NASA scientists with the Goddard Space Flight Center are warning of a megadrought in the southwest United States and Great Plaines that could be drier and longer than anything seen in the region in the last 1,000 years. Scientists blame human-induced global warming as the force behind the increased likelihood of a megadrought in the region.
In the video above created by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, you can listen as Ben Cook, climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, discusses the probability of a devastating drought event and what people in the region could expect.
“Natural droughts like the 1930s Dust Bowl and the current drought in the Southwest have historically lasted maybe a decade or a little less. What these results are saying is we’re going to get a drought similar to those events, but it is probably going to last at least 30 to 35 years.”
Cook notes that a megadrought lasting more than three decades is a very real concern. Cook says that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to climb at the current rate, there will be an 80 percent chance of these megadroughts in the western United States and Great Plains.
“The current likelihood of a megadrought, a drought lasting more than three decades, is 12 percent. If greenhouse gas emissions stop increasing in the mid-21st century, Cook and his colleagues project the likelihood of megadrought to reach more than 60 percent. However, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase along current trajectories throughout the 21st century, there is an 80 percent likelihood of a decades-long megadrought in the Southwest and Central Plains between the years 2050 and 2099.”
What do you think should be done to prepare for a megadrought event in the United States?