Last updated October 18, 2018

Drought Risk Increase

Global warming drives drought through changes in both precipitation and temperatures that vary by region. Depending on a region’s latitude, climate change can reduce or increase the total annual precipitation. It can also concentrate the year’s precipitation into fewer but heavier downpours. This can lead to more runoff and, in turn, contribute to drought. Global warming can also raise local temperatures and drive more frequent and intense heat waves, all of which can dry out land and prompt the early melt of snowpack, another contributor to drought.

Global trends

An April 2017 study found that climate change increased the probability and severity of the driest year on record — that is, the year that experienced the least amount of precipitation — in 57 percent of the observed areas of the world from 1901–2010.[1]


Southwest trends

Climate change is linked to drought in the US Southwest by two mechanisms: rising temperatures and changing atmospheric patterns conducive to diminishing rains.