October 20, 2010

Extreme Global Droughts Could Occur In Next 30 Years

As a result of global warming, much of the Western Hemisphere, as well as large sections of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, face the threat of an extreme drought within the next three decades, experts from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) claim in a new report.

The study, which was conducted by NCAR scientist Aiguo Dai, analyzed 22 computer climate models, an index of drought conditions, and previously published works from other scientists and determined that extremely dry conditions will be prevalent throughout much of the world within the next 30 years unless worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are lowered.

"We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community," Dai said in a statement Tuesday. "If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous."

The results of the study, which was supported by the National Science Foundation and published in the journal Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, notes that the majority of the western two-thirds of the U.S. will be "significantly drier" by the 2030s, and that other areas likely to face drought conditions include much of Latin America, countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Southeast and Southwest Asia, and most of Africa and Australia.

Not all areas are at risk, however, as the study reports that some higher-latitude regions, including Russia, Canada, and Alaska, could actually wind up experiencing an increase in moisture. However, Dai points out that "the increased wetness over the northern, sparsely populated high latitudes can't match the drying over the more densely populated temperate and tropical areas."

In a statement posted to the organization's official website, the NSF also points out that previous studies, including earlier works by Dai and a 2007 assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have also found that global warming will lead to expansion of the subtropics and shifts in precipitation patterns.


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