Scientists with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said wintertime droughts are increasingly common in the region and climate change from human activity is partly responsible, a NOAA release said Friday.
"The magnitude and frequency of the drying that has occurred is too great to be explained by natural variability alone," Martin Hoerling of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo., said. "This is not encouraging news for a region that already experiences water stress, because it implies natural variability alone is unlikely to return the region's climate to normal."
Hoerling's team discovered a pattern of increasing wintertime dryness that stretched from Gibraltar to the Middle East, and concluded climate change from greenhouse gases caused roughly half the increased dryness between 1902, the first year of a recorded rainfall data set, and 2010.
The Mediterranean has long been considered a "hot spot" for substantial impact from climate change in the latter decades of this century because of water scarcity in the region and a rapidly increasing population.