New Study Says California Drought May Have Come To Stay

Posted: Feb 8 2016, 8:37am CST | by , Updated: Feb 8 2016, 9:45am CST, in News | Latest Science News

Severe drought
Photo credit: Rich Pedroncelli/AP/File

A new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters reveals that the current California drought and dry conditions in other parts of the southwestern US may have come to stay.

The researchers relied on a 35-year-old data from 1979-2014 which indicates among other things that the dryness may well continue for some time to come, but how well into the future is really not known.

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

To fully determine the amount of precipitation, the researchers scrutinized daily sea pressure, atmospheric water depth, and wind speeds over the 35-year-period – taking into full consideration the level of precipitation in the Northwest, Southwest, Midwest, Northeast, and South – with each five US region further divided into three subregions to allow the precipitation analysis to take place.

The Christian Science Monitor noted that researchers were able to establish that the Pacific Southwest was based on a number of weather types which rendered it prone to weather changes – with this responsible for two-thirds of the precipitation in the region, but triggering dry conditions in the entire Southwest.

“The weather types that are becoming more rare are the ones that bring a lot of rain to the southwestern United States,” said Dr. Prein. “Because only a few weather patterns bring precipitation to the Southwest, those changes have a dramatic impact.”

Although data revealed there was high frequency and intensity of precipitation in much of the Northeast and Atlantic coast, there was considerable decrease in the western US and the Central Plains. Now, considering the growing menace of climate change in many of the western regions, reduced precipitation and may further worsen the ongoing drought conditions in the region.

“As temperatures increase, the ground becomes drier and the transition into drought happens more rapidly,” said Greg Holland, one of the study’s co-authors and a senior NCAR scientist. “In the Southwest the decreased frequency of rainfall events has further extended the period and intensity of these droughts.”

Mari Tye, an NCAR project scientist and one of the study authors added that full knowledge of how changing weather frequencies impact on overall precipitation in the US would be able to help water resource managers deal with the issues of flood and droughts, and to plan future infrastructure to store and disperse water.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/52" rel="author">Charles I. Omedo</a>
Charles is covering the latest discoveries in science and health as well as new developments in technology. He is the Chief Editor or Intel-News.




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