Droughts in California are mainly controlled by wind, not by the amount of evaporated moisture in the air, new research has found. The findings were published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, on June 30th 2016.
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The researchers found that disturbances in atmospheric circulation, the large-scale movement of air, have the most effect on drought because they can affect factors that will cause it to rain more or less. The study co-authors are Qinjian Jin, a postdoctoral researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Zong-Liang Yang, a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences; and Paul Dirmeyer, a professor at George Mason University.
You will notice this new study affirms the 1998 Battros Equation, but not unexpectedly stops short of evaluating the “cause” of the shifting ocean and jet stream currents. I dedicated two chapters in my 2005 book “Solar Rain: The Earth Changes Have Begun”; to this ongoing disconnect which amazingly was induced by the respective agencies (NASA-NOAA) reservedly sharing information. Although it has improved measurably over the last five years, it really did come down to the Left Hand unaware of the Right Hand’s doings.
Although a strong El Niño in the winter of 2015 helped diminish the drought in California which had been in a severe drought since 2011. The current drought is caused by a high-pressure system that disturbs the atmospheric circulation. The development of the high-pressure system is related to a sea surface temperature pattern in the Pacific Ocean, according to research cited by the study.
The research increases the understanding of how the water cycle is related to extreme events and could eventually help in predicting droughts and floods, said lead author Jiangfeng Wei, a research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences.
The researchers analyzed 30-year data sets that recorded precipitation, ocean evaporation, surface wind speed and atmospheric pressure on and near the west coast of the United States. These are all factors that influence the water cycle in California. One of the difficulties of studying the water cycle, Wei said, is that the water sources for precipitation cannot be directly observed, so the team also used a mathematical moisture-tracking method and high-resolution model simulations.
Their analysis showed that although moisture evaporated from the Pacific Ocean is the major source for California precipitation, the amount of water evaporated did not strongly influence precipitation in California, except in the cases of very heavy flooding. That’s because the amount of water evaporated from this ocean region does not change much year by year, researchers found, and did not cause rain to occur more or less often.
“Ocean evaporation has little direct influence on California precipitation because of its relatively weak variability,” Wei said. Instead, the researchers found that disturbances in atmospheric circulation, the large-scale movement of air, have the most effect on drought because they can affect factors that will cause it to rain more or less.
“The topic is extremely timely as current and future climate change would mean more changes in extreme events such as droughts and floods,” Yang said. “Understanding this asymmetric contribution of ocean evaporation to drought and flooding in California will ultimately help us make better predictions.”
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