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Drier Springs Bring Hotter Summers in the Withering Southwest

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Friday, July 2, 2021

The pattern identified in the study is a positive feedback loop with negative implications. Increasing heat in the spring dries the soil, which, in turn, raises summer temperatures due to the lack of soil moisture, which helps cool the landscape when it evaporates. But Williams, part of a research team behind a paper last year showing that the man-made share of climate change can be blamed for about half of the historic Southwest drought, also thinks about how the extra warmth from the heat waves might promote enough convection to result in precipitation. He is also considering whether the hot, dry trend might lead to something as dramatic as a “sliding out of control, a tipping point.” “The ocean is giving the atmosphere more water molecules,” he said. “So for this region to have less—something profound is happening at the earth surface.”

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