A new report from Cornell University, the U.S Geological Survey and the University of Arizona warns that there’s a 50% chance the southwest United States will experience a decade-long drought in the near feature. But that’s not the worst of it – there’s also a 20-50% chance that the region will face a massive megadrought lasting over 30 years.

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The report was just published in the new issue of the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate, and it’s a disturbing read. It describes how most of California currently sits in a D4 “exceptional drought,” which is in the most severe category. Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas also loiter between moderate and exceptional drought.

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“For the southwestern U.S., I’m not optimistic about avoiding real megadroughts,” said Toby Ault, Cornell assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and lead author of the paper. “As we add greenhouse gases into the atmosphere — and we haven’t put the brakes on stopping this — we are weighting the dice for megadrought conditions.”

Ault said that the West and Southwest must look for mitigation strategies to cope with looming long-drought scenarios. “This will be worse than anything seen during the last 2,000 years and would pose unprecedented challenges to water resources in the region,” he said.

Related: Wealthy Californians are Circumventing the Drought by Trucking in Water

It’s not just the United States – computer models reveal that southern Africa, Australia and the Amazon basin are also vulnerable to the possibility of a megadrought. “These results help us take the long view of future drought risk in the Southwest — and the picture is not pretty. We hope this opens up new discussions about how to best use and conserve the precious water that we have,” said Julia Cole, UA professor of geosciences and of atmospheric sciences.

+ Cornell University

via Huffington Post

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