Researchers document global connections between El Nino events and drought

El Nino
The 1997 El Nino seen by TOPEX/Poseidon. Credit: NASA

A team of researchers recently discovered that global climate change is causing general increases in both plant growth and potential drought risk.

University of Montana Professor John Kimball is among the team of researchers who published an article on Oct. 30 about their study on Scientific Reports magazine's website titled "Vegetation Greening and Climate Change Promote Multidecadal Rises of Global Land Evapotranspiration."

Their research shows that during the past 32 years there have been widespread increases in both plant growth and evaporation due to recent global climate trends. The apparent rise in evapotranspiration - the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from plants and soil - is increasing potential drought risk with rising temperature trends, especially during periodic drought cycles that have been linked with strong El Nino events. El Nino is a disruption of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific with important consequences for weather around the globe.

The researchers produced a long-term global satellite record of land evapotranspiration using remote sensing satellite data. They investigated multi-decadal changes looking at trends between 1982 and 2013. In addition to global evapotranspiration trends, they examined vegetation greenness and general climate data including temperature, precipitation and cloudiness. Collectively, these data show general increasing trends in both and evaporation with recent mainly driven by vegetation greening and rising atmosphere moisture deficits.

The study predicts that a continuation of these trends will likely exacerbate regional drought-induced disturbances, especially during regional dry climate phases associated with strong El Nino events.


Explore further

How does El Nino warm the entire globe?

More information: Ke Zhang et al. Vegetation Greening and Climate Change Promote Multidecadal Rises of Global Land Evapotranspiration, Scientific Reports (2015). DOI: 10.1038/srep15956
Journal information: Scientific Reports

Citation: Researchers document global connections between El Nino events and drought (2015, November 2) retrieved 28 March 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2015-11-document-global-el-nino-events.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
18 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments