Heavy Rains Linked to Humans
An increase in heavy precipitation that has afflicted many countries is at least partly a consequence of human influence on the atmosphere, climate scientists reported in a new study.
In the first major paper of its kind, the researchers used elaborate computer programs that simulate the climate to analyze whether the rise in severe rainstorms, heavy snowfalls and similar events could be explained by natural variability in the atmosphere. They found that it could not, and that the increase made sense only when the computers factored in the effects of greenhouse gases released by human activities like the burning of fossil fuels.
As reflected in previous studies, the likelihood of extreme precipitation on any given day rose by about 7 percent over the last half of the 20th century, at least for the land areas of the Northern Hemisphere for which sufficient figures are available to do an analysis.
The principal finding of the new study is “that this 7 percent is well outside the bounds of natural variability,” said Francis W. Zwiers, a Canadian climate scientist who took part in the research. The paper is being published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Nature.
The paper covers climate trends from 1951 to 1999 and therefore does not include any analysis of last year’s extreme precipitation, including catastrophic floods in Pakistan, China and Australia as well as parts of the United States, including Tennessee, Arkansas and California. However, the paper is likely to bolster a growing sense among climate scientists that events like the 2010 floods will become more common. Read the rest on the NYT.