Study Links Weather Extremes to Surge in Central American Migration to U.S.

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By LatAm Reports Editor

In the midst of societal challenges like crime, poverty, and political turmoil in Central America, researchers are pinpointing weather variations as a key predictor of migration flows to the United States’ southern frontier. A collaborative research effort between the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Utah has scrutinized the migratory patterns of over 323,000 family groups from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The findings indicate that below-average precipitation, specifically conditions one standard deviation drier than typical, is linked to an approximate 71% surge in northward migration.

This correlation was deduced by analyzing data on migrant apprehensions by the U.S. Border Patrol from 2012 to 2018 and cross-referencing it with meteorological data from the migrants’ hometowns. Josh Busby, a University of Texas professor and study co-author, who has also served as a senior climate advisor in the Biden administration, emphasized that weather conditions hold considerable weight in migration, comparable or even more than socio-economic issues.

The driving force behind this migration, as explained by Busby, is the quest for survival in the face of adverse weather phenomena. The study sheds light on the extensive impact of both drought and elevated temperatures, which not only affect water availability but also harm crucial agricultural yields, such as the region’s pivotal coffee beans.

Alarmingly, the World Food Program and the International Organization for Migration have recently brought to light the escalating food insecurity affecting nearly 3.5 million inhabitants of the ‘dry corridor’ traversing the three nations. The study suggests that climate change is exacerbating the plight of those reliant on agriculture, underscoring the urgent need for attention to climate as a factor in regional migration dynamics.