Posted in: Theories

Climate Change Will Delay Southwest Monsoon Season

climate change to modify southwest monsoon season

Climate change models say that the summer southwest monsoon season will return to the American southwest, but it will start coming later in the year, which is a problem because crops will just be starting to grow as the days get shorter in the fall. That’s the conclusion of a new study in Journal of Geophysical Research, headed up by lead author Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist with joint appointments at Columbia University and NASA.

The new models suggested that global climate change will set up a chain reaction that delays the monsoon rains. Drier winters, with less rain or snow to the north, will create drier conditions that make it more difficult for clouds to form in the spring and early summer. The rains wouldn’t be able to begin until wetter air eventually arrived on changing air streams in September or October. In the past, the southwest monsoon generally occurred in July and August.

Farmers and ranchers in the study region, which includes northern Mexico as well as southern Arizona and New Mexico, depend upon the monsoon rains for most of the year’s rainfall. The area has been concerned about the affects of climate change ever since a devastating 2011 drought, which also affected states to the east including Texas and Louisiana. In that year, both New Mexico and Arizona experienced their hottest summer ever recorded to date. They were also hit by record-breaking wildfires, including the Las Conchas wildfire, which threatened the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the first atomic bomb was developed.

Although 2012 was an even more severe drought year for the American Midwest, sending grocery prices through the roof, September rains finally arrived to provide some water to the southwest. Ironically, the late monsoon dumped too much water, creating flash floods in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A late rainy season is, of course, no better than no season at all. By mid-July during last summer’s drought, CNN was already reporting that the southern plains and southwest had lost about $12 billion in economic losses to farmers and ranchers. By the end of the crisis, some observers had compared the drought disaster in the midwest to the 1930s dust bowl, which contributed to the length and suffering of the Great Depression.

However, the late season will still create challenges. Cities like Phoenix and Tucson will need to stretch their water reserves to fight potentially dangerous wildlifes. In 2005, the late monsoon forced cattle ranchers to buy feed, since there was no grass, greatly increasing their costs.

Since the monsoon provides 70 percent of the rainfall for a region that supplies food to about 20 million people, people will have to plan how to use the water wisely in an era of changing climate.

[photo courtesy Brian Jackson and flickr]

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2 Responses to “Climate Change Will Delay Southwest Monsoon Season”

  1. Paul Merrifield

    Be a real progressive and move on and move forward and get ahead of the curve:
    *Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded carbon trading stock markets ruled by corporations and trustworthy politicians.
    Science says comet hits are eventual and imminent but has never said the same about any climate change crisis; it’s been 27 years of a "maybe" crisis.
    REAL planet lovers welcome the good news. The rest of you just hate humanity itself.

  2. Melting Sky

    Actually science tells us climate change is imminent and already ongoing. There will come a day when the oceans boils and all flammable materials on the surface of the planet will combust followed eventually by the atmosphere itself being blown off in the solar wind as our dying sun expands into the inner solar system. Such is only a matter of time, a great deal of it. If your referring to the short term, then climate change is already happening and is quite well documented. There is no "maybe" when it comes to man having an impact on global climate change at least not in the eyes of science. The only people saying maybe, are politicians with an agenda and that's primarily only in a single country, the USA. Its the same with science's consensus that smoking isn't good for your health. Although there are still even to this day some political and business interests who claim this link is questionable the scientific community really doesn't question it anymore. The same goes for climate change and man's roll in it.