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Warmer world, more intense precipitation: Study


Atmospheric storms could carry up to 30 per cent more moisture by the 2070s.
Atmospheric storms could carry up to 30 per cent more moisture by the 2070s.

Daniel Martins, staff writer

April 7, 2013 — A new study led by NOAA says higher global temperatures will mean more atmospheric moisture -- and more intense extreme precipitation events.

The study's authors warn of more intense rainfall as global temperatures rise.
The study's authors warn of more intense rainfall as global temperatures rise.

As Earth's climate changes, be prepared for more extreme precipitation events.

That's the alarm being sounded U.S.' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a NOAA-led study published last month.

At the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions, researchers warn, our planet's warmer atmosphere will be laden with up to 30 per cent more moisture.

"We have high confidence that the most extreme rainfalls will become even more intense, as it is virtually certain that the atmosphere will provide more water to fuel these events," says lead researcher Kenneth Kunkel of North Carolina State University's Institute for Climate and Satellites.

The projected increase in maximum precipitation is expected to reach the 20 to 30 per cent mark between the years 2071 and 2100.

The study's authors say they used climate model simulations to examine moisture in the atmosphere, upward motion of air in the atmosphere, and horizontal winds.

In the simulations, higher temperatures didn't change the motion of the air in the atmosphere, or the horizontal winds, but it did cause the air to carry more moisture, the key ingredient in major storms.

NOAA says the findings are meant to have real-world value.

"Our next challenge is to translate this research into local and regional new design values that can be used for identifying risks and mitigating potential disasters," says Thomas R. Karl, the director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Centre.

The study was published online last month.

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