Water Cycle is Speeding Up Over Much of the U.S.

Regions with weakening water cycles and low soil moisture should be carefully tracked over the next few decades because they could become increasingly dry. That would make agriculture more difficult or require more irrigation.

Read more here. NASA Earth Observatory image by Lauren Dauphin, using data from Huntington, Thomas, et al. (2018). Story by Kasha Patel. Image shows difference in water intensity from January 1, 1945 – December 31, 2014.

In new research, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) showed that there has been an increase in the flow between the various stages of the water cycle over most the U.S. in the past seven decades. The rates of ocean evaporation, terrestrial evapotranspiration, and precipitation have been increasing. In other words, water has been moving more quickly and intensely through the various stages.

“As the planet warms we anticipate that the warmer air, which holds more moisture, will lead to more evaporation and precipitation,” said Tom Huntington, the study’s first author and a research hydrologist at USGS. “If those processes are increasing, it is evidence for an intensifying water cycle. But no one had really shown that trend quantitively.” Until now….

Huntington said these regions with weakening water cycles and low soil moisture should be carefully tracked over the next few decades because they could become increasingly dry. That would make agriculture more difficult or require more irrigation. On the other hand, too much rain or soil moisture storage, such as in the northeast U.S. or Texas, could lead to increased flooding. ..