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Drought Might Go Medieval on Southwest, Researchers Say; 60-Year Dry Period Possible

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A 60-year drought, the likes of which hasn't been seen since medieval times, may be in store for the Southwest this century, University of Arizona researchers report.

A summary of scientific findings published yesterday by the U of A doesn't spell out the precise cause-and-effect process for the potential calamity, making the prediction seem more like guesswork.

But climatologists who've studied tree-rings and other evidence from the past say the extra-warm temps of the last two decades likely mean that any coming drought will be horrendous.



While Crusading knights romped around the Middle East in the 12th Century, the Sonoran Desert wilted under a 60-year dry period. The Colorado River's average flow decreased by about 15 percent for 25 years.

Because even hotter temps are expected by the year 2100 than were seen in the 12th century, experts say, the next mega-drought might see further reductions in the Colorado River. Millions of people now require that water to live in Arizona, Nevada, California and other places.

Yet we doubt a decades-long drought force people to leave the Southwest -- it'll just mean strict water conservation, plus some new tricks we haven't thought of yet. (We're imagining a giant water desalinization project powered by cold fusion, or something like that.)

The Hohokam people lived in the Valley for 1,000 years before abandoning the region in about 1450. They suffered through the 12th-century drought and apparently came through just fine. Scientists believe floods that damaged their system of canals, not drought, ended their long run in the Valley.

We're just hoping for snow in Flagstaff and the White Mountains this year. 

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