How The Pacific Ocean Influences Long-Term Drought In The Southwestern U.S.

The Southwest has always faced periods of drought. Most recently, from late 2011 to 2017, California experienced years of lower-than-normal rainfall. El Niño is known to influence rain in the Southwest, but it’s not a perfect match. New research from the University of Washington and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution explores what conditions in the ocean and in the atmosphere prolong droughts in the Southwestern U.S. The answer is complex, according to a study published Aug. 6 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. “What causes droughts that last for decades in some parts of the world, and why does that happen? Can we predict it?” said first author Luke Parsons, a UW postdoctoral researcher in atmospheric sciences.