Is climate change causing deserts to have more rainfall?



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    It depends on the desert and where it is located, but generally yes, because more warming means greater ocean evaporation, which in turn means more rainfall. In its Global Deserts Outlook, the United Nations Environmental Programme stated, “Global warming is expected to induce an overall increase in rainfall; but high latitudes are projected to warm more than the mid- and low-latitudes, resulting in more rainfall in higher latitudes linked to reduced rainfall in subtropical ones.” The data collected bears out this prediction. Most of the world’s deserts saw increased rainfall between 1976 and 2000, but some, such as Chile’s Atacama Desert, the driest on earth, saw a decrease. It’s difficult to make any blanket statements about deserts based on rainfall, because their patterns tend to vary widely, and in extremely arid environments even a few large rainfall events can have large effects on data trends. But, there’s no doubt that desert environments are no less susceptible to global warming than any other environment on Earth, and the various problems that result–including increased flooding–threaten ecosystems and human populations that call these places home.

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