The southwestern United States may possibly be facing a ‘megadrought.’ According to numerous reports, California has been facing “extreme” and “exceptional” drought situations and according to a new study, Arizona and Nevada may join the Golden State in extensive drought situations that could last up to 35 years. Such drought situations may also be forcing certain land areas to rise.
In a report by United Press International, Brook Hays stated Toby R. Ault, a Cornell University assistant professor of earth and atmospheric science was responsible for developing new climate change models. These models showed there was a 50 percent probability a severe drought situation could hit the Southwest over the next 100 years. The study is detailed in the Journal of Climate by the American Meteorological Society, which was also conducted with the help of scientists from the University of Arizona and the U.S. Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.).
According to Ault, the details of the study show drought situations facing the Southwest is the worst seen for the past 2000 years. It is predicted to be even worse than the Dust Bowl of the 1930s which had been portrayed in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and was also affected by The Great Depression. At that time, farmers had faced severe situations. Even so, that episode of drought and erosion had lasted only eight years where as a ‘megadrought’ could last up to 35 years.
Daily Mail Online mentioned Ault had stated he is “not optimistic” of avoiding real megadroughts. Ault had added the continuance of greenhouse gases in the air may be a contributing factor to the likeliness of a megadrought. It was also mentioned online how much the southwestern part of the U.S. is in some form of current drought situation with California situated at stage “D4” or an “exceptional drought.”
Ault was reported as saying such circumstances are a preview of what is to come and that mitigating strategies to cope with such severe conditions should be considered. Otherwise, as the Daily Mail Online stated, the Southwest could face “mass population migration,” or basically a bust in communities and farmland that are not feasible during severe drought situations. Though this assumption may be a bit dramatic, history has shown that a backup plan is certainly worth looking at for both rural communities and metropolitan cities which may have to rely on outside sources for water supply.
As the southwestern portion of the U.S. faces a possible megadrought situation, James Maynard of Tech Times reported that land in California may be rising due to its own severe drought. Maynard stated that global positioning satellites were used to measure how the altitude of land changes over time, and that investigators found land in California could have risen about 0.15 of an inch due to the drought. In mountainous areas, the ground could have risen as much as 0.60 of an inch.
Maynard reported that Adrian Borsa, a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography had noticed universally “measured altitudes” had rose between 2013 and 2014 in the southwestern part of the U.S. Maynard continued to state that since water levels have staggered off in some areas, the missing weight of the water has not been able to push down on the ground causing it to rise.
Since the amount of rising land levels are rather small, Maynard stated researchers believe it should not affect any tectonic plates in California, namely the San Andreas Fault. Although Maynard stated the loss of water from the severe drought in California is equivalent to the loss of ice in Greenland, Californians should not experience any increase in earthquakes. Instead, the southwestern part of the U.S. should focus on possibly facing a megadrought.
By Liz Pimentel
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