NASA warns of risks of ‘megadroughts’ in western half of United States

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FILE: A photo depicting hot, dry weather.

There is no precedent in contemporary weather records for the kinds of droughts the country’s West will face, if greenhouse gas emissions stay on course, a NASA study said.

No precedent even in the past 1,000 years.

The feared droughts would cover most of the western half of the United States — the Central Plains and the Southwest.

Those regions have suffered severe drought in recent years. But it doesn’t compare in the slightest to the ‘megadroughts’ likely to hit them before the century is over due to global warming.

These will be epochal, worthy of a chapter in Earth’s natural history.

Even if emissions drop moderately, droughts in those regions will get much worse than they are now, NASA said.

The space agency’s study conjures visions of the sun scorching cracked earth that is baked dry of moisture for feet below the surface, across vast landscapes, for decades. Great lake reservoirs could dwindle to ponds, leaving cities to ration water to residents who haven’t fled east.

“Our projections for what we are seeing is that, with climate change, many of these types of droughts will likely last for 20, 30, even 40 years,” said NASA climate scientist Ben Cook.

The Dust Bowl

That’s worse and longer than the historic Dust Bowl of the 1930s, when “black blizzards” — towering, blustery dust walls — buried Southern Plains homes, buggies and barns in dirt dunes.

It lasted about 10 years. Though long, it was within the framework of a contemporary natural drought.

To find something almost as extreme as what looms, one must go back to Medieval times.

Nestled in the shade of Southwestern mountain rock, earthen Ancestral Pueblo housing offers a foreshadowing. The tight, lively villages emptied out in the 13th century’s Great Drought that lasted more than 30 years.

No water. No crops. Starvation drove populations out to the east and south.

Much, much worse

If NASA’s worst case scenario plays out, what’s to come could be worse.

Its computations are based on greenhouse gas emissions continuing on their current course. And they produce an 80% chance of at least one drought that could last for decades.

One “even exceeding the duration of the long term intense ‘megadroughts’ that characterized the really arid time period known as the Medieval Climate Anomaly,” Cook said.

That was a period of heightened global temperatures that lasted from about 1100 to 1300 — when those Ancestral Pueblos dispersed. Global average temperatures are already higher now than they were then, the study said.

Massive data calculation

The NASA team’s study was very data heavy.

It examined past wet and dry periods using tree rings going back 1,000 years and compared them with soil moisture from 17 climate models, NASA said in the study published in Science Advances.

Scientists used super computers to calculate the models forward along the lines of human induced global warming scenarios. The models all showed a much drier planet.

Superhuman challenge

Some Southwestern areas that are currently drought-stricken are filling up with more people, creating more demand for water while reservoirs are already strained.

The predicted megadroughts will wrack water supplies much harder, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center said.

“These droughts really represent events that nobody in the history of the United States has ever had to deal with,” Cook said.

Compared with the last millennium, the dryness will be unprecedented. Adapting to it will be tough.

By Ben Brumfield for CNN


  • bob


    As recently as a couple thousand years ago the Midwest of America had the climate of today’s Mojave Desert. The climate is changing. The climate is ALWAYS changing. Always has, and always will. There is nothing we can do about it.

    Will NASA’s dire prediction come true? Yes, in the long run it inevitably will. Any time soon? That’s pure guesswork. They can’t predict next week’s weather. It’s absolutely hilarious that they pretend to be able to predict the weather a century from now. ALL of their “global warming” predictions from as recently as the last 1990s have been wildly inaccurate.

    And just last week came more information about the way the Warmist Cult outright fakes data when mere “cherry picking” won’t suffice. They had predicted the effect of “global warming” on Patagonia, and when it failed to happen the way they predicted the simply lied and said it DID, faking the numbers to back it up. They picked a remote, rarely-visited part of the world in hopes they wouldn’t get caught.

    This is POLITICS, not science. It was politics 35 years ago when they predicted Global Cooling and said we’d all freeze, and it’s politics today.

  • bob

    They recently declared 2013 the “hottest year in history” based on a tiny fraction of a degree that was less than 1/10 the margin of error in their methods. In other words, it’s just as likely that the climate COOLED in 2013. But that doesn’t fit the narrative.

    The more obviously they’re wrong, the more they double-down and ratchet up the rhetoric. Remember what Adolph Hitler said about the Big Lie:

    “……… this was inspired by the principle—which is quite true within itself—that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.”

  • bob

    Perfect example of the Big Lie: They Warmists not only predicted a huge rise in sea levels, they have the impudence to claim that it has ALREADY HAPPENED. Yet a large percentage of the human population of the planet lives near the shore and is perfectly aware that the sea level hasn’t risen. But how many people living in San Francisco believe the nonsense without question, even though they can see the high water mark on the pier every time they go for a walk? Orwell called it “Double-Think”: The ability to hold two mutually contradictory ideas in your head at the same time and not only fail to see the contradiction, but to be able to forget one or the other idea as required by one’s politics…….and then forget the act of forgetting. Yet still be able to call the “forgotten” idea back again as politically required.

    About a year ago, in the face of too many questions from people like me, who do not have our memories or observation properly under control, they hatched a REALLY good one: Some “scientist” claimed that the sea levels HAVE risen, but only in places where we’re not looking. How can you not laugh at that?

    They CONTINUE to talk about the melting polar pack ice, even though for the past few years it’s been at record extents, or near records. They continue to claim that the “melting pack ice” will cause the sea levels to rise, even though anyone who knows anything about…..anything…….can tell you that melting FLOATING ice does not change the level of the liquid. (Ice displaces its own mass, like anything else that floats. And since it floats it must be less dense than liquid water, and therefore if it melts it actually has LESS volume. Melting the pack ice would very slightly REDUCE sea levels, but not enough to notice.)

    This is what happens when science isn’t taught in schools. What passes for “science” in schools is political indoctrination.

    • Stanley Kerns

      Here is an example that doesn’t use “computer models”–which can be made to say anything you want–At the dawn of the Middle ages Vikings were living by farming in Greenland–(irrefutable)–then it started getting colder–the last communication from Greenland happened in 1408 whenThorstein Olafson married Sigrid Bjornsdaughter–after that nothing–all can easily be checked on Google–Today, even using modern equipment it is still to cold to live by farming in Greenland–much less with ox drawn plows.

      • bob

        They had fields of GRAIN in places that are, today, under ice. But I guess too many Vikings were driving SUVs, right?

        The usual story these days is that they named it “Greenland” in an effort to fool colonists into wanting to go there, but the reality is they named it “Greenland” because it reminded them of a nicer version of Norway. It really WAS green around the edges.

        The Romans had vineyards and made wine in parts of England where, today, you can’t possibly grow grapes because of the cold climate.

        The Anasazi culture of the American Southwest was suddenly ruined and its people scattered because of…..wait for it…..GLOBAL WARMING. That was long before any major use of fossil fuels.

        And does anyone remember there was a thing called the ICE AGE? Why did the ice melt? GLOBAL WARMING. I guess all those cave-soccer-moms in their Flintstone SUVs did it? Or perhaps Cave-Republicans are to blame.

        I have no idea what the climate is going to do, but I do know this: It’s going to do SOMETHING……and it might be sudden, and it might be severe. Or maybe not. Place your bets.

  • bob

    Remember when “fuel cells” were touted by Environmentalists and liberals as the salvation of the planet? I remember the very day when George W. Bush gave a speech about the benefits of fuel cells, and INSTANTLY, without even skipping a beat, the Left shouted that hydrogen fuel cells were a conspiracy between Republicans and Big Oil. They didn’t even pause for breath.

    That’s the sort of people we’re dealing with. Willfully irrational.

    • That Guy

      Ya Bob, Id rather NOT be Safe, or environmentally friendly. I mean geez we should just live like those predictions are 50 years from now..well be gone, not our problem. They can deal with it then. Best not to adapt or change for Innovate smarter solutions.

      BOB ‘That’s the sort of people we’re dealing with.’

      • bob

        You miss the point entirely. My point is that the Left is FOR whatever they perceive Conservatives to be against, and vice-versa. And if a Conservative comes out in favor of something the Left likes, then the Left is immediately against it.

        That’s neither principled nor “scientific.” It’s adolescent.

      • bob

        I wonder, just out of curiosity: Do you apply that same concern for the future to the national debt?

        I tend to doubt it.


        THAT GUY – The same minds warning of global warming today used to believe the world was flat and if you got to close to the edge you’d fall off.

  • Amun

    @Bob – what would you say is the political motivation for what you’re calling the Warmist Cult’s “Big Lie”?

    • bob

      Anti-capitalism. China is conspicuously exempt from all the proposed regulations, as are India and other major developing nations. One way to compete against the Big Dog is to chop his legs off.

    • bob

      Did you know what the only major industrialized nation that did NOT sign the Kyoto Accords was the United States? And guess which major industrialized nation was the ONLY ONE that actually reduced its per capita carbon output.

      I’ll give you a hint: The initials are U.S.A.

      • bob

        Why not? Libbies think that a picture of a polar bear standing on a tiny ice floe means the Earth is heating up.

        In reality they believe that they want to believe. Facts have nothing to do with it.

  • Vladamir Untruksur

    Anyone happen to know where NASA received the funding for this study from? See, this is what happens when your government lies to you enough that you don’t trust them any more. I am tired of being lied to about my doctor, my insurance going down $2500 and now this. It may be true, but I have no trust left in me. If this was the play all along, the left should have done this first so more of us would have fallen for it.

  • Dave Will

    The SKY is falling ! The sky is falling! Someone tell chicken little that NASA predicts the sky will fall! There won’t be a place to send our rockets! Oh no, think how terrible that would be!

  • Finny Wiggen

    It is both sad and embarrassing that NASA has fallen so far from its once respected position.
    This pathetic assertion by NASA illustrates why it is so important that we not tie the funding that “scientists” receive, to the political whims of politicians.

    The climate is always in flux. It would only be newsworthy if it wasn’t. And it has nothing to do with CO2 released by humans.

  • bob

    I have a method for predicting a Liberal’s opinion on absolutely any subject. It’s foolproof.

    Simply determine what opinion would most irritate grownups. THAT is what the liberal will believe.

    Try it! I’ve never known it to fail.

  • Opie

    I have seen the tree ring data and over the past 2000 years, 12 year droughts are common and 50 year droughts have been recorded, so saying that a mega drought is unheard of is just not based on facts. This statement about no recorded mega drought in past 1000 years is pure BS.

  • Trace

    The problem with the Left is you can show them facts and they will try and use emotion to try and counter FACTS! Time has CONTINUALLY proven them WRONG!


    One day when Chicken Little was walking in the forest an acorn fell on her head. She began telling everybody “the sky is falling”. Now is the appropriate time for paranoia and mass hysteria.

    • Ron-The-Elder

      Global Warming, or what is now called Climate Change due to the eight feet of snow in front of my home here in Concord, NH, USA is not in doubt. What is in doubt is the cause or it. Illustration: In the seventy + years of my life I had never heard of “ocean effect” snow, but this year we learned about it and experienced the result. Having lived in Rochester, NY for a decade of so, I had heard of “Lake Effect” snow, which pretty much yielded the same results. In each case a body of water retains heat and causes water vapor to rise above it. Then along comes a cold front, which causes the water vapor to cool as it hits first land and voila!: Snow and snow and more snow. In order for the snow to form there had to be water vapor in the air. In order for there to be water vapor in the air, there had to be a heated body of water. In order for there to be an extraordinarily heated body of water, like Lake Ontario, or The Atlantic Ocean there had to be more heat. Hence, the term Global Warming and/or Climate change. Most folks don’t know it but there is a difference between “weather” and “climate change” or “global weather events”. Something is trending us in one direction or another weather-wise, and the record shows global wise as well. So, what would it hurt to have a few Lithium Ion battery Fires to kill a few kids and adults in their cars and airplanes just in case man is having some effects on his environment? What all of can do to make things better regardless of the source of the problem is “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle”…..and see what happens before and after the next ice age or global extinction event due to drought. ; )

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