'Megadrought' Looms In American Southwest, NASA Warns

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Gaius Publius via Down With Tyranny blog,

Drought status in the U.S. as of 2015. Note the color-coded legend in the lower-right portion of the graphic (source; click to enlarge)

I've written in the past about two of the most climate-vulnerable regions of the U.S., Florida and the American Southwest. (A third region, the Pacific Northwest, is vulnerable, but to a non-climate event, a magnitude 9.0 mega-earthquake.) Here I want to look again to the problems of California and the Southwest.

Much of the water that sustains California, southern Nevada, Arizona, and surrounding areas comes from the ever-drying Colorado River. Just as it's now clear that we've passed the tipping point for extreme weather, we're also very likely passed the tipping point for the long-term habitability of the American Southwest.

The report is from NASA; the write-up is from EcoWatch (my emphasis):

NASA: Megadrought Lasting Decades Is 99% Certain in American Southwest

A study released in Science Advances Wednesday finds strong evidence for severe, long-term droughts afflicting the American Southwest, driven by climate change. A megadrought lasting decades is 99 percent certain to hit the region this century, said scientists from Cornell University, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

"Historically, megadroughts were extremely rare phenomena occurring only once or twice per millennium," the report states. "According to our analysis of modeled responses to increased GHGs, these events could become commonplace if climate change goes unabated."

Rising temperatures will combine with decreased rainfall in the Southwest to create droughts that will be worse than the historic "Dust Bowl" of the 20th century and last far longer. The Dust Bowl lasted no longer than eight years, and affected 100 million acres around the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles and adjacent lands in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. Dust storms swept through large swaths of former farmland, depositing dust as far east as Chicago, New York and Washington. It is estimated that more than half a million people were made homeless, and some 3.5 million Dust Bowl refugees migrated west, in hopes of finding work.

Just a few thoughts.

First, a megadrought lasting decades is a once- or twice-in-a-millennium event. That's once every 500 to 1000 years. The American Southeast had two "once in 500 year" storms in the last two years, and that following "Superstorm Sandy" in 2012. Obviously the frequency is changing, perhaps exponentially.

In the Southwest that megadrought could last for the next few decades. I did a major piece here — "California Drought, the "Bigger Water Crisis" & the Consumer Economy" — with a breakdown of elements that went into the current multi-year drought, and a look at the Colorado River basin and its condition. Some of the bottom lines include these:

? The social contract will break in California and the rest of the Southwest (and don't forget Mexico, which also has water rights from the Colorado and a reason to contest them). This will occur even if the fastest, man-on-the-moon–style conversion to renewables is attempted starting tomorrow.

This means, the very very rich will take the best for themselves and leave the rest of us to marinate in the consequences — to hang, in other words. (For a French-Saudi example of that, read this. Typical "the rich are always entitled" behavior.) This means war between the industries, regions, classes. The rich didn't get where they are, don't stay where they are, by surrender.

? Government will have to decide between the wealthy and the citizenry. How do you expect that to go?

? Government dithering and the increase in social conflict will delay real solutions until a wake-up moment. Then the real market will kick in — the market for agricultural land and the market for urban property. Both will start to decline in absolute value.

If there's a mass awareness moment when all of a sudden people in and out of the Southwest "get it," those markets will collapse. Hedge funds will sell their interests in California agriculture as bad investments; urban populations will level, then shrink; the fountains in Las Vegas and the golf courses in Scottsdale will go brown and dry, collapsing those populations and economies as well.

Second, about the time frame, obviously there's a possibility of a once-in-500-year multi-seasonal rainfall, but that's not expected, to say the least. Will the region recover from this drought? If it lasts two decades, I think its livability, its habitability is finished. And when people figure that out, they'll move, perhaps in droves, depending on whether something triggers panic-selling.

That is, the area will be livable, but by a lifestyle without modern infrastructure, since it takes a certain critical mass of population and wealth (economic activity) to keep modern infrastructure going. Think of the infrastructure in small towns, where people are leaving and populations are declining, versus the more viable lifestyle available to vigorous larger towns and cities, where there are jobs. Now add multi-decade drought to those small-town lives.

Where will the jobs be if Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and Las Vegas have no water? Where will California agriculture be if farms go dry? And finally, consider the Dust Bowl again. As many as 3.5 million refugees migrated west, to California. Where will those refugees go if they're forced to leave California, the heart of the dry zone and pressed against the ocean? Utah? Unlikely. North perhaps, swamping the Pacific Northwest with people, or given a slower migration, back across the Rockies.

Civilizations have risen and died in the American Southwest. During the last megadrought, the Anasazi, or Pueblo culture, which was extensive in territory, completely disappeared. When the Mormons arrived in Utah, the Anasazi were identifiable only by their relics. EcoWatch again:

Megadroughts of 35 years are currently rare and have led to severe upheaval in the past. There’s evidence that the Pueblo people of what is now the south-west US were forced to abandon settlements in the 13th century due to a lengthy drought.

For the U.S. to compress and recede to a more habitable center while aggressively converting to zero-carbon is not the worst outcome in the world. Far from it, in fact.

There Is a Solution — A Zero Carbon Economy

I've been writing for a few years that there is likely a five-to-ten year window, and only that, in which we could start a crash program toward a zero-carbon economy, what I like to call the Stop Now plan, and what others call a WWII-style mobilization or "man on the moon"-style program. That's actually good news — that there's still time — and I still believe it.

If we start in the first term of the next president, we can mitigate most of the disaster nationally, though maybe not all of it regionally. From the Guardian's report of the same NASA study:

The new report does proffer a crumb of hope – if greenhouse gas emissions are radically cut then the risk of megadrought will reduce by half, giving a roughly 50:50 chance that a multi-decade stretch of below-average rainfall would occur this century.

But the research found that the emissions cuts would have to be far steeper than those agreed to by nations in Paris last year, where a 2C limit on warming was pledged.

“We would need a much more aggressive approach than proposed at Paris, it’s not too late to do this but the train is leaving the station as we speak,” [Toby Ault, a scientist at Cornell University and lead author of the study,] said.

And one last point. The next president will be the last one with a clear chance to turn the ship. It looks like Hillary Clinton, barring the unforeseen, will be that president. She recently gave a very aggressive climate speech, with Al Gore at her side. Can she be brought to see, not just the extremity of the situation, but the extremity of the actions needed to address it? The jury is out on that, and that's also the good news.

As long as there's time on the clock, there's hope. I don't expect you or I will influence this election; the country is too far down that road, and perhaps not all the influential wild cards have been played. But we can influence the winner afterward, so long as that winner has a modicum of sense and so long as the evidence — megastorms, megadroughts — is incontrovertibly in front of her.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
pan's picture

It's Putin's fault.

Troy Ounce's picture



No..no..no..it is climate schmange

localsavage's picture

Yet the Democrats have no problems taking your building permit money if you want to build hundreds or thousands of shit boxes.  

Tom Servo's picture

you live in a fucking DESERT




RIP Sam Kinneson...


MalteseFalcon's picture

Since the space shuttle disappeared 20 years ago, what has NASA been doing besides chirping about climate change?


Shut down NASA.

Handful of Dust's picture

"If you want to water your lawn, you can keep watering yoru lawn. I promise!"

booboo's picture

If you are one of the .01% you can flaunt the rules

The Saint's picture
The Saint (not verified) booboo Oct 15, 2016 3:42 PM

Are these the same NASA scientists who predicted that the Arctic would be ice free by September 2016?  I thought so.


LowerSlowerDelaware_LSD's picture
LowerSlowerDelaware_LSD (not verified) The Saint Oct 15, 2016 3:48 PM

If, as the Globalwarmists insist, California would just raise taxes high enough and have even MORE totalitarian control over their people's lives, this would NOT be happening.  The weather is completely controllable by taxes and regulation.

roddcarlson's picture

Water and its control will definitely be the new neofeudalist control. They'd do it with air if they could put a bubble around your head and a meter to buy more if it were only possible. But water shortage is a big problem EVERYWHERE! And it happens to have nothing to do with climate. It happens to be that it has everything to do with expanding populations. Now obviously US would have a declining population and thus it would be an non issue. But thanks to the bleeding hearts, the idea that a place is ever too full never comes to their pea brain. Let's see if your population used to be 10's of millions and they each had farms of 150 acres or more. Then as that increased the land stayed constant but the people claims to it doubled, trippled, quadrupled and the acre per person went from 150, to 10 to 1 to .25 acres to now zero lot lines well I wonder why that happened. It is true I live in the SW and grew up in the NW and there are millions of acres of unused land but they are also rugged and nearly uneconomical lands to live on considering as this article breaches the lack of water availability which like land is finite and has to be split amongst the total population present.

I'm going to say that nobody likes to turn away someone that is needy at their borders, but the idea that we can just keep importing the world here because they are slightly disadvantaged won't work either. Not for them and not for us.

Climate change is a hoax, there are hot years and cold ones. Wet ones and dry ones. We're on the cusp of global cooling despite all the MSM promoting false lies (like the elections).

On another note Arizona has been a great place to live. The state enjoys some of the greatest freedoms. The people are down to earth and reasonable. Reasonably low cost of living that has help start my business. The water is hard water though and despite the article I think a lot of the medium and small towns are using aquifers. Now I don't know how much of that stuff exists under the ground and I won't pretend to say I have personal experience here. But, obviously when a person waters their lawn 9/10 of it soaks into the ground and never makes it to the curb. So there has to be a hell of a lot of it is what I'm saying. Though maybe not in Arizona and then again who knows. Dependency on the Colorado which is being used to grow vegetables ina desert (once again to feed hungry mouths) and the fact that alot of once commerical farmland in other states breadbaskets have been turned into suburbs doesn't help.

Arizona and its people will survive just fine, immigration like the rest of the states both legal and illegal is a big problem. And water is a secondary effect of that problem like other finite resources like Land. The goal of the bleeding hearts is to make sure that your dispossessed descendents have to live in Bangladeshi conditions, cement and concrete and elbows and hands everywhere. Just my two cents where neoliberalism will ultimately lead, though politically incorrect. Thank God I can create my own jobs and not have one of the well connected have to feed me anymore, another reason I hated the corporate/bankster system. I plan on leaving this fine state in a few years but it's a sunny state for a reason and has a bright future in my humble opinion.

Loftie's picture
Loftie (not verified) roddcarlson Oct 15, 2016 9:33 PM

"Civilizations have risen and died in the American Southwest."

Yeah, but America WILL DIE from something else.

philipat's picture

Hey Loftie, previously known as mofio then santafe then Aristotle of Greece then Gargoyle then bleu then oops then lance-a-lot and others. Lance-a-lot got banned very quickly so time to re-use another old persona (non grata)?

You are a serial spammer and a serial pain in the ass. Might I politely suggest that you go fuck yourself? And get a life.

PS. You might have noticed that my attempt to expose you for what you are is always the same. That’s because your Spam is always the same (Using fake links to your BS site which has no connection to your comments, which are deliberately dramatic to encourage people to click on the fake link) so it seems only fair that my exposure of your crap should also always be the same. An eye for an eye.

bannedonce's picture

Hey fucker, thanks. That "bubble around your head" idea is now out in the wild free for the pickings by the various NSA trolls on here. In 6 months when we hear of "proposed air meter for each citizen" we'll know who to blame.

True Blue's picture

Well then, allow me to improve his suggestion: since politicians are the largest source of hot air and flatulance; let's add a second bubble to their ass and connect it to their head bubble with a 'recycling hose."

For the polar bears and stuff.

cheka's picture

not this sh-t again.  please make it stop.

The Blank Stare's picture

OH MY GAWD!  I guess we better elect Hillary The Fixer Clinton....thanks NASA 

any_mouse's picture

I am waiting for the manmade project that will actually change the climate to what the believers think it should be.

Taxes and credits won't do it.

I demand Science!

Weird Science

She Blinded Me With Science

filmmaker's picture
filmmaker (not verified) any_mouse Oct 15, 2016 4:21 PM

My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can't believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do... http://tiny.cc/edszfy

Vatican_cameo's picture


People really need to get a grip on this Weather Bullshit.  They use the same models for Global Warming as they do for predicting the weather 3,5,7, and 10 days out.  They can't even do a decent job with that.  There are way too many variables to predict ANYTHING as far as the weather goes.  Also ALL the Screwhead Scientists either work for a Government Agency or do research for a firm that receives/relies Government money.  When the .gov holds your purse-strings, what do you think they are going to say?  Decry GW as the farce that it is and live in Poverty or just "Do as your told".  It certainly looks to be the latter.  I'm sure that everyone at NASA or NOAA was told if you buck the system, you're out of a job. 

Theosebes Goodfellow's picture

Sorry Maltese, but you should have seen this coming...

"Shut down NASA."

Oh hell no! Send them to Uranus.


Redheart's picture

Muslim Outreach..............Obama's edict 

Gargoyle's picture

You're forgetting about their new mission, the Muslim outreach thingy.

Sh3epdog's picture

For every 1$ spent on NASA about 10$ worth of wealth is generated in the private sector - due to the scientific and technological advances NASA brings - that's not counting contractors that work directly with NASA. Shutting down NASA would be shutting down a big engine of prosperity in America. 

We could always spend more money on Sports stadium's and the like.. or on the military, nevermind that NASA's nonmilitary research then strenghtens the military.


Kidbuck's picture

Kind of doubt this, link?

MalteseFalcon's picture

I doubt NASA contributes like that.

If I had a choice between spending on sports stadiums or the global warming hoax, I vote sports stadiums even if they stay empty.

Spending on global warming is undemocratic and counter productive.

IS BE's picture

You can always use Russian rockets to get your military satellites into orbit.

MalteseFalcon's picture

That's what we do now thanks to NASA incompetence.

Ignatius's picture

First it was Global Warming, then Climate Change, and now Catastrophic NASA Predictions.

How about NASA say something like, Hitlary ought to cool out her Russia baiting else there's a high probability of nuclear winter?  How's that for a prediction and a warning?

mkkby's picture

Another bullshit article.  Notice the map data IS 15 MONTHS OLD.  Why use old data, unless you are trying to lie?

It's a mega, uber, humongous, not at all small, we ain't fucking kidding, really no lie, this time we really really REALLY mean it... drought.

Fuck you, Gaius Publious.

in4mayshun's picture

cant believe ZH is printing this propaganda. So we're having extreme weather because of Carbon Dioxide!?!?
Not because of natural cycles...
Not because of pollution and the acidification of the oceans..
Not because of chemtrailing...
The big bad carbon monster is coming to kill you....and Russia.

SixIsNinE's picture

yeah, i was in safeway the other day and saw the cooled carbon dioxide frig had been left unlocked !  

i took a peak in there and saw the damage done already, and potential for further damages!

luckily a store employee came quickly, and locked the fridge up - such dangerous gasses, they better !   other than those damn tobacco products, i don't see any other locked products at safeway.


when i took a look in there, i saw it - there they were, several empty plastic bags, which once held the super-cooled carbon dioxide.  Now, the devious CO2 evil gasses had escaped their plastic prisons and surely had snuck out of the fridge too... only to add to our problems.   Sure, there were plenty more bags in which the naughy gasses were still confined in, but I got the feeling that it was way too easy for them to escape out into the wild, just like they do when i exhale from my piehole.... way too easy....

the Safeway employee told me that it's common for them to escape.   They charge $1buck89 for the cold stuff, call it "dry ice" they do.

they try to get you to buy these dangerous gasses and put your FOOD on top of it to preserve it and keep them cool. 

i dunno folks, maybe it's not as bad as these "climate" scientists say?


Dimwit's picture

It's all bullshit,keep an eye on this website for Glow-Bull warming bullshit exposure.

Look at the graph of rainfall here.



whatamaroon's picture

Have you noticed Tony Heller AKA Steve Goddard changed his website name to 'The Deplorable climate science blog'?

Dimwit's picture

Yes, he changed the name to 'Deplorable' because so called Climate Science is 'Deplorable'

I think he should have named It 'Climate-sceance'. Check out the meaning of 'Seance'. add the letter C and it becomes appropiate.No better than 'Tea Leave Readers' of many years ago that used to terrify people by their 'Predictions' of doom and gloom.This time around they use computer models for Predictions,the same as Astrologists. Is It all in the 'Stars'? Maybe? the only one we have is the SUN that drives our climate,not man on Earth.

Think about it.


Arnold's picture

Excellent link.


justdues's picture

Exactly in4mayshun , so in the past these were natural phenomena but in the future they will be caused by evil carbon ? NASA getting as bad as CNN in the patheticness of their bullshit lies .

any_mouse's picture

In the past man would make blood sacrifices to a unearthly god (such as Isis) for the harvest.

"Climate Change" is different how?

OverTheHedge's picture

It's the weekend, therefore, you are DOOMED!

Or, to quote Arthur Dent, "So this is it - we're all  going to die..."

Normal service will be resumed on Monday.

Chris Dakota's picture
Chris Dakota (not verified) in4mayshun Oct 15, 2016 5:37 PM

No, its farting cows.

SixIsNinE's picture

seriously - for those who may not have heard, Gov Brown of California did sign a bill back in September iirc, to tax dairy farms for the cows flatulence.   for real.  signed.  

do a search for it  ...

thamnosma's picture

First, look at the current drought monitor map and it's not nearly as bad as indicated by this more than year old graphic up top.  That being said, California is NOT a desert.  A total misconception.  The current map shows extreme drought in the coastal and central valley regions.  These areas are where most of your fresh produce is grown in the U.S.  It is NOT something to laugh at.  The Central Valley farms need water from heavy snow pack in the Sierras, which has been missing.  The coastal areas are considered a Mediterranean climate like the south of France, Italy, Spain, parts of Australia and Chile.  That is characterized by cool wet winters and long dry hot summers.  The winter rains have simply not been coming.  It's been 5 years since a "normal" rain season.  The last 3 years almost nothing.  Aquifers are dropping.  This is not a "fake" problem.

What is not fully appreciated is that multi-decade droughts are historically common as can be determined from tree ring analysis.  We haven't had one since the massive influx of humanoids since WWII.  The pressure of over population (for semi-arid and arid lands), over grazing allotments for the cattle industry, farming needs, horrible Corp of Engineers projects from the 30s-50's (channelizing seasonal streams for housing developers, shoving fresh water out into the ocean instead of percolating into groundwater, etc. etc. have exacerbated the effects of any such long term drought.

I'm always amused by the reactions of people who scoff at long term western drought given the critical food production you rely on to eat.

cheka's picture

the food will come in crates at long beach docks (and trucks, and trains...).  we've been there, done that catastrophic cali hypefest.  stop the fearmongering.  the US does fine no matter how much rain falls in cali

buzzkillb's picture

What's amazing is if you drive up or down the coast and see how many farms are pulled up and being abandoned. Got my first glimpe of this when we went cherry picking a few months ago and also drove up to Monterey from LA taking the scenic route.

One City I know of, Santa Clarita, made mistakes in how they estimated their aquafer in relation to the amount of housing going in. I could see certain larger cities drying up over the long run, while others thrive. Cities hooked into Hoover Dam might have an advantage compared to newer cities with no rights except to their ground water.

I stil faill to understand how buying carbon credits does anything except create more waste.

American Psycho's picture




bh2's picture

Yeah, it's really getting creepy what "scientists" are claiming.

Droughts aren't caused by rising global temperature.

They are caused by lack of water. They happen cyclically. Prevailing winds shift.

Draughts have been happening periodically for centuries of recorded history -- and before that for eons.

Other locations formerly dry receive more rain. They are no longer in draught because some other places are.

The West has had terrible droughts lasting a century or more in the geological past -- many occurring ages before Man was even noticable on the planet.

The weirder these claims get, the more certain are they to be understood as no more than simple control fraud by academics.

Lorca's Novena's picture

" Yeah, but its a Dry Heat "