Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Irrigation in California's Central Valley intensifies rainfall, storms across the Southwest

Date:
January 28, 2013
Source:
University of California - Irvine
Summary:
Agricultural irrigation in California's Central Valley doubles the amount of water vapor pumped into the atmosphere, ratcheting up rainfall and powerful monsoons across the interior Southwest, according to a new study.

Vineyard in California.
Credit: Andy / Fotolia

Agricultural irrigation in California's Central Valley doubles the amount of water vapor pumped into the atmosphere, ratcheting up rainfall and powerful monsoons across the interior Southwest, according to a new study by UC Irvine scientists.

Moisture on the vast farm fields evaporates, is blown over the Sierra Nevada and dumps 15 percent more than average summer rain in numerous other states. Runoff to the Colorado River increases by 28 percent, and the Four Corners region experiences a 56 percent boost in runoff. While the additional water supply can be a good thing, the transport pattern also accelerates the severity of monsoons and other potentially destructive seasonal weather events.

"If we stop irrigating in the Valley, we'll see a decrease in stream flow in the Colorado River basin," said climate hydrologist Jay Famiglietti, senior author on the paper, which will be published online Jan. 29, in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The basin provides water for about 35 million people, including those in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix. But the extra water vapor also accelerates normal atmospheric circulation, he said, "firing up" the annual storm cycle and drawing in more water vapor from the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Central Valley.

When the additional waves of moisture bump into developing monsoons, Famiglietti said, "it's like throwing fuel on a fire."

Famiglietti, an Earth system science professor in the School of Physical Sciences, and colleague Min-Hui Lo, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California Center for Hydrologic Modeling who is now at National Taiwan University, painstakingly entered regional irrigation levels into global rainfall and weather models and traced the patterns.

"All percent differences in the paper are the differences between applying irrigation to the Central Valley and not applying it," Famiglietti said. "That's the point of the study -- and the beauty of using computer models. You can isolate the phenomenon that you wish to explore, in this case, irrigation versus no irrigation."

Famiglietti's team plans to increase the scope of the work to track how major human water usage elsewhere in the world affects neighboring areas too. A better understanding of irrigation's impact on the changing climate and water availability could improve resource management in parched or flooded areas.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Irvine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Min-Hui Lo and James S. Famiglietti. Irrigation in California's Central Valley Strengthens the Southwestern U. S. Water Cycle. Geophysical Research Letters, 12 JAN 2013 DOI: 10.1002/grl.50108

Cite This Page:

University of California - Irvine. "Irrigation in California's Central Valley intensifies rainfall, storms across the Southwest." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130128133908.htm>.
University of California - Irvine. (2013, January 28). Irrigation in California's Central Valley intensifies rainfall, storms across the Southwest. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130128133908.htm
University of California - Irvine. "Irrigation in California's Central Valley intensifies rainfall, storms across the Southwest." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130128133908.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Big waves in parts of the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented, mainly because they used to be covered in ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins