WASHINGTON, April 4, 2013- More moisture in a warmer atmosphere due to increasing greenhouse gases will make extreme precipitation events more intense, according to a newly-published study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
"We have high confidence that the most extreme rainfalls will become even more intense, as it is virtually certain that the atmosphere will provide more water to fuel these events," said Kenneth Kunkel, Ph.D., lead author of the paper.
The study, conducted by a team of researchers from the North Carolina State University's Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites-North Carolina (CICS-NC), NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), the Desert Research Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and ERT, Inc., reported that the extra moisture due to a warmer atmosphere dominates all other factors and leads to notable increases in the most intense precipitation rates.
The study also showed a 20-30 percent expected increase in the maximum precipitation possible over large portions of the Northern Hemisphere by the end of the 21st century if greenhouse gases continue to rise at a high emissions rate.
The study, Probable Maximum Precipitation (PMP) and Climate Change, can be viewed online here.
"Our next challenge is to translate this research into local and regional new design values that can be used for identifying risks and mitigating potential disasters. Findings of this study, and others like it, could lead to new information for engineers and developers that will save lives and major infrastructure investments," said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., co-author on the paper.
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