Atmospheric science

Harder rains in a hotter climate

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The amount of rain delivered in intense spurts, such as in thunderstorms, will probably increase more than that from drawn-out showers, as the climate warms.

As temperatures rise, so does the frequency of extreme precipitation events, but scientists have had trouble untangling which type of precipitation contributes most to these changes in weather. Jan Haerter of the University of Copenhagen and his colleagues used radar measurements and data from gauges, taken as often as every five minutes over many months, to study how much rain fell over parts of Germany. Cloud observations were used to distinguish between the two types of rain.

The amount of rain delivered in extended showers increased with temperature at about the expected rate. However, the volume produced in intense bursts increased faster than the rise in the atmosphere's water-holding capacity, which also rises with temperature. Such erratic precipitation patterns may dominate in a warmer future.


Nature Geosci. (2013)

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