Here in the American southwest, droughts have become something to expect, but a new study warns that the southwest and central plains could face a megadrought later this century unlike anything seen for millennia. “(It could be) as bad as the 1930s Dust Bowl, but lasting for 35 years,” study co-author Toby Ault of Cornell told an audience of reporters at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where the results were announced Thursday.

Predictions that the southwest could dry out as a result of climate change are nothing new, but this study using drought data going back 2,000 years and 17 different climate models analyzing the future impact of rising temperatures paints the bleakest picture yet. “Even when selecting for the worst megadrought-dominated period, the 21st-century projections make the megadroughts seem like quaint walks through the Garden of Eden,” said Jason E. Smerdon, a co-author and climate scientist at Columbia University. READ MORE