A large percentage of heavily populated countries could suffer severe and prolonged drought in coming decades, according to a new study which analysed 22 computer climate models and a mass of information concerning current drought conditions worldwide.
The study, conducted by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Aiguo Dai and reported as part of a longer review article in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, finds that a continuing rise in global temperatures are likely to see a parallel increase in drought conditions across a large majority of the planet in the next three decades.
In fact, Dai believes that the drought conditions could reach levels rarely, if ever, seen before in modern times.
“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 says.
The paper lists Eurasia, Africa and Australia as being subject to increased dryness by the 2030s, but other countries and continents are not excluded;
Other countries and continents that could face significant drying include:
- Much of Latin America, including large sections of Mexico and Brazil
- Regions bordering the Mediterranean Sea, which could become especially dry
- Large parts of Southwest Asia
- Most of Africa and Australia, with particularly dry conditions in regions of Africa
- Southeast Asia, including parts of China and neighboring countries
- The study also finds that drought risk can be expected to decrease this century across much of Northern Europe, Russia, Canada, and Alaska, as well as some areas in the Southern Hemisphere.
And while the findings are based on the best current available projections of greenhouse gas emissions, and all future weather conditions will be affected by many factors including actual greenhouse gas emissions in the future – hopefully mitigated by human effort – as well as natural climate variability such as weather patterns like El Niño, “if the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous.”
Source: National Science Foundation
Image Source: UCAR