America today: too much water or not enough

Through Aatish Bhatia and Nadja popovich The United States, like most countries in the world, is getting both drier and wetter...


Aatish Bhatia and

The United States, like most countries in the world, is getting both drier and wetter. It depends on where you live.

In New York City, a tropical storm produced record rains this weekend. Heavy downpours caused devastating flash floods in central Tennessee, tearing apart homes and killing more than 20 people. Yet California and much of the west remained in the most widespread drought for at least two decades, the product of a long-term rainfall deficit and much warmer-than-usual temperatures.

This divide, a wetter East and a drier West, reflects a broader trend seen in the United States in recent decades. Similar patterns can be seen around the world: On average, global land areas have experienced more rainfall since 1950. But even though much of the world has become wetter, some areas have become drier.

It is not yet clear whether these changes are a permanent feature of our global warming or whether they reflect long-term weather variability. But they are broadly consistent with predictions from climate models, which expect to see more precipitation overall as the world warms, with large regional differences. Basically: damp places get wetter and dry places get drier.

You can read our article, and see the full set of cards, here.

Numbers: The air can hold about 7% more humidity for each degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, of warming.

Quote: “Precipitation is one of the key climate variables,” said Aiguo Dai, professor of atmospheric sciences. “The direct impacts of warming temperatures are significant, but the indirect impact through changes in precipitation and storm intensity will be even greater. “


In May, when I began writing about the severe drought in the West, I made a point of consulting the weekly chart produced by the US Drought Monitor. I saw something interesting: While I and many other reporters focused on the conditions in California and the Southwest, North Dakota was also very dry.

So I went there to see what was going on. Along with Ben Rasmussen, a photographer, I visited ranchers in McHenry County, one of the hardest hit areas. The pastures were brown and stocky. The corn grown for fodder barely reached my ankles. The water holes were drying up.

All of this was forcing many ranchers to sell part of their herds – something Ben and I witnessed at a cattle auction near Bismarck, where a constant stream of ranchers arrived with trailers full of cattle. for sale. You can read the full article, and see the awesome photos of Ben, here.

The forecasts: Western drought is going last until fall or more, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Quote: “I’ve been ranching for 47 years and then this year must have happened,” said John Marshall, who runs a ranch in McHenry County with his son, Lane.


Global warming increased likelihood of downpours This led to flooding in Germany and Belgium this summer and also made the storms wetter, scientists have found.

The researchers said record precipitation was 1.2 to 9 times more likely today than it would have been over a century ago, before heat-trapping gas emissions warmed the world. world over 1 degree Celsius, or about 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Looking forward: If the world warms to 2 degrees Celsius, as it probably does without drastic reductions in emissions, the probability of such a weather event would increase even more, becoming 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely than it is. currently are.

What about the Tennessee floods? Researchers did not have time to analyze the links between weekend flooding and climate change, but a scientist said the heavy rains were “exactly the type of event we expect to see with increasing frequency in a warming climate.


The adults are still children’s failure on climate change, Greta Thunberg, Adriana Calderón, Farzana Faruk Jhumu and Eric Njuguna write in a guest essay.


The Times newsletter on women, gender and society spoke with Katharine K. Wilkinson, co-editor of the climate anthology “All We Can Save”, about how climate change affects women and girls.


Cotton bags are everywhere nowadays. How did an environmental solution become part of the problem?



Until recently, most scientists believed that modern humans left Africa in a massive exodus around 60,000 years ago. But the latest research using a new climate model suggests that modern humans have had multiple windows of opportunity to leave the continent much earlier, and reinforces the theory that Homo sapiens had several migrations out of Africa.

Researchers have reconstructed the climate of northeastern Africa over the past 300,000 years and identified when there would have been enough rainfall to allow hunter-gatherers to survive the journey to the Arabian Peninsula.

Among their discoveries: the Sinai Peninsula was passable 246,000 years ago, and the southern strait had even more favorable windows, including the period 65,000 years ago.


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