Wintertime Droughts Increase Due To Climate Change

According to recent research, an increase in wintertime droughts in the Mediterranean is partly down to human-caused climate change

Over the last 20 years, 10 of the driest winters have taken place in the Mediterranean region that stretches from Gibraltar to the Middle East. As the region accumulates most of its precipitation during the wintertime, an increased dryness during this season is particularly worrying. According to scientist, this emerging trend may have a significant impact on water resources and food security in the future.

Scientists at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) published a report in the Journal of Climate stating that the magnitude and frequency of the drying in the Mediterranean region is “too great to be explained by natural variability.”

The researchers discovered a pattern of increased wintertime droughts and attributed around half of the drying to climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities. They found that greenhouse gases are warming tropical oceans more than other ocean regions and this is pushing drought-conductive weather patterns in the Mediterranean.

The scientists, who looked at data from 1902-2010, also found that the shift towards drier winters began around the 1970s. This coincides with the timing of ocean temperature changes which are closely linked to the wintertime droughts.

Winter precipitation trends in the Mediterranean region for the period 1902 – 2010

The Mediterranean region, like the Middle East, is an area that suffers from water scarcity. However researchers wanted to examine whether the projected drying was also occurring in winter – the most important season for water resources. Scientists now say that the evidence shows it is.

Martin Hoerling, lead author of a paper told sciencedaily.com: “This is not encouraging news for a region that already experiences water stress, because it implies natural variability alone is unlikely to return the region’s climate to normal.”

More evidence, if we ever needed it, that we must take serious action on climate change now.

: Science Daily

:: Images via NOAA

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