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California Drought: Study Says Chance of ‘Megadrought’ in Southwest Is 50 Percent

A white rocky ring reveals low levels of water in the Morris Dam, just north of Azusa in the Angeles National Forest, reflecting the effects of the prolonged drought on March 12, 2014. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

A white rocky ring reveals low levels of water in the Morris Dam, just north of Azusa in the Angeles National Forest, reflecting the effects of the prolonged drought on March 12, 2014. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The chance of a “megadrought” gripping the Southwest for more than 30 years has increased to 50%, scientists say, which mean bad news for California’s already parched landscape.

The odds of a 10-year drought afflicting the southwestern U.S. have increased to 80%, according to a new study by Cornell University, the University of Arizona and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Whatever happens, California is likely to see prolonged drought and drier conditions, especially in the southern portion of the state, said Toby Ault, Cornell assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and lead author of the study, which will be published next month in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate.

The current drought, he said, is a preview of what will “happen in the future in climate change.”

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