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Scientists in southern Arizona say climate change is having a big effect on our monsoon

Posted at 5:46 PM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-30 20:46:37-04

TUCSON, Ariz.  — Scientists in southern Arizona say climate change is having a big effect on our monsoon. They looked at 50 years of data to find out storms are getting more intense and more numerous.

Thunder, lightning, and heavy rains. Monsoon storms hit hard and move out fast. The intense downpours can often send down more water than the ground can handle.

“There has been a .4 degree Fahrenheit change per decade,” said Southwest Watershed Research Center Research Engineer David Goodrich.

Research engineer David Goodrich says scientists suspected climate change was impacting our monsoons.

“When the atmosphere is warmer it can hold more water vapor. So, when storms are triggered the atmosphere can release more water.”

But our unpredictable summer storms make it hard to draw a connection.

“The climate models don't capture these isolated monsoon storms they are just too small and too localized.”

The southwest water research center and the university of Arizona got around the problem by looking at data from 59 rain gauges in southern Arizona recorded over the last 50 years. The rain gauges account for rainfall each minute of the day. Researchers discovered a 15 percent increase in the number of storms and a 10 percent increase in their intensity.

“So, if you want to build a bridge now to last 50 years you have to account for these trends or in 30 years your bridge might be blown out.”

Goodrich says good reliable data over several decades was the only way to show a distinct relationship between climate change and our monsoons.

“I hope society understands we have to take measurements, we have to take accurate measurements, and we have to take those measurements over a long period of time.”

The data was collected from 1961 to 2017. Goodrich says many wet seasons have started off a little slow like this year’s, but ended up very wet.