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How climate change is causing droughts

How climate change is causing droughts

22 Mar 2022
Drought is a prolonged period of insufficient precipitation, resulting in a lack of water. Drought indicators include precipitation, temperature, runoff, groundwater and reservoir levels, soil moisture, and snow cover.

Climate change may increase the likelihood of worsening droughts in the United States and many parts of the world. Droughts in the U.S. Southwest are projected to become more frequent, intense, and prolonged in regions such as the U.S. Southwest, which are particularly at risk.

How climate change is causing droughts:

Higher temperatures enhance evaporation, which reduces surface water and dries out soil and vegetation. This makes periods of low precipitation drier than cooler conditions.

Warmer winter temperatures have led to reduced snowfall in the Northern Hemisphere, including in key areas such as California's Sierra Nevada.

Reduced snow cover can also be a problem even if total annual precipitation remains the same, because many water management systems rely on spring snow melt. Likewise, some ecosystems depend on snowmelt, which provides cold water for species such as salmon. Because snow acts as a reflective surface, reducing snow cover also increases surface temperatures, further exacerbating drought.

Some climate models have found that warming increases precipitation variability, which means there will be more extreme precipitation and periods of drought. This requires expanding water storage during dry years and increasing the risk of flooding and dam collapse during periods of extreme precipitation.

Climate change is making some regions drier

Annual precipitation in the U.S. Southwest has decreased since the 20th century, and this trend is expected to continue.

Estimates of future changes in site-specific seasonal or annual precipitation are less certain than estimates of future warming and are an active area of research. Globally, however, scientists believe that relatively humid places such as the tropics and high latitudes will become wetter, while relatively drier places in the subtropics (where most of the world's deserts are located) will become drier.

In some areas, droughts can work through a vicious cycle in which very dry soils and reduced plant cover absorb more solar radiation and heat up, promoting a high-pressure system that further suppresses rainfall, causing already dry areas to become drier.

Threat of drought

The United States has historically been vulnerable to drought. Paleoclimate research has shown that there have been major droughts in the distant past, and recent dry periods are still remembered, such as dust storms in the 1930s or droughts in the 1950s. These historic examples can serve as signposts that highlight our vulnerability to drought as we move into a warmer and in some places drier future.

Severe drought can affect:

Transportation: Droughts can lower river levels, threatening commerce in rivers like the Mississippi. Transport barges require at least 9 feet of water to operate, and to maintain that level, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had to blast, dred and clear obstacles in a critical section of the Mississippi River in 2013. Drought is also often accompanied by extreme heat, which can bend roads, ground planes and twist mass transit cables. Wildfires sparked by drought can also have an impact on travel, by closing roads and railroads and grounding planes during thick smoke.

Energy: Droughts could raise concerns about the reliability of electricity production in plants that need cooling water to maintain safe operation. Hydroelectric power may also become unavailable during droughts. When heatwaves coincide with droughts, demand for electricity increases, stressing the grid.

Water Supply: Drought is defined as the lack of available water. During droughts, communities may lack access to domestic water, including for drinking, cooking, cleaning and watering plants, as well as for agriculture, transportation and power generation. Droughts could lead to higher water costs, rationing, and even depletion of vital water sources like wells, as in California Rural Communities 2021

Agriculture: Drought affects livestock and crops, including corn, soybeans and wheat. At the height of the drought in 2012, the USDA declared a natural disaster in 2,245 counties, or 71 percent of the U.S. Globally, drought hit several major food-producing regions simultaneously in 2012, exacerbating food price instability. In countries already facing food insecurity, soaring costs can lead to social unrest, migration and famine.

Public Health: Reduced flow in rivers and streams can concentrate pollutants, threatening the quality of drinking and recreational water. In addition, drought-induced wildfires can exacerbate chronic respiratory diseases by exposing nearby communities to smoke and pollutants.

All of these drought impacts can take a huge toll on people, businesses and governments. From 2011 to 2020, the United States experienced nine droughts, each costing at least $1 billion in damage.

Droughts also increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, including reducing land productivity, thereby reducing the amount of carbon dioxide stored in vegetation. In addition, drought-related increases in wildfires and soil erosion would sequester the released carbon dioxide in trees and plants back into the atmosphere.

How to tackle drought

Governments and businesses must identify their vulnerability to drought and build resilience. They can help prepare for future droughts and climate change by practicing and promoting water conservation and improving water efficiency in landscapes, urban planning, and water infrastructure. They can also identify alternative water supplies, develop drought contingency plans, and encourage farmers to grow drought-resistant crops.

Other actions to increase resilience to other stressors, such as deploying green infrastructure for storm water management, improving the energy efficiency of buildings (thereby reducing electricity for factories that rely on water to run), and using renewable energy sources such as solar energy (which do not rely on water) ) ) can improve resilience to drought as a co-benefits.

These steps are most effective when combined with greenhouse gas reductions that minimize the eventual magnitude of climate change. Fortunately, many of the solutions that increase resilience to drought and other climate stressors—such as saving water and improving soil health—can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, the air to water generator produced by Accairwater can also bring pure water to people, and it is especially suitable for use in arid areas. It can produce water from thin air to provide water for agriculture, industry and households. Our atmospheric water machine are over 20 years old and have undergone numerous improvements in quality and functionality.

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