US Southwest Region Is Sliding Into A ‘Drier Climate State’, Study Finds

Posted: Feb 7 2016, 3:11am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News


US Southwest Region is Sliding into a ‘Drier Climate State’, Study Finds
This map depicts the portion of overall changes in precipitation across the United States.The gray dots represent areas where the results are statistically significant. Credit:Andreas Prein, NCAR

Southwestern region, which is already the most arid region in United States, is getting even drier as wet weather patterns are becoming rarer

Southwestern United States is becoming more dry than ever before and it is something predicated by global models long time ago. 

The Southwest is already the most warm and arid region in United States and according to a new research the region is drifting into an even ‘drier climate state’ as wet weather patterns that bring moisture to the region are becoming more rare. 

“A normal year in the Southwest is now drier than it once was. If you have a drought nowadays, it will be more severe because our base state is drier.”Andreas Prein, a researcher at National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and lead author of the study said.

Researchers looked at the data related weather patterns from 1979 to 2014 and used it to determine whether those patterns are becoming more or less frequent.  Researchers found that weather patterns that once bring a lot of rain to the Southwestern United States are becoming rarer and this situation has a dramatic impact on the climate. Snow and rain is becoming less frequent, meaning more droughts in the region and more stress on limited resources of water.

“Nowadays, the droughts are not the same as 30 years ago. They can be more intense and last longer than we would expect 30 years ago.” Prein said.

Researchers found that three patterns that tend to bring most wet weather to the Southwest involved low pressure systems centered in the North Pacific just off the coast of Washington but they are getting less often over the past three decades. Conversely, high pressure in that area turned out to the main driver behind the ongoing devastating drought in California.

Although, the research does not show a direct link between climate change and the drier conditions of Southwestern region but suspects that it may be responsible for the change in frequency.

“As temperature increases, the ground becomes drier and the transition into drought happens more rapidly,” said Greg Holland, co-author of the study. “In the Southwest, the decreased frequency of rainfall events has further extended the period and intensity of these droughts.”

The research suggests that subtle shifts in weather patterns over the past 30 years are dominant factor in the precipitation trends in Southwestern United States. To examine the potential connection between the drier climate state and global warming, researchers are aiming to study more climate model data and weather patterns in future.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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