One GIF Shows the Coming Mega-Drought

NASA scientists predict a severe dry spell for much of the U.S. by century’s end if greenhouse gas emissions keep rising.
Feb 15, 2015· 0 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The American Southwest and the Great Plains are in for a long dry spell—to be more specific, the longest and most severe in 1,000 years.

That’s what researchers from NASA, Columbia University, and Cornell University predict in a study published this week in the journal Science Advances. The Dust Bowl that displaced 3.5 million Americans back in the 1930s? A picnic compared to what’s coming, reported The Washington Post.

The GIF above illustrates the team’s projections. The scientists created models based on data stretching back millennia, including soil mositure figures and tree ring patterns, that indicate what conditions were prevalent during dry and wet periods. With greenhouse gas emissions continuing apace, the severe dry conditions are likely to be recreated, they found. A major factor is heat accelerating evaporation and drying out soil, which one of the researchers, Beverly Law of Oregon State University, is finding will likely cause future tree mortality, she told the Post.

There’s an “overwhelming evidence of a dry shift” after 2050, said Jason E. Smerdon, a NASA scientist who coauthored the study

Droughts, including the dust bowl, occur naturally, and they typically last several years to a decade. But climate change has put the country on track for a mega-drought, which can extend to more than 40 years. Watch the video below to learn how NASA makes its predictions.