Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gas Increases May Contribute to Changes in Precipitation Extremes


Understanding and predicting changes in extreme climate events is very critical due to the high impact of extreme events on society and the economy. In particular, few studies have evaluated the role of greenhouse gas increases, if any, on changes in heavy precipitation because of the limited availability of daily observations. Using an optimal fingerprinting technique, DOE-funded scientists compared observed and multi-model simulated extreme precipitation changes during the latter half of the 20th century over large Northern Hemisphere land areas. Their results provided the first scientific evidence that anthropogenic greenhouse gas increases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events. They also suggest that the climate models used in this study underestimate the observed changes, indicating that changes and impacts of future changes in extreme precipitation may also be underestimated.


Min, S.-K., X. Zhang, F. W. Zwiers, and G. C. Hegerl. 2011. “Human Contribution to More-Intense Precipitation Extremes,” Nature 470, 378–81, doi:10.1038/nature09763.