November 4, 2014

C.U. Study Finds Southwest at High Risk for Decades-Long Droughts In Next Century

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A study published in October led by Prof. Toby Ault, earth and atmospheric sciences, has received attention in the scientific community for its startling findings about the future of the southwestern United States.

Using past climate data and climate change models, Ault and his coauthors predict that there is a higher than 80 percent risk for the United States southwest to experience a drought lasting 10 or more years, something they call a megadrought, in the coming century.

“A megadrought is a drought that is as bad as the kinds of droughts that we’ve seen in the 20th century,” Ault said. “So like the 1950s drought in the Southwest or the 1930s Dust Bowl. That level of severity but much longer lasting.”

Jim Wilson / The New York TimesDisastrous drought | Lake Success, in Tulare County, California, is in one of the hardest-hit areas of the drought that has now lasted three years in California. According to a study published in October by Cornell climate scientists, the southwestern United States is at an 80 percent risk or greater of experiencing a drought lasting a decade or more in the coming century.