Greenhouse gases and aerosol pollution emitted by human activities are responsible for increases in the frequency, intensity and duration of droughts around the world, according to researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

In a study published recently in Nature Communications, scientists in UCI’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering showed that over the past century, the likelihood of stronger and more long-lasting dry spells grew in the Americas, the Mediterranean, western and southern Africa and eastern Asia.

“There has always been natural variability in drought events around the world, but our research shows the clear human influence on drying, specifically from anthropogenic aerosols, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases,” said lead author Felicia Chiang, who conducted the project as a UCI graduate student in civil & environmental engineering.

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