Climate Change is Warping the Water Cycle

Climate Change is Warping the Water Cycle

Climate change is disrupting the water cycle, making droughts more severe and storms more powerful, researchers say. As global temperatures rise, water is evaporating lower in the atmosphere and at a faster rate. In some areas, this makes for wetter, more severe storms like Hurricane Ian, that can result in disastrous flooding. But, for drought-stricken regions, it's the opposite -- accelerated evaporation can make arid conditions even drier. In fact according to a new study four in five cities are at greater risk of heat waves, floods and droughts.

CBC: US Southwest swings from drought to flash floods, August 22, 2022.

DW: Floods, drought and the consequences of extreme weather (Documentary), July 16, 2022.

Guardian: Climate change is making floods worse | Here’s how, October 19, 2021.

Why This Matters

When heavy rains and flooding come on the heels of a drought, the consequences can be catastrophic. Dry conditions spark wildfires and destroy vegetation, making hills prone to landslides when the water comes. On flat ground, the dusty earth gets packed hard, and becomes impermeable to floodwater that might have otherwise been absorbed. In turn, the deluge is made bigger and more severe.

ABC10: California Drought | 'A train wreck of dryness’ | The atmosphere is working against rain, October 9, 2022.

Bloomberg: California Hasn’t Seen Drought Conditions Like This Since 1984, March 8, 2022.

Climate change has already made both floods and droughts 200% more likely, worldwide, with tragic consequences. California is suffering its driest three years on record, and its residents are suffering the consequences -- one small town near the San Joaquin Valley, Coalinga, could run out of water within two months. In Iraq, severe drought has proved just as devastating, forcing 1,200 families to relocate after the unbearably dry conditions threatened their buffalo, which many depend on to survive. US foreign policy plans now list water security as an official priority.

DW: Our drinking water | Is the world drying up? (Documentary), March 20, 2022.

CBS Los Angeles: Experts express concerns as drought conditions worsen, October 3, 2022.

Al Jazeera: Paradise Lost: Drought ravages Iraq's 'Garden of Eden,’ August 18, 2022.

Carnegie Endowment: The Middle East's Climate Change Wake-Up, February 27, 2022.

Let The Water Run

For cities, bracing against increased flooding is not easy or cheap. In Birmingham, Alabama crews have made 86 water rescues this year alone, as the region suffered a series of floods. The city, though, says it cannot afford the $500 million infrastructure improvements that could prevent damage from future storms.

Still, spending money upfront to prevent flood damage could pay off in the long run. In Kentucky, state officials approved $212 million dollars for flood relief efforts following July’s flood, and in West Virginia, FEMA provided residents with $4.2 in emergency flood relief funds. Both states have had flood mitigation plans ready-to-go for years, but officials have yet to implement them.

ABC: Flood alert for 15 million Americans l GMA, August 22, 2022.

CNN: US plagued by extreme weather with heat, floods and fire, June 14, 2022.

Reuters: California drought withers crops, increasing grocery prices, October 10, 2022.

CNBC: Cities are largely to blame for climate change. Could they also be part of the solution?, October 4, 2022.

The Hill: Kamala Harris WARNS wars will be fought over water, not oil, April 7, 2021.