A decades-long mega-droughts is likely to hit the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains regions during the second half of this century, if climate change issues go unattended – forecasts researchers from NASA, Columbia and Cornell universities. The study findings are published in the journal Science Advances.
The new forecast is based on models of continued climate change and considers the lagging pace of many countries in mitigating the output of greenhouse gases. The study findings reveal that there is about 20% chance that mega-droughts will last 35 years or more and 50% chance that they will last at least a decade or more.
The scientific article also predicts 80% likelihood of such mega-droughts to strike between 2050 and 2099 and calls for serious actions to mitigate climate change concerns.
Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist who was not connected with the study, explained that the forecasts in this study are based on the most reliable model results available today. Caldeira is associated with the Department of Global Ecology at Carnegie Institution for Science.
The study scientists wrote in their article that the consistency of results demonstrates high risk of a multi-decadal mega-drought and the severity is likely to exceed even the persistent mega-droughts that are believed to characterize the medieval era.
The Southwest, including California and the Great Plains states, are likely to be affected by the mega-droughts.
While California is already fighting a severe drought, a leading NASA scientist noted that the study forecast is not directly connected to the current drought and don’t even say anything about the ongoing situation in California.
The study authors noted that significantly higher temperatures are likely to contribute to future droughts in the Southwest and Great Plains regions. Such extreme situation could badly impact natural ecosystems and agriculture.