Climate change: When it rains it (really) pours

Aug 07, 2008
A new study conducted at the University of Miami and the University of Reading (UK) provides the first observational evidence to confirm the link between a warmer climate and more powerful or "extreme" rainstorms. Credit: NASA

Climate models have long predicted that global warming will increase the intensity of extreme precipitation events. A new study conducted at the University of Miami and the University of Reading (U.K.) provides the first observational evidence to confirm the link between a warmer climate and more powerful rainstorms.

One of the most serious challenges humanity will face in response to global warming is adapting to changes in extreme weather events. Of utmost concern is that heavy rainstorms will become more common and more intense in a warmer climate due to the increased moisture available for condensation. More intense rain events increase the risk of flooding and can have substantial societal and economic impacts.

To understand how precipitation responds to a warmer climate, researchers in this study used naturally-driven changes associated with El Niño as a laboratory for testing their hypotheses. Based on 20 years of satellite observations, they found a distinct link between tropical rainfall extremes and temperature, with heavy rain events increasing during warm periods and decreasing during cold periods.

"A warmer atmosphere contains larger amounts of moisture which boosts the intensity of heavy downpours," said Dr. Brian J. Soden, associate professor at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science.

The report, "Atmospheric Warming and the Amplification of Precipitation Extremes," previewed in Science Express this Thursday, August 7, and published in an upcoming issue of Science, found that both observations and models indicated an increase in heavy rainstorms in response to a warmer climate. However, the observed amplification of rainfall extremes was found to be substantially larger in the observations than what is predicted by current models.

"Comparing observations with results from computer models improves understanding of how rainfall responds to a warming world" said Dr. Richard P. Allan, NERC advance fellow at the University of Reading's Environmental Systems Science Centre. "Differences can relate to deficiencies in the measurements, or the models used to predict future climatic change"

Source: University of Miami

Explore further: Lava from Hawaii volcano picks up speed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Climate change alters cast of winter birds

Oct 17, 2014

Over the past two decades, the resident communities of birds that attend eastern North America's backyard bird feeders in winter have quietly been remade, most likely as a result of a warming climate.

Rising sea levels of 1.8 meters in worst-case scenario

Oct 14, 2014

The climate is getting warmer, the ice sheets are melting and sea levels are rising – but how much? The report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013 was based on the best ...

Recommended for you

Icelandic volcano sits on massive magma hot spot

Oct 24, 2014

Spectacular eruptions at Bárðarbunga volcano in central Iceland have been spewing lava continuously since Aug. 31. Massive amounts of erupting lava are connected to the destruction of supercontinents and ...

NASA sees Tropical Storm Ana still vigorous

Oct 24, 2014

NASA's TRMM satellite saw that Tropical Storm Ana was still generating moderate rainfall is it pulled away from Hawaii. The next day, NASA's Aqua satellite saw that wind shear was having an effect on the ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jburchel
2 / 5 (8) Aug 07, 2008
Please shutup with the climate change propaganda already. Everyone who was going to buy into it already did, and the rest of us are sick of hearing the stupid computer models that are always wrong anyway.
menkaur
1.6 / 5 (7) Aug 07, 2008
you know... if you do not understand the system, there is a good chance that your simulations will be incorrect
start with reviewing the human-caused global warming theory