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United States Moisture Conditions Over the Past Century
McCabe, G.J. and Wolock, D.M.  2002.  Trends and temperature sensitivity of moisture conditions in the conterminous United States.  Climate Research 20: 19-29.

What was done
For the period 1895-1999, the authors evaluated and analyzed annual values of (1) precipitation minus annual potential evapotranspiration, (2) surplus water that eventually becomes streamflow, and (3) the water deficit that must be supplied by irrigation to grow vegetation at an optimum rate.

What was learned
It was determined that for the conterminous United States as a whole, there was a statistically significant (at the 95% confidence level) increase in the first two of the three moisture conditions studied, while for the third there was no change.

What it means
In introducing the rationale for their study, the authors correctly report "there is concern that increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other radiatively active gases may cause global warming and ... adversely affect water resources."  The results of their analyses, however, suggest that over the past century of significant - but neither unusual nor unnatural - global warming, just the opposite has occurred, at least within the conterminous United States.  Moisture has become more available, while there has been no increase in that required for optimum plant growth.

Reviewed 21 August 2002