Atlantic climate changes can affect distant droughts

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Changes in North Atlantic ocean surface temperatures and air pressure can affect drought in the Sahara's Sahel region, according to a recently released study.

Cyclical climate variability in one region can have an effect on more distant areas is known in the climate research literature - - the challenge being to locate these far-connections and understand their projections, according to study's co-author, Dr. Shlomit Paz of the University of Haifa.

"Today we are able to gain a better understanding of how the oceans play an important role in the earth's 'climate memory'," Paz said in a statement sent to Xinhua.

The researchers, including the French National Meteorological Service, Columbia University and the University of San Diego, discovered patterns in data from several climate parameters in the North Atlantic over the 20th century.

"Once we become familiar with the natural signals, we will be able to better understand how the human factor correlates with climate," Paz said.

Drought periods in the Sahel correlate with a drop in the force of hurricanes in the Atlantic, and vice versa, Paz said. As well, when the Atlantic Ocean cools, there are droughts in the region, and when the Ocean temperature rises, rain returns to the Sahel region, according to the study.

Drought in the Sahel region from the 1970s to the mid-1990s caused hunger, civilian desertion, ethnic conflicts, the statement said.

The climate study was recently published in the Atmospheric Science Letters journal of the British Royal Meteorological Society.

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