NASA Video: Southwest Headed for Megadroughts

February 19, 2015

Washington Post:

The long and severe drought in the U.S. Southwest pales in comparison with what’s coming: a “megadrought” that will grip that region and the central Plains later this century and probably stay there for decades, a new study says.

Thirty-five years from now, if the current pace of climate change continues unabated, those areas of the country will experience a weather shift that will linger for as long as three decades, according to the study, released Thursday.

Researchers from NASA and Cornell and Columbia universities warned of 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 Toby R. Ault, an assistant professor in the department of Earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell, one of the co-authors. “This is a slow-moving natural hazard that humans are used to dealing with and used to managing.”

Megadroughts are sustained periods of sparse precipitation and significant loss of soil moisture that span generations, about 10 times as long as a normal three-year drought.



12 Responses to “NASA Video: Southwest Headed for Megadroughts”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    THIRTY-FIVE years from now there will be a megadrought??? I will be 110 years old (or more likely dead for 25 or 30 years), so pardon me for not getting overwrought about this. The folks who WILL be around to suffer the consequences of AGW are not too worried either—-they have trouble looking beyond tomorrow and are too busy shopping, twittering, texting, and watching reality TV anyway.

    To play the broken record yet again, bad things are going to have to start happening everywhere nearly all the time before we get moving. It’s going to have to get ugly. Maybe next winter will bring 20 feet of snow to New England—-if California also runs out of water this year and we have some record heat waves in the Midwest that kill cattle and crops, we might (just might) get those who are “not scientists” to pay more attention.

    PS I took a look at the “related” link. Interesting.

    NASA: Forest Canopy in Eastern US Impacted by Warming

    It reminded me of what I have commented about before on Crock—-the decline of forests here in northern VA—right in the middle of the big brown “mid-atlantic” blotch on the map in the clip.

    • There is a slight problem with your broken record…

      When things finally have gone really ugly really everywhere, will Homo S “Sapiens” suddenly aspire sanity and wisdom, if not compassion? And get its (the “rational” animal’s) head out of the heavens (of gods, of money, of metaphysics toys cherished since the Iron Age) and turn attention toward the ground under its feet?

      Given the growing madness all around, from the IS Caliphate to Washington D.C., this is not to be expected. Thus a collapse of unimaginable ugliness is to be expected according to your broken record. Not just sh** hitting some fan. Don’t you have a different record to play, pretty please?

      • dumboldguy Says:

        “There is a slight problem with your broken record…”, you say?. And….

        “….a collapse of unimaginable ugliness is to be expected according to your broken record. Not just sh** hitting some fan. Don’t you have a different record to play, pretty please?”

        SHTF is just a vulgar and shorthand way of speaking of “unimaginable ugliness”. There are too many folks in a state of denial and wishful “positive” thinking to lay out the whole truth. Those like McPherson that try to do so end up upsetting too many and being pilloried for it.

        Sorry, I don’t have a “different” record to play, no matter how nicely you ask. I have been watching the “music” accumulate on this record for nearly 60 years, and it shows no signs of getting easier to listen to.

  2. andrewfez Says:

    I’ve been pushing this same article for several years now, every time i meet a denier on a internet comment section that mentions the MWP or the Pielke guy’s stuff:

    Long-Term Aridity Changes in the Western United States

    Edward R. Cook1,*,
    Connie A. Woodhouse2,
    C. Mark Eakin2,
    David M. Meko3,
    David W. Stahle4

    Abstract: The western United States is experiencing a severe multiyear drought that is unprecedented in some hydroclimatic records. Using gridded drought reconstructions that cover most of the western United States over the past 1200 years, we show that this drought pales in comparison to an earlier period of elevated aridity and epic drought in AD 900 to 1300, an interval broadly consistent with the Medieval Warm Period. If elevated aridity in the western United States is a natural response to climate warming, then any trend toward warmer temperatures in the future could lead to a serious long-term increase in aridity over western North America.

    Published Online October 7 2004
    Science 5 November 2004:
    Vol. 306 no. 5698 pp. 1015-1018
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1102586

  3. redskylite Says:

    Today Australia is being hit simultaneously by two severe cyclones (which is a historic first), although no-one has pinned it on climate change, the Australian seas are running at very high surface temperatures. The African Ebola outbreak certainly outstripped any previous outbreaks by far (in spread, sickness and deaths), although again no-one is pinning it solely on climate change (it has been predicted to worsen as temperatures increase). Universities are observing increases and migrations of several nasty and dangerous diseases, and certainly forest decline has been well studied and observed.

    What will happen to the U.S if the predicted wide mega drought occurs ?, NASA’s computers and modelling programs are among the finest we have, so there is a very strong chance it will happen. Geo-engineering won’t help, reducing incoming solar energy will cause even more drought. I certainly won’t be around in 35 years, but can foresee more desalination plants (a lot more), more artificially climate controlled/designed buildings (at least for the rich). Sea level rise will be impacting cities around the world. Disease and conflicts will be on the increase. Difficult to see anything positive or good even if we stop burning fossils immediately.

    Energy providers, town planners, architects and politicians need to mobilize now if they haven’t already started, and water conservation must be amongst the top priorities. This will be the biggest crisis we have faced, and the ironic thing is we caused it ourselves and enjoyed a relative golden age, at the few periods when we weren’t at war.

    Or we could just continue with BAU and let evolution take a completely different tack.

  4. tomtheelder Says:

    Increased ocean temperatures result in increased size and frequency of storms so I presume the mega-droughts occur simultaneously with “mega-drenching.” if anyone knows of a resource showing that effect (preferably another video that keeps it simple for the lay-person like myself) I would appreciate a link. A resource that shows the combined picture would be especially useful. Thanks.

  5. climatebob Says:

    If anyone thinks that the mega drought will last thirty years they are delusional. It will be permanent and food production on this once fertile land will be a thing of memories.

  6. Gingerbaker Says:

    What a bunch of doomsday alarmists!! Trees, dying….permanent drought, ,etc.

    I have NO IDEA why you guys are so worried.

    After all, another oil exec has said that a carbon price might be a good strategy.

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