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US Southwest facing 'Dust Bowl'

The continuous increase in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans will leave the American Southwest in perpetual drought for the next 90 years, predicted US researchers Thursday, intensifying the international debate on Global Warming.

Based on 19 climate computer models used in the latest U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on global warming, the study concluded that changing climate will mean increasing drought in the Southwest, home to some of the fastest growing cities in the United States, and the region where water resources are gradually becoming shorter.

"The bottom line message for the average person and also for the states and federal government is that they'd better start planning for a Southwest region in which the water resources are increasingly stretched," said Richard Seager of Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, who is also the lead author of the study.

To reach their conclusion, Seager and fellow researchers studied 19 computer models of the climate, using data dating back to 1860 and projecting into the future.

After assessing the reports, researchers found that the area from southern Colorado to southern California may have to deal with decades as dry as the drought that created the Dust Bowl of the 1930s and the Western droughts of the 1950s.

The Dry conditions could hit the region and northern Mexico as early as 2030, according to the study, published in the journal Science on Thursday.

"The 30s and 50s droughts lasted at most eight or nine years. We're talking about something here that is a drier overall climate," Seager said.

Although the reduction in rainfall could touch levels of the 1930s Dust Bowl that ranged throughout the Midwestern United States, but that does not mean there would be dust storms like those of the 1930s, as Seager said conditions at that time were complicated by poor agricultural practices.

However, he said the reduction in rainfall could be equivalent to those times when thousands of farmers abandoned their parched land and moved away in search of jobs.

Any long droughts could affect mainly the agriculture industry, already suffering from dryness that began in 1999. Currently, most water in the Southwest is used in agriculture, but as the urban population of the region is growing faster the water needs of people are growing as well, Seager explained.

In order to deal with the change, some adjustments like withdrawal of some land from production and water conservation in urban areas can be made.

Global warming and climate change are the issues that concern everyone. International debate on global warming intensified last year in October when highlights of a report on Global warming showed that the climate change will cost the world economy as much as $7-trillion in lost output and could make as many as 200 million people homeless due to flood or drought.

Prepared by the World Bank's former chief economist, Sir Nicholas Stern, the report was considered as unique and significant as this is the first time any economist has contributed to the international debate on global warming, until now only scientists have contributed to the issue.