Wednesday, December 15, 2010

US Southwest could face catastrophic drought

Nothing is certain in this business, of course, but some fear this is what's on the way:

U.S. researchers shows that the American southwest could experience a 60-year stretch of heat and drought unseen since the 12th century.

Researchers at the University of Arizona examined studies of temperature changes and droughts in the region over the past 1,200 years and used them to project future climate models in the hope that water resource managers could use the information to plan ahead.

An examination of the past, through human-kept records but also via rings in the cores of trees that can show periods of wetness or drought, showed that dry spells of earlier centuries were much worse than any we have seen in modern times.

From the Montreal Gazette. The thing is, those areas are strapped for water now owing to the huge demands of agriculture, not to mention the golf courses and swimming pools that litter that part of the US. Even now there are fears of Lake Mead drying up, for instance. What would they do? Desalination might help, but it is extremely expensive in terms of money as well as energy, and given that California and Arizona, at least, are badly strapped for cash, how are they to pay for something like that? Will private money be forthcoming? If not, the next few decades could see a massive displacement of people from those areas. If nothing else, one could relish the irony of Arizonans wanting to move somewhere for a better life and being hated as job-stealing outsiders...

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