Researchers have discovered a worrying trend over the past two decades, with the Southern Hemisphere becoming progressively drier, reports Kevin Collins, a researcher at the Open University who wrote a new article in The Conversation.
The worrying results of the new study
A study just published in the journal Science reveals this troubling pattern, attributing the root cause to El Niño, a climate anomaly that intermittently warms the waters of the eastern Pacific. As concerns about the global climate grow, the implications of this drying trend could be profound and far-reaching.
While the Northern Hemisphere maintains relatively stable water availability, thanks in part to human interventions such as irrigation and reservoirs, the Southern Hemisphere does not fare as well. Even though it is home to only a quarter of the world‘s landmass, excluding Antarctica, its drying up has a huge impact on global water resources. This drying is most evident in South America, much of Africa, and central and northwestern Australia.
Environmental and social impacts
The implications of this drying are significant, especially for the delicate ecosystems and agricultural productivity of the Southern Hemisphere. In South America, the Amazon rainforest, a key climate stabilizer, is at risk, with potential increases in wildfires and carbon releases. Agriculture, on which global food systems depend heavily, faces uncertainty with potential shortages of vital exports such as soybeans, sugar and coffee. Similar challenges loom over Africa and Australia, where drying trends threaten natural habitats, food production and urban livelihoods.
A comprehensive analysis of the global availability of terrestrial water was conducted, examining data from the last twenty years. The findings, clear in their implications, show that the Southern Hemisphere is primarily responsible for the global decline in water resources. This study, integrating various observations, shines a spotlight on the profound influence of El Niño and related climate patterns on water scarcity.
El Niño may be drying out the southern hemisphere – here’s how that affects the whole planetSouthern Hemisphere dominates recent decline in global water availability | Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.adh0716)
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