A research report published on Feb. 12 predicts “megadroughts” for California, droughts much larger than historical droughts.
Two NASA scientists and a colleague with the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences of Cornell conducted the research that covers weather patterns from more than 1,000 years ago.
“Such ‘megadrought’ events exceeded the duration of any drought observed during the historical record and had profound impacts on regional societies and ecosystems,” the authors wrote in the article’s introduction. In the conclusion, they said, “There is ≥80 percent chance of a multidecadal drought during 2050–2099 …”
The analysis employed multiple climate models and resulted in “markedly consistent drying during the later half of the 21st century,” the results concluded. Exacerbating the lower moisture was the increased greenhouse gas concentrations.
Nevertheless, the report did not conclude that climate change was the cause of the potential megadroughts, since several had occurred centuries ago, between 1100 and 1300, merely significantly amplifying the rapid moisture loss.
All the models generally predicted a reduction in winter precipitation and a “dramatic shift toward drier conditions.” The authors felt these drier conditions will be significantly drier than any historical period for which they have data.
“Our results point to a remarkably drier future that falls far outside the contemporary experience of natural and human systems in Western North America, conditions that may present a substantial challenge to adaptation,” they wrote in the conclusion.
The duration of these droughts will create problems unaddressed currently. Already, groundwater aquifers in California’s Central and Coachella valleys are dropping from growing water demands.
Thus, the simplistic solution of more wells may not adequately relieve the need for water, they suggest.
In its Sunday edition, “The Sacramento Bee” reported that future population growth in the state may outpace water conservation efforts despite the evidence that consumers are using less water.