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As temperatures rise and weather patterns shift, droughts are becoming more frequent and intense. But what is the relationship between climate change and the regularity of droughts? In this exploration, we delve into the science behind this complex and pressing issue, uncovering the ways in which a changing climate is worsening the drought conditions across the globe. From the impact on agriculture to the strain on water resources, it’s time to understand the connection and work towards finding solutions. Join us as we examine the relationship between climate change and the regularity of droughts.
According to a Pew Research Centre Survey, drought is the one disaster that people worry most about out of all the dangerous climate change impacts. Due to climate change and global warming, droughts seem to be getting drier and longer in recent years. In 2012, the Western and Central United States was struck especially hard by droughts, forcing 81 percent of the country to live in extremely dry conditions. The disaster caused around $30 billion in damages and put the safety and health of numerous citizens at risk.
The COP15 recently released a report- “Drought in Numbers” – to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. The report warned of the increasing frequency and intensity of droughts worldwide. India is one of the most severely affected drought countries: the country has even been featured in the Global Drought Vulnerability Index. Nearly two-thirds of India suffered droughts between 2020- 2022.
For Americans, droughts have become a frequent natural disaster. Droughts ranging from moderate to extreme conditions that covered the country in 2012 still continue today. Summer 2021 in America recorded the lowest water level at Lake Mead. Human-induced climate change contributes the most toward drought. Is there a relationship between climate change and the regularity of droughts?
Human activities lead to greenhouse gas emissions that trap heat in the atmosphere, causing heat waves and droughts. Rising temperatures increase the rate of evaporation, reducing surface water and drying out soil and vegetation. The condition makes periods with low precipitation driers than they would be in cooler conditions. The Southwestern United States is witnessing a decrease in annual precipitation since the beginning of the 20th century.
Rising temperatures also cause less precipitation to fall as snow, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, including regions like the Sierra Nevada of California. Decreasing snowpack is a serious issue, even if the total precipitation per year remains the same. Several water management systems and particular ecosystems depend on the melting of spring snowpacks. As snow acts as a reflective surface, the decrease in snow area will increase surface temperatures, aggravating drought conditions.
According to certain climate models, warmer temperatures increase precipitation variability. Thus, there will be more periods of extreme precipitation and drought. The situation will lead to a higher risk of water shortage during droughts and increased flooding and dam failures during severe precipitation.
Most researchers and scientists see a relationship between climate change and the regularity of droughts. However, it does not always mean that one caused the other. Droughts are variable: they occur every few years or every year. But as increasing droughts correspond with climate change trends, more experts are correlating it with the same.