A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona and Cornell University says there’s a real chance the three-year-old Southwest drought is going to get much worse. According to the researchers, the extreme conditions of the last few years mean we could be heading toward a megadrought in California and much of the west.

megadrought

The researchers say the study suggests that prolonged droughts seem to occur regularly in many parts of the world every 400 to 600 years as part of a macro-scale megadrought cycle.

Statement on megadrought from Professor Julie Cole

“Our results suggest that in the coming century depending on exactly where you are and, of course, depending on how warm the world gets, there’s something like a 20 to 50% change that we may experience a drought of 35 years,” elaborated Julie Cole, a professor at the University of Arizona and author of the study.

When asked what communities can do to prepare for this kind of a megadrought, Cole replied, “I think we’d really have to change the way we think about water and the way that we use water because right now we’re on a path that would be unsustainable if we had a drought of 35 years.”

Statement from Professor Toby Ault

“A megadrought is a drought that’s just as bad, in terms of its severity, just as dry as the big droughts of the 20th Century, so think 1930’s Dust Bowl, think 1950’s drought, but much longer lasting,” noted Toby Ault, a professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University, in trying to explain the phenomenon of a megadrought.

“So we can’t really weigh in on whether or not this drought will turn into a megadrought but what we can say with a lot of confidence is that, even without climate change, there’s some risk of megadrought,” Ault continued somewhat ominously.