
According to a new study published on Thursday Feb. 12 in the journal of Science Advances, almost every year of the final part of the 21st century will be dry in comparison to the present conditions. Benjamin Cook, an atmospheric scientist at NASA and lead author of the study considers that we might need to “think about a much drier future in western North America”.
According to the study, a wave of intense droughts, the worst in the last 1,000 years are expected to take over the Southwest and Central Plains after 2050 and remain for a good period of time. There is an 80% probability that these “megadroughts” will last even 35 years, more than then 1930s Dust Bowl which lasted 30 years.
The research was conducted by studying the gradually increasing emissions of carbon dioxide and by running the data through 17 computer models. The research aimed such regions as California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, most of Iowa, the southern part of Minnesota, western Missouri, the western part of Arkansas and northwestern Louisiana.
Scientists also compared their data with the information given by tree rings. The Southwest and Central Plains have been faced with megadroughts in the past, somewhere between the 1100s and 1200s. These too lasted a couple of decades but were “natural”. The megadroughts that Cook foresees are a result of climate change.
Due to these environmental changes, rain will get less frequent in the Southwest. But the biggest issue is the rise in temperature levels which will increase evaporation and so dry out the soil which then leads to further increase in temperature. So, a vicious cycle forms.
It was already known that due to the changes in weather and climate, the probability of more frequent droughts in the future was high but, according to Jonathan Overpeck, co-director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona, this recent study shows that things will be more dramatic than initially estimated.
He added that “These results are not surprising, but are eye-opening nonetheless”.
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