Feb 25 2018
08:48 am

The air heats up, it can hold more moisture. Heat is energy and storms get stronger. We pay the price.

Global warming plays an important role in causing heavier downpours
An increase in heavy downpours (exceeding the 99th percentile) has been documented across every region of the contiguous U.S. since 1958 (Figure 3), and this increase has been partially attributed to the increase in atmospheric moisture due to human-caused global warming. Every degree Centigrade that the air warms up increases the amount of water vapor the air can hold by 7%, due to increased evaporation from the oceans. Thus, record-breaking atmospheric moisture and the resultant major flooding--like the situation observed over the central U.S. this week--are something we will see a lot more of as the climate continues to warm in coming decades. The average moisture content of the atmosphere has already increased by about 4% since the 1970s, as expected from theory (the Clausius–Clapeyron equation). This increase has been attributed, in part, to human-caused global warming. There is research showing that in the summer, we can expect to see an increase in hourly precipitation extremes (greater than the 99th percentile) of up to 14% per degree Centigrade of warming; at colder temperatures, the increase is about 7% per degree Centigrade of warming, as one would expect from the Clausius–Clapeyron equation. The authors argue that the "super Clausius-Clapeyron scaling" of 14% more hourly rainfall per degree Centigrade of warming in extreme events in summer happens because of the dynamics of convective (thunderstorm) clouds--the extra moisture causes more rainfall formation and more latent heat release when the water vapor condenses into liquid, which forces stronger updrafts, invigorating the thunderstorm, and potentially leading to a stronger rate of condensation and even more rainfall formation.


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