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“The idea of climate change can be abstract. A couple of degrees warmer doesn’t sound like much, but water cycle impacts are tangible,” said Dr. Matt Rodell, who is a hydrologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and the lead author of the study. “Global warming is going to cause more intense droughts and wet periods, which affects people, the economy, and agriculture around the world. Monitoring hydrological extremes is important for preparing for future events, mitigating their impacts, and adapting.”“Both events were associated with climate variability, but the Brazilian drought occurred in the warmest year on record (2016), reflecting the impact of global warming,” said Dr. Bailing Li, who is an Assistant Research Scientist at the University of Maryland and a hydrologist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. “The recent southwestern U.S. and southern Europe droughts were also some of the most intense events, in part, due to anthropogenic warming. Global warming has had broad and profound impacts on terrestrial water storage, such as reduction of annual snow in high elevations and depletion of groundwater by people when surface waters are scarce. Reflecting these changes, GRACE data provide us a unique perspective of how hydrological extremes have been changing around the world.” The study identified two extreme storm events that stood out amongst the rest: a pluvial (rainfal event) in central Africa that started in 2019, which has resulted in the water level in Lake Victoria in Kenya to rise by more than one meter, and is still ongoing; and a severe drought in Brazil in 2015-2016, the most extreme dry event over the last 20 years, that resulted in empty reservoirs and water rationing across the country.What new discoveries will researchers make about climate change and weather events in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

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