By: Connor Edelstein
Summary: This year, scientists are saying that the surface temperatures of the Pacific Ocean will be lower than usual. This drop in surface temperatures is what is referred to as a “La Niña”. La Niñas influence weather patterns across the globe, and unfortunately for the already dry American Southwest, it can bring warmer temperatures and drier weather. Typically, dry regions like the Southwest rely on the snowmelt for a large amount of water that is used from spring, to summer, and into fall. Due to this year’s forecasted La Niña, many areas will not get enough water to supply them trough the summer. Meaning that they will most likely remain in a state of drought until at least next winter, until scientists are able to determine whether it will be a La Niña (Low Pacific surface temps), or an El Niño (High Pacific surface temps). The implications of this are huge. During drought conditions, people living in that area are not able to use as much water, cutting down on accessible water for bathing, cleaning, and cooking. The lack of water could also mean that the regions farmers will have a difficult year, and will most likely have lower than average yields, and that isn’t even considering the factories that utilize local water during the manufacturing process. On top of all that, the likelihood for wildfires remains high, which have already torn through many states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. The La Niña is not going to affect just the American Southwest. Even though the dry weather will not reach the eastern United States, the lower air quality from wildfires will be noticeable, just like the hazy sky in Michigan this summer.
Why we should care? Fortunately in Michigan, wildfires aren't all that common, but the thought of one is absolutely horrifying. Obviously they are a natural process and serve a purpose, but they are happening more frequently.
To me it is interesting to think that the Southwestern portion of our country may be the driest it has been in 1000 years. In Michigan, one can drive for an hour and see many full lakes, cross over plenty of raging rivers. In the Southwest one will drive past the occasional reservoir and drive over bridges built over rivers that have since dried up. It makes me wonder how different I would be had I been raised in the dry Southwest. When I see it’s raining, I go oh crap, more rain. Would I be more grateful, and pay more attention towards resources that I rely on? Also makes me wonder about how this will affect the many species of the region.
Science in Action.
Dr. Michael Crimmins is a Professor and Extension Specialist of Climate Science at the University of Arizona.
Dr. Crimmins, who was a guest speaker in our Environmental Science 1500 class, is a Professor at University of Arizona. Dr. Crimmins does research on climate and conditions in the American Southwest. His research is relevant to my blog topic, because through Dr. Crimmins’ research, we will get a better understanding of what the Southwest is currently going through. This understanding will allow local officials to make better decisions on how to handle drought conditions and wildfires, and hopefully how to help prevent them. Understanding what happens before, during, and after these conditions will allow us to improve our current measures, and hopefully help prevent such conditions in the future.