`Flash Droughts Are Happening More Quickly and Lasting Longer, Study Finds - Olive Oil Times

Flash Droughts Are Happening More Quickly and Lasting Longer, Study Finds

By Paolo DeAndreis
May. 3, 2022 14:17 UTC

According to a new study in Nature Communications, flash droughts, or the rapid onset and inten­si­fi­ca­tion of drought, are becom­ing even faster.

Researchers found that these extreme events can dry up the soil in large areas and occur with the same fre­quency in the last two decades. However, it takes less time for them to hap­pen, and their dura­tion is increas­ing.

The researchers added that increas­ing atmos­pheric arid­ity fuels the phe­nom­e­non in many world regions.

See Also:Time Running Out to Prevent Worst Impacts of Climate Change, U.N. Says

Globally, the flash droughts that come on the fastest, send­ing areas into drought con­di­tions within just five days, have increased by about 3 to 19 per­cent,” the researchers wrote.

And in places that are espe­cially prone to flash droughts such as South Asia, Southeast Asia and cen­tral North America, that increase is about 22 to 59 per­cent,” they added.

The dam­age caused by flash droughts can extend to all agri­cul­tural sec­tors and the gen­eral econ­omy.

Though they are short-lived, last­ing from a few weeks to a few months, such events can occur in crit­i­cal grow­ing peri­ods.

In the study, the authors cite the 2012 flash drought that hit the cen­tral United States between May and August and resulted in an esti­mated $36 bil­lion (€34 bil­lion) in losses to agri­cul­ture and the local econ­omy.

Similar inci­dents have been recorded in many other coun­tries, includ­ing China and sev­eral African nations.

In south­ern Queensland, Australia, in 2018, a flash drought de-veg­e­tated the land­scape and drove live­stock num­bers to the low­est level in the coun­try.”

One of the rea­sons for such enor­mous dam­age caused by flash droughts is their rapid onset, which hap­pens with­out any warn­ing, pre­vent­ing farm­ers and local pop­u­la­tions from prepar­ing.

By ana­lyz­ing the global hydro-cli­mate data sets based on the satel­lite mea­sure­ment of soil mois­ture, researchers found that flash droughts’ onset in the last two decades required just five days, 34 to 46 per­cent of the time.

Seventy per­cent of those phe­nom­ena develop in less than half a month. The research hints that ris­ing global tem­per­a­tures might be the pre­cur­sor of such events and the rea­son for the accel­er­a­tion reported in their onset.

The study also found that regions under­go­ing sig­nif­i­cant sea­sonal changes in humid­ity might be specif­i­cally prone to flash droughts, such as the east­ern United States, the Amazon basin or Southeast Asia.


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