Elizabeth Kolbert worries:

Quantifying the effects of global warming on rainfall patterns is challenging. Rain is what scientists call a "noisy" phenomenon, meaning that there is a great deal of natural variability from year to year. Experts say that it may not be until the middle of this century that some long-term changes in precipitation emerge from the background clatter of year-to-year fluctuations. But others are already discernible. Between 1925 and 1999, the area between 40 and 70 degrees north latitude grew rainier, while the area between zero and 30 degrees north grew drier. In keeping with this broad trend, northern Europe seems to be growing wetter, while the southern part of the continent grows more arid. The Spanish Environment Ministry has estimated that, owing to the combined effects of climate change and poor land-use practices, fully a third of the country is at risk of desertification. Meanwhile, the island of Cyprus has become so parched that in the summer of 2008, with its reservoir levels at just 7 percent, it was forced to start shipping in water from Greece.

(Hat tip: Paul Kedrosky)

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