Increase In Tropical Rainfall May Be Greater Than Predicted

Research published this week in Science suggests that an increase in tropical rainfall events, due to climate change, could be greater than predicted by models to date.

A team of researchers from the UK and the US analysed satellite data from 1988 – 2004, to assess how changes in temperature and atmospheric moisture affect the rainfall in the tropics. They found that the frequency of heavy rain is strongly associated with increasing temperature – in agreement with current climate models – but that these incidences are set to increase with temperature at a faster rate than so far predicted.

The researchers suggest that previous climate models, operating at a lower resolution, may miss localised heavy rainfall events, picked up by this model. They also suggest that future models should build in projections of how the atmosphere is going to respond to warming: as the atmospheric circulation alters, this will shift the distribution of rainfall events around the globe.

Allen R.P., Soden B.J. Atmospheric Warming and the Amplification of Precipitation Extremes. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1160787