USU Study: population growth causing wild weather patterns

Feb 28, 2023, 6:14 PM | Updated: 6:33 pm

LOGAN, Utah — From extreme drought to heavy snow, some researchers at Utah State University are tying to get to the bottom of Utah’s rollercoaster weather patterns.

A new study shows that it may be all our fault and that it’s not going away anytime soon. The two professors on this study say population growth, and the things we all do are adding to the wild swings in weather. While we should work to fix it, they say we’re also going to need to learn how to live with it.

Most people don’t have these kind of resources to deal with winter.

“We’re loving the snow this year,” Doug Younker said. “This is a big boy toy, this isn’t work.”

But the data suggests we could be in for a lot more extreme weather.

Wei Zhang is an assistant professor of plants, soils and climate at Utah State University. In the midst of our drought he set out to try and better understand our wild swings in weather.

“…that magnitude of the hydrological cycle is increasing,” Zhang said. “This trend is not going to end, and those types of extreme events – it’s not going to end.”

While we are seeing a very wet cycle now, that very well could last several years he says we will see extreme drought again. After poring over decades of data, he says the cause is us.

“Including everyday users of cars or use the heating system, and also another contribution is from factories,” Zhang said.

While we all need to do our part Zhang says it’s bigger than that because what’s happening overseas, impacts us here.

“We need international collaborations to cut the carbon emissions from the atmosphere and that’s very challenging,” Zhang said.

In the meantime, we’ll have to better prepare for the major droughts and more resources for the plentiful times.

“What we could do is better ourselves by building better infrastructure,” Zhang said. 

 Zhang says the next piece of this study will be to look into why Utah is stuch a hotspot for these kind of extremes, and whether higher global temperatures may be pulling more water into the atmosphere for building storms.

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USU Study: population growth causing wild weather patterns