What’s Happened Before will Happen Again

Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson September 6, 2017 11:18


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It’s happened before.  A drought of such magnitude that people, land and livelihoods were severely impacted.  Some of you remember the Dust Bowl drought that lasted through the 30s; more of you recall the drought that California dealt with for five years until their 2016 record rainfall.  But these two events are nothing compared to what researchers are predicting might happen by the year 2050.

A megadrought by definition is a prolonged drought that lasts two decades or longer, and according to those studying the possibilities, it’s not a matter of if it will happen, but when.  An extensive research team that included scientists from Cornell University, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies estimate the current chance of a megadrought hitting the U.S. is more than 60% if greenhouse gas emissions level off by the middle of the 21st century.  But if emissions continue to increase using current trends of this century, there is more than an 80% chance of a megadrought happening between the years of 2050 and 2099.  Another aspect of a megadrought is that historically they’re a rare phenomena occurring only once or twice per millennium.  But these events could become more frequent with climate change.

Because weather record keeping is a fairly recent practice, scientists determined past massive drought events by the effects they had on trees living at the time.  Those ancient tree stumps today are often covered with water in river valley bottoms of the Sierra Nevada mountains and the famous Mono Lake in California.  This tree ring evidence shows that the American southwest suffered abnormally dry periods during the Middle Ages between 900 to 1300 AD, and that 400-year period (often referred to as the Medieval Megadrought) doesn’t depict one long drought but more precisely a series of massive regional droughts centering on the years 936, 1034, 1150, and 1253.  Nebraska’s Sand Hills also provide evidence of the Medieval Megadrought.

The video below provides a great visual of the possible future.


So as Toby Ault of Cornell University explains:  Whether you accept global warming or not doesn’t really matter when it comes to their existence.  They’ve already occurred in the United States.

I’m too young to have experienced the Dust Bowl, and I was also not near enough to California to truly appreciate that event.  When I do the math for the next potential megadrought and look at my average life expectancy, I most likely won’t see this event either.  But what about those generations who follow us?  What will they see and how will they survive?  Ault is optimistic that we can cope with the threat of a megadrought in the future because it doesn’t mean no water – just significantly less water than we’re used to.

Time will tell…

-Terry Olson, Titan Outlet Store Team





Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson September 6, 2017 11:18
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