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'Megadroughts' Will Bake the Plains, Southwest for Decades: Study

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As bad as recent droughts in California, the Southwest and the Midwest have been, scientists say far worse "megadroughts" are coming — and they're bound to last for decades. "Unprecedented drought conditions" — the worst in more than 1,000 years — are likely to come to the Southwest and Central Plains after 2050 and stick around because of global warming, according to a new study in the journal Science Advances on Thursday. "Nearly every year is going to be dry toward the end of the 21st century compared to what we think of as normal conditions now," said study lead author Benjamin Cook, a NASA atmospheric scientist. "We're going to have to think about a much drier future in western North America." There's more than an 80 percent chance that much of the central and western United States will have a 35-year-or-longer "megadrought" later this century, said study co-author Toby Ault of Cornell University. Megadroughts last for decades instead of just a few years. The 1930s Dust Bowl went on for more than 35 years, Ault said. The regions Cook looked at include California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, most of Iowa, southern Minnesota, western Missouri, western Arkansas, and northwestern Louisiana.

IN-DEPTH

--- The Associated Press

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