The Stream, May 19, 2020: Global HotSpots “Seesawing” Between Drought and Heavy Rain, Study Finds

The Global Rundown

A new study finds that certain global hotspots are prone to swings between drought and torrential rain. Bulawayo, the second-largest city in Zimbabwe, cuts tap water to just one day per week as water shortages worsen. Heavy rain brings flooding to parts of Michigan. A dry winter and spring threaten wheat crops in Romania, a major grain exporter. Satellite data shows the Czech Republic’s deepening drought. 

“Extreme dry and wet conditions are increasingly making global headlines. However, existing studies generally treat them in a separate way. Their consecutive occurrence, especially in the same location within a short period, magnifies impact on local populations, and therefore deserves more attention.” —Xiaogang He, lead author of a recent Princeton University study exploring the link between areas of the globe that seem to be experiencing a rapid oscillation between drought and heavy rainfall. The research found that around 11 percent of global droughts between 1950 and 2016 were followed within three months by an intense rainfall event. This “seesaw” effect was seen at even higher rates in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Brazil, Canada, Botswana, Iran, China and Myanmar. Princeton University 

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By The Numbers

10 million tonnes Record wheat crop reaped in Romania last year. This year, after a dry winter and spring, the harvest is likely to fall between 5 and 7.4 million tonnes. Despite the sharp shortfall, Romania should have a large enough surplus to export to Egypt, the main buyer of cereal exports from the European Union. Reuters

2-3 inches Rainfall across parts of Michigan in recent days. Many areas of the state are already grappling with coastal and other waterway flooding, with several of the Great Lakes at record-high levels for this time of year. Communities are now being further deluged by the heavy rainfall. The Detroit News

Science, Studies, and Reports

Satellite data compiled by Dutch company VanderSat highlights the ongoing drought in the Czech Republic, which is said to be the worst dry spell in 500 years. The maps juxtapose soil moisture between 2015 and 2020 versus soil moisture between April 10 and May 10 of this year. Soil moisture in several areas is around 30 percent below the six-year average. ESA

On the Radar

Tap water is now only available on Fridays in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, as reservoir levels continue to drop in the parched country. The city, Zimbabwe’s second-largest, has gradually imposed more severe water cuts since the beginning of the year. The city’s key reservoirs are now near 30 percent capacity, leaving around 65 megaliters of water available daily against a demand of 155 megaliters. Reuters

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