Skies Are Sucking More Water from the Land

Drought is typically thought of as a simple lack of rain and snow. But evaporative demand—a term describing the atmosphere’s capacity to pull moisture from the ground—is also a major factor. And the atmosphere over much of the U.S. has grown a lot thirstier over the past 40 years, a new study in the Journal of Hydrometeorology found.

Evaporative demand can be thought of as a “laundry-drying quotient,” says Nevada state climatologist Stephanie McAfee, who was not involved in the study.

New Study Shows Robust Increases in Atmospheric Thirst Across Much of U.S. During Past 40 Years

In arid Western states, the climate is growing warmer and drier, leading to increased demand for water resources from humans and ecosystems. Now, the atmosphere across much of the U.S. is also demanding a greater share of water than it used to, according to a new study by a team from DRI, University of California, Merced, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.