Atmospheric Warming and Amplification of Precipitation Extremes

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“…the observed amplification of rainfall extremes
is found to be larger than predicted by models,
implying that projections of future changes in
rainfall extremes due to anthropogenic global
warming may be underestimated.”
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Science
August 7, 2008

Atmospheric Warming and the Amplification of Precipitation Extremes
Richard P. Allan 1* and Brian J. Soden 2

1 Environmental Systems Science Centre, University of Reading,
Berkshire, RG6 6AL, UK.
2 Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of
Miami, FL 33149, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Richard P. Allan , E-mail: r.p.allan@reading.ac.uk

ABSTRACT: Climate models suggest that extreme precipitation events
will become more common in an anthropogenically warmed climate.
However, observational limitations have hindered a direct evaluation
of model projected changes in extreme precipitation. Here, we use
satellite observations and model simulations to examine the response
of tropical precipitation events to naturally driven changes in
surface temperature and atmospheric moisture content. These
observations reveal a distinct link between rainfall extremes and
temperature, with heavy rain events increasing during warm periods
and decreasing during cold periods. Furthermore, the observed
amplification of rainfall extremes is found to be larger than
predicted by models, implying that projections of future changes in
rainfall extremes due to anthropogenic global warming may be
underestimated.

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