Global Warming Models Underpredict Increase in Rainfall, Study Says

May 31, 2007

The world will be getting hotter, according to many climate models. But it might also be getting unexpectedly wetter.

That's the finding of a new study by Frank Wentz and colleagues at the research company Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) in Santa Rosa, California.

Wentz's team analyzed satellite data from the past 20 years to show that as global temperatures have risen, precipitation has kept pace.

The results fly in the face of many of the world's most sophisticated climate models, which predict that worldwide rainfall will increase at a much slower rate than temperatures.

(See a map of predicted effects of global warming.)

The findings also cast doubt on the ability of climate models to accurately predict precipitation on regional scales.

The study appears in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science.

Missing the Mark

The researchers compared satellite climate data going back to 1987—when such records were first kept—to data from current computer climate models.

The work marks one of the first tests of the models' accuracy predicting rainfall, the team says.

Computers have done a decent job predicting temperature over the years, but have not done as well predicting moisture.

In general, the authors say, computers tend to underestimate amounts of rain and snowfall.

Continued on Next Page >>


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