NASA data shows that global warming is leading to more severe droughts and floods
Twenty years of global NASA satellite data showing range, duration, and Severe severe dehydration and floods has risen along with rising global temperaturesA new study revealed.
Study co-author Matthew Rudel, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said the study looked at the timing of such events and where they occur around the world.
The study, published in the journal Nature Water Strong correlation between extreme wet and dry events and increased temperatures.
More extreme events — more frequent, larger and more intense — have occurred in subsequent years, since 2015, which has ranked among the 10 warmest on record, Rudel said.
The work adds to a growing body of evidence that continued warming could cause droughts and floods to become more frequent, widespread and severe.
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Weather events change
When you have warmer temperatures, you see these more intense events happening and they happen more frequently, Rudel said. “It is very likely that as the world continues to warm, we will experience more frequent and severe droughts and[periods of increased precipitation].”
Warmer air causes more evaporation during dry periods and increases the amount of water available in thunderstorms and other precipitation during wet events.
A USA TODAY investigation in 2021 It showed increased torrential precipitation in the eastern half of the United States, but this drought has been getting more frequent and more severe.
investigation:How a Summer of Severe Weather Reveals a Startling Shift in the Way It Rains in America.
Years of study expected this to be the case, but like the investigation, most academic studies use precipitation data.
Rodell and Bailing Li, who work at the University of Maryland’s Space Flight Center, used information from NASA satellites. More accurate data helps account for underestimations that occur in extreme precipitation data, Rodell said and for uncertainties in rain and snow measurements at higher elevations.
What did the scientists do:
- Note: Changes in Earth’s water storage measured by remote sensing satellites, including groundwater, soil moisture, snow, ice, and surface water around the world.
- is found: 505 wet and 551 extreme dry events from 2002 to 2021, with an average duration of 5-6 months.
- Analyzed: Monthly temperatures and monthly total intensities for all wet and dry events are recorded and compared.
What they found:
Decrease in the frequency of wet events in the US and increase in the frequency of dry events, eg drought series in the Southwest since 2012.
- A ‘highly correlated’ relationship between global mean temperature and severity of wet and dry extreme events – combining extent, duration and intensity.
- Stronger connection with temperature than El Nino or other circulation patterns.
- A shift from wetter to more dry events in southeastern Brazil and within “a vast swath from southern Europe through the Middle East and Arabia to southwestern China and Bangladesh”.
- More dry events in sub-Saharan Africa and west-central South America during the first half of the 20 years, and more rainy events in the second half.
- The major flood event that covered most of central Africa starting in 2019 and still ongoing at the end of 2021 was three times larger than the next largest wet or dry event in the entire 20-year period.
How does precipitation change in the United States:See how your community has changed
Satellite data vs. precipitation data
“People kind of intuitively realize that extreme events happen often, but it’s hard to say for sure,” Rudel said. “Satellite data gives us a new way of looking at itThat gives us a great deal of confidence that it’s actually happening.”
“We’re not always good at measuring extremes in precipitation,” he said. And rain and snow measurements can’t take into account evaporation and runoff, and you don’t see the “big picture” of the total amount of water gained or lost.
Rodell and Li used a satellite known as the GRACE satellite, In order to restore gravity and experience the climate. The satellites measure reflected light and monitor each other’s orbits, taking into account the force of gravity affecting any data collected and measuring their orbits with “amazing precision.”
Similar to how the Drought Monitor in the United States provides regular monitoring of drought conditions in the country, “the approach presented by Rodell and Li can provide regular monitoring of extreme wet and dry events globally,” writes Melissa Rod, in an article also published in Nature Water in March.
“Recognizing drought and flood events before they intensify can help water managers to respond accordingly to minimize negative impacts,” she said. The Goddard scientists’ approach “can help communicate the urgency of dealing with climate change.”
Latest drought videos around the world:
Dinah Voyles Pulver covers climate and environmental issues for USA TODAY. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @dinahvp on Twitter.