In the Southwest storms are becoming less frequent, and it may be that the drought in that area will become a more regular phenomenon, according to a new study.
Andreas Prein, the study leader and a postdoctoral researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said that droughts are now occurring more easily in the U.S Southwest.
For the new study, the researchers looked at broad storm patterns and not day to day rainfall. They found that the snow and rain in the Southwest comes primarily from low-pressure storms in the North Pacific Ocean. The frequency of those storms decreased from 1979 to 2014, according to researchers.
Dr. Prein said that the few weather patterns that bring a lot of rain to south-western United States are becoming more uncommon. Those changes could have a huge impact, he added.
Professor Scott Stine of California State University, East Bay, conducted a study on tree rings. The results showed that the “megadroughts” in the south-west – that lasted up to twenty years – have happened during the past few centuries. Moreover, people living in modern California have based their current lifestyles on some decades when unusually high rainfalls took place in that area, Professor Stine noted.
In recent decades, some states in the Southwest have conserved water, but with the current drought regime they might have to consider saving even more water and turn to a more water-conscious lifestyle, Dr. Stine sad.
According to Mari Tye, a co-author of the storm pattern study and scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, water resource managers should be aware of the changing weather pattern frequencies and how they can impact precipitations all over the United States. Water resource managers are usually confronted with issues such as floods and droughts, and their job is to come up with future infrastructure to disperse and store water, Tye explained.
Data from the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) shows that between 1979 and 2014, two major droughts occurred in the Southwest. They peaked in 1988 and in 2000. However, these droughts were not as strong as similar rain shortages that took place in the 1930s and the 1950s, the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration stated.
The findings were published on Thursday (Jan. 4) in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
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