‘Flash droughts’ coming on faster, global study shows

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‘Flash droughts’ coming on faster, global study shows

Just like flash floods, flash droughts come on fast—drying out soil in a matter of days to weeks. These events can wipe out crops and cause huge economic losses. And according to scientists, the speed at which they dry out the landscape has increased.

A map of drought conditions across the United States in mid-July 2012, the peak of a flash drought that decimated crops in the Midwest. Credit: Richard Heim/ NCEI/NOAA

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Texas Tech University found that although the number of flash droughts has remained stable during the past two decades, more of them are coming on faster. Globally, the flash droughts that come on the fastest—sending areas into drought conditions within just five days—have increased by about 3%-19%. And in places that are especially prone to flash droughts—such as South Asia, Southeast Asia and central North America—that increase is about 22%-59%.

Rising global temperatures are probably behind the faster onset, said co-author and UT Jackson School Professor Zong-Liang Yang, who added that the study’s results underscore the importance of understanding flash droughts and preparing for their effects…READ ON

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