Extreme Rain and Drought Is Happening More Often, New Research Shows – The New York Times

“The study provides an emerging picture of distortions in the total amount of water both above ground and also in aquifers deep beneath the Earth’s surface, where most of the freshwater that humans depend upon comes from.

It relies on data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment mission, known as Grace, which uses satellites that can detect changes in gravity to measure fluctuations in water where other satellites can’t see. That way, it can provide information about locations where there are otherwise no gauges or wells.

“For most of the world, we just don’t have data on how groundwater storage is changing,” Matthew Rodell, the deputy director of earth sciences at NASA Goddard, said. “Grace sort of breaks those boundaries and provides information everywhere.”

In a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Water, Dr. Rodell and Bailing Li, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, analyzed the satellite data to measure water-cycle extremes. They uncovered 505 wet and 551 dry episodes between 2002 and 2021, then assigned each one an “intensity,” in order to rank them. The intensity rankings took into account the severity of an episode as well as its duration and the amount of land area affected.”

David Lindsay:  Bravo. Oh shit. Here are the two top comments:

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NC  2h ago

We were warned long ago. The following is from a 1981 paper by James Hansen that at the time hit the front page of the NY Times, all the predictions in it have either come to pass or are well underway. “Potential effects on climate in the 21st century include the creation of drought-prone regions in North America and central Asia as part of a shifting of climatic zones, erosion of the West Antarctic ice sheet with a consequent worldwide rise in sea level, and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage.” http://www.nytimes.com/1981/08/22/us/study-finds-warming-trend-that-could-raise-sea-levels.html From a 2012 paper, see the graph of western North America precipitation from 1900-2100 on p 555 of the paper, it makes the recent western drought look like a rainforest by comparison with what is projected to come. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2128&context=usdaarsfacpub

Reply20 Recommended

Switzerland  57m ago

Valuable study. To those complaining about the short term nature of the data (18 years), the following might be considered: a. This data is what we have, and it is empirical and sound. b. Throughout the article, caveats from the writer and the scientists who are quoted make it plain that this data is preliminary and that more data is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn. Sometimes it seems that the words ‘maybe’ and ‘could’ are invisible to some readers. c. We have to look at preliminary data — we are in rapidly evolving, dangerous situation and we need all the information we can get. If you start getting sharp pains in your chest you don’t wait to gather more data — you act on what you know and get to a hospital. One thing that is striking to me is the rapid rise in variability after 2018 — perhaps reflecting the increasing amounts of water vapor being carried from place to place in a warming atmosphere.

1 Reply19 Recommended
DL: Commenter Girl of NJ opined that she wanted a brief but spectacular explanation of how Grace could do this science, which promted this next comment:
Alfonso Bedoya
Meso-Connecticut2h ago

@Commenter Girl This link might begin to explain https://grace.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/grace-fo/ As I understand it, the distance measured between the two satellites correlates with the strength of the earth’s gravitational field directly below. More or less ground water in a given area will be reflected in those measurements, which can be matched with past measurements of that area.

In Reply to Alfonso Bedoya8 Recommended
And one more:
Tucson1h ago

With airplanes, not only do we weigh airplanes before they are allowed to fly, but we also perform “weight and balance” calculations to see if any section of the plane exceeds its posted limits. Climate Change is changing the weight and balance of Planet Earth by redistributing water and ice. In an airplane, we try to compensate for freight that shifted in flight with rudder and aileron. How will we compensate for shifting weight on Planet Earth? When Planet Earth’s trajectory changes and no longer remains in the orbit human survival depends upon, who will press the rudder to return us to the designated route? Yes, you guessed it. Donald is the answer. By all means, vote republican, ignore Climate Change and let the genius fix it.

Reply11 Recommended

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