The 1930s the United States was suffering from the most severe drought in its history, the “Dust Bowl.” And be prepared to bite the dust once again, because scientists think the Dust Bowl is coming back for a second round. And this time for decades.

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Buried machinery in Dallas, South Dakota, May 1936. via Wikipedia

According to Cornell University Professor Toby Ault, the Southwest United States typically experience a severe drought once or twice a century. The Dust Bowl was followed up by a less intense but still pretty bad drought in the ’50s, and now we’re overdue for the next Big Dry One. The chances of this multi-decade drought striking the American Southwest within the next century are upwards of 80 percent, and it will “make the megadroughts seem like quaint walks through the Garden of Eden.” And, by the way, it will only last 35 years.

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Farmer digging in sand in Cimarron County, Okla., in 1936. Library of Congress

So what does a Dust Bowl look like?

According to University of Arizona professor Jonathan Overpeck, there are two possibilities: either a “warm megadrought” or a “searing megadrought.”

A searing megadrought basically turns the country into a Mad Max prequel. “Toxic dust storms could rage across the region, making driving extremely dangerous. The vast majority of trees in the region would die. Agriculture would become all but impossible.

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The huge Black Sunday storm as it approaches Ulysses, Kansas, April 14, 1935. via Historic Adobe Museum

There will be massive water shortages across the west of the country and monster wildfires will devastate states like California and Arizona. Farmers would have to give up on thirsty crops such as corn and wheat and grow more drought-friendly crops like nuts instead. A warm megadrought could “probably be endured,” with some big trade-offs.

So, yeah, another Dust Bowl is going to rumble through the American West and nobody is aware of it… Get ready!

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Naw, can’t happen. No raging dust storms, that I can say for certain. I live in Kansas, right in the heart of the dirty 30’s. There are reasons beyond no rainfall that caused those conditions the pictures in this article describe. Those scenes were caused by the moldboard plow. Farmers moved east from what today is the midwest corn belt and brought their moldboard plows with them. They tried to use them in the great plains where ‘normal’ rainfalls are half of what they were used to. When the drought hit, the plow had dried the ground to 8″ deep and the disk and harrow used after the plow powdered the soil to flour. When at 20-30 mile an hour wind came along, you got a dust storm.

    We don’t do that today. We still pull some iron in the dirt from time to time to kill weeds, but not much. Today, its all no-till and / or chem-fallow. There is plenty of previous crop residue in the field to keep the ground from blowing. We sustained 8 years (2000-2008) of dry years around here without any dust bowls. That time period was actually drier than the 30’s. IF we got 35 years of drought like the article says, then the place will go back to grass and cattle since a farmer couldn’t pay the bills. Irrigation will help this issue, but only to a point. The non-farmer community would suffer plenty also since 1 Kansas farmer tends to feed 130 people in the world as it sets today.

  2. While it is true that poor farming methods combined with drought caused the first dust bowl, there are other things that can cause a drought. If for no other reason than just because the Bible says that men will gnaw their tongues out and a measure of wheat for a penny, a days wages for a days bread, etc.

    All it would take for the earth to freeze solid or burn up is a slight shift of the planet alignment. With all the homosexuality and feminism we have seen in the last few decades, the world is far past overdue for the big one.

  3. Maybe you can tell us why Toby Ault is not a fear mongering idiot. Do you think that because he is a professor that what he says is sacrosanct? There are literally hundreds if not thousands of professor in each of the college degree categories across the USA.

    WHY DID YOU PICK OUT THIS FEAR MONGERING IDIOT TO QUOTE? DO YOU ACTUALLY CONSIDER THIS NEWSWORTHY?

    We just got over our 5 year drought. So tell us why you are pushing this stupidity. Do you buy it? Or, do you have a hidden agenda to keep your viewers glued to and chomping at the bit for the next little tidbit of hysterical news. You people need to be more circumspect in what news you are promoting !!!

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