Climate change may be causing some major shifts in water distribution around the world. Scientists have taken a closer look at rainfall patterns and the distribution of water and have found that rising temperatures could have a major impact.
Record warmer temperatures in the Arctic is causing dramatic decreases in the depth and coverage of sea ice. Because of this, the Arctic vortex has become less stable. This causes the vortex to occasionally "spill" freezing air onto the eastern United States and cause regions to experience record cold temperatures.
However, this vortex has another impact other than causing cold temperatures. It also alters the circulation of moisture in the atmosphere. This, in turn, can cause Arctic water to fall as rain or snow in regions such as New Hampshire.
In this latest study, the researchers analyzed more than 40 years of water samples archived in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire. This revealed how precipitation has changed over the years.
"Climate change has an important relationship to the water cycle," said Myron Mitchell, co-author of the new study. "It goes beyond temperature effects. This study shows how climate change is altering the spatial patterns and amounts of precipitation - where it comes from and where it falls. Such effects can drastically affect the availability of potable water and also contribute to the massive flooding we have seen in recent years."
The new findings may help scientists better understand changes that will likely impact global water resources. This is especially important since some areas are already suffering from dry conditions. By learning how areas are affected by changing weather systems, scientists can better predict where water is most likely to fall in the future.
"Our research helps our understanding of the sources of rain and snow and how these precipitation patterns have changed," Mitchell said. "Our study also sheds light on what is going to happen to water resources in the future. This is another clear indication that climate change is happening and we're seeing evidence of it today. If we are going to understand how water and temperature interact, it is important to understand how climate change, including alterations in the water cycle, affect us locally, regionally and globally."
The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.