PHOENIX - In a recent study, researchers found that droughts are lasting longer and storms are more unpredictable in the last five decades.
Researchers went through 50 years of weather data, and they discovered that the bigger changes took place in the desert Southwest.
"What we were really trying to accomplish was looking at the day-to-day variations in rainfall across the Western United States. We were trying to take a hard look at the timing of that rainfall, how often the ground gets wet," said Dr. Joel Biederman, a research hydrologist with the United States Department of Agriculture's Southwest Watershed Research Center in Tucson.
Dr. Biederman says they discovered the average temperature increased by 1.5°F since the 70s in the West.
In addition, the team also found other big changes in the Southwest.
"For our region here in the desert Southwest, the average annual rainfall declined much more, about three inches," said Dr. Biederman.
That is about a 30% decline., considering the average amount of rainfall in the desert Southwest is around 10 to 11 inches a year.
Dr. Biederman says the most surprising discovery was the average length of time between storms.
"The average dry interval between storms here in the desert Southwest has increased from about 30 days in the 1970s to just over 45 days now," said Dr. Biederman. "So about a 50% increase in how long we have to wait after one storm for the next storm, on average."
The changes have shown to be happening at a faster rate and Dr. Biederman says he hopes the recent findings will help us all make better decisions.
"If we could look at the areas where rainfall intervals are growing the most severely, we might be able to prioritize things like wildfire fuels reduction," said Dr. Biederman. "We might be able to make smarter decisions about how much livestock we can graze on a particular piece of land, or develop better crops that are adapted to those types of conditions."
Dr. Biederman says it's also important for people to think about water storage in order to better prepare for the future.
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