In a new study published in Nature Water, authors find a warming planet is increasing the frequency, duration, and severity of drought and heavy rainfall events. “This is an observation. It’s actual data,” Matthew Rodell, a hydrologist at NASA and co-author of the study told the Washington Post. More severe drought and rainfall occurred in the last 8 years than in the previous decade, a trend that authors find is attributable to anthropogenic climate change.
The scientists used a pair of satellites to measure how the Earth stored water – in groundwater, surface water, ice, and snow – over 1,000 events from from 2002 to 2021. “It’s incredible that we can now monitor the pulse of continental water from outer space,” Park Williams, a bioclimatologist who was not involved in the study told the AP. “I have a feeling when future generations look back and try to determine when humanity really began understanding the planet as a whole, this will be one of the studies highlighted.”
The scientists caution that groundwater changes remain an issue that needs to be studied further, especially when looking at climate change. But for precipitation trends over shorter periods of time, the causal link is more clear. “One of the robustly detected aspects of water cycle extremes is the increase of intense precipitation with climate change,” John Fasullo, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research told the New York Times. (PBS NewsHour, AP, CNN, (Washington Post $, Climate Signals Explainers: Drought, Extreme Precipitation)