A blob of warm water in the southern Pacific is fueling a decade-long megadrought in Chile, and climate change is at least partly to blame, scientists say.
The “Southern Blob” east of New Zealand is driving hot and dry conditions in Chile, with snow caps melting on the Andes, reservoirs running low and once-lush landscapes withered. Chilean authorities this year were forced to truck water to some 400,000 people living in rural areas.
That massive blob – wider than the continental United States – is now 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than it was 40 years ago. Areas of nearby ocean, however, have warmed much more slowly during that time, and are just 0.2C to 1C warmer, the study shows.
The heat from the blob warms the air directly above it and winds carry the heated air toward Chile. This impacts pressure trends, affecting rainfall and resulting in dry conditions in Chile.