NOAA Scientist Martin Hoerling Paints Picture of Increasing Drought in Mediterranean

By B. McPherson

The area of the Mediterranean Sea east to Iran usually receives the bulk of its rainfall in the wintertime. According to figures released by NOAA scientist, Martin Hoerling, the last 20 winters have had 10 extremely dry winters in that area.
 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.” NOAA News
As the water temperature of the oceans increases due to planet warming, the atmosphere responds. When the Indian Ocean warms in response to planetary temperatures, it tends to push the weather systems north into central and northern Europe which then receive  more precipitation while the arid south receives less.
The NOAA scientists use data from many sources to reach their conclusions.

The natural climate fluctuations may or may not be affected by humanity’s burning of fossil fuels. Humans may not be causing the Earth’s climate to shift from a cooler to a warmer one, but many worry that humanity’s effect is to speed up the process to the point where many plants and animals will be unable to adapt to the changing conditions and go extinct. In the meantime conflicts over water usage are expected to escalate. A particular hot spot is the River Jordan which feeds the Dead Sea. Water is drawn from that river to supply agriculture and a growing population in Israel,Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, West Bank countries, leaving only a trickle to feed the Dead Sea.

A drier climate surrounding the Mediterranean will also affect food security, pushing food prices higher as well as increasing the number and ferocity of wildfires. Soggy northern Europe will also have to adjust to the new reality of higher rainfall which threatens flooding and landslips.

Hoerling’s paper will be published in the online Journal of Climate later this month.

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