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13 Feb 2015: Study Says U.S. Southwest Set
To Face Unprecedented Drying This Century

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risk of future drought

NASA Goddard
Risk of future prolonged drought in the Southwest
The U.S. Southwest and Great Plains are on track to face persistent drought during the second half of this century, a new study forecasts, and the drought will be worse than anything seen in modern history or even during ancient so-called "megadroughts." Many studies have predicted that the Southwest could dry due to human-induced climate change, but this is the first to say that such drying could exceed the worst conditions of the distant past. The impacts of such a future drought would be devastating, the researchers say, given the region’s much larger population and heavy reliance on water and other natural resources. The study used 17 different climate models to analyze the future impact of rising temperatures, and it compared two different global warming scenarios — “business as usual,” which assumes that greenhouse gases will continue to steadily rise, and a scenario in which emissions are moderated. “The surprising thing to us was really how consistent the response was over these regions, nearly regardless of what model we used or what soil moisture metric we looked at,” said lead author Benjamin I. Cook, a researcher with Columbia University and NASA.


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