environment

Climate change intensifying water cycle, bringing more powerful storms and flooding

14 Comments
By Mathew Barlow

Powerful storm systems triggered flash flooding across the U.S. in late July, inundating St Louis neighborhoods with record rainfall and setting off mudslides in eastern Kentucky, where at least 16 people died in flooding. Another deluge in Nevada flooded the Las Vegas strip.

The impact of climate change on extreme water-related events like this is becoming increasingly evident. The storms in the U.S. followed extreme flooding this summer in India and Australia and last year in Western Europe.

Studies by scientists around the world show that the water cycle has been intensifying and will continue to intensify as the planet warms. An international climate assessment I coauthored in 2021 for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lays out the details.

It documented an increase in both wet extremes, including more intense rainfall over most regions, and dry extremes, including drying in the Mediterranean, southwestern Australia, southwestern South America, South Africa and western North America. It also shows that both wet and dry extremes will continue to increase with future warming.

Why is the water cycle intensifying?

Water cycles through the environment, moving between the atmosphere, ocean, land and reservoirs of frozen water. It might fall as rain or snow, seep into the ground, run into a waterway, join the ocean, freeze or evaporate back into the atmosphere. Plants also take up water from the ground and release it through transpiration from their leaves. In recent decades, there has been an overall increase in the rates of precipitation and evaporation.

A number of factors are intensifying the water cycle, but one of the most important is that warming temperatures raise the upper limit on the amount of moisture in the air. That increases the potential for more rain.

This aspect of climate change is confirmed across all of our lines of evidence discussed in the IPCC report. It is expected from basic physics, projected by computer models, and it already shows up in the observational data as a general increase of rainfall intensity with warming temperatures.

Understanding this and other changes in the water cycle is important for more than preparing for disasters. Water is an essential resource for all ecosystems and human societies, and particularly agriculture.

What does this mean for the future?

An intensifying water cycle means that both wet and dry extremes and the general variability of the water cycle will increase, although not uniformly around the globe.

Rainfall intensity is expected to increase for most land areas, but the largest increases in dryness are expected in the Mediterranean, southwestern South America and western North America.

Globally, daily extreme precipitation events will likely intensify by about 7% for every 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) that global temperatures rise.

Many other important aspects of the water cycle will also change in addition to extremes as global temperatures increase, the report shows, including reductions in mountain glaciers, decreasing duration of seasonal snow cover, earlier snowmelt and contrasting changes in monsoon rains across different regions, which will impact the water resources of billions of people.

What can be done?

One common theme across these aspects of the water cycle is that higher greenhouse gas emissions lead to bigger impacts.

The IPCC does not make policy recommendations. Instead, it provides the scientific information needed to carefully evaluate policy choices. The results show what the implications of different choices are likely to be.

One thing the scientific evidence in the report clearly tells world leaders is that limiting global warming to the Paris Agreement target of 1.5 C (2.7 F) will require immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Regardless of any specific target, it is clear that the severity of climate change impacts are closely linked to greenhouse gas emissions: Reducing emissions will reduce impacts. Every fraction of a degree matters.

Mathew Barlow, a professor of climate science, teaches in the Kennedy College of Science’s  Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department and is a member of the UMass Lowell Climate Change Initiative.

The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.

© The Conversation

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

14 Comments
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History books are full of warming periods, heavy rainfalls and devastating floods, long before any emissions caused by humans. They shouldn’t just stop to mix up all those developments, only to propagate their de-industrialization efforts from the green agendas. And it also won’t help, because even in the best scenario it only could postpone those effects a little bit, not avoid them.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Climate change intensifying water cycle, bringing more powerful storms and flooding:

That must have been a long foregone conclusion for a number of years.

Yet how many people, particularly those blockheaded and pugnacious leaders, are taking any serious note..?

2 ( +6 / -4 )

History books are full of warming periods, heavy rainfalls and devastating floods, long before any emissions caused by humans. They shouldn’t just stop to mix up all those developments, only to propagate their de-industrialization efforts from the green agendas.

If there is enough scientific evidence that proves human activity is the cause of the current climatic change, so much that the scientific community is in overwhelming consensus about it, what makes you think you can prove the experts are all wrong based only on your personal beliefs.

There are many kinds of strategies being put forward to correct the problem, including some that bring a lot of scientific advancement. Misrepresenting the movement as if it was just "de-industrialization efforts" clearly shows your bias.

And it also won’t help, because even in the best scenario it only could postpone those effects a little bit, not avoid them.

With that logic there is no point in any medical treatment either, after all it can only postpone the death of the patients, not avoiding it.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Sven AsaiToday  11:44 am JST

History books are full of warming periods, heavy rainfalls and devastating floods, long before any emissions caused by humans. They shouldn’t just stop to mix up all those developments, only to propagate their de-industrialization efforts from the green agendas. And it also won’t help, because even in the best scenario it only could postpone those effects a little bit, not avoid them.

Good point.

If there is enough scientific evidence that proves human activity is the cause of the current climatic change, so much that the scientific community is in overwhelming consensus about it, what makes you think you can prove the experts are all wrong based only on your personal beliefs.

Except there is no scientific evidence that proves human activity is the cause of any climate change.

There are many kinds of strategies being put forward to correct the problem, including some that bring a lot of scientific advancement. Misrepresenting the movement as if it was just "de-industrialization efforts" clearly shows your bias.

There is nothing that says climate change is a problem. Just as historical records showing heavy rainfalls and devastating floods existed and might have been a problem; those incidents themselves would be the problem.

With that logic there is no point in any medical treatment either, after all it can only postpone the death of the patients, not avoiding it.

This is fallacious reasoning on many levels, and on one, people only have one life and one death whereas the environment has many cycles and so if there is a climate change, it does not mean the death of the earth, as evidenced by the fact there is still an earth that has endured historical warming periods, etc.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Except there is no scientific evidence that proves human activity is the cause of any climate change.

You could not be more wrong

https://scienceexchange.caltech.edu/topics/sustainability/evidence-climate-change

Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.

How do you explain that the whole scientific community says there is enough evidence to prove beyond any rational doubt that human activity is the cause of climate change? are you going to being discussing semantics?

There is nothing that says climate change is a problem

Once again completely wrong

https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/science/causes-effects-climate-change

The problems originated by climate change are listed in an easy to understand way, you are proved wrong again

This is fallacious reasoning on many levels, and on one, people only have one life and one death whereas the environment has many cycles and so if there is a climate change,

That does nothing to disprove the analogy, if the argument is that postponing something is worthless it does not matter what, so medical treatment is also worthless.

Climate change do not have to be the death of the earth to be worth posponing it, that is all your strawman.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

With that logic there is no point in any medical treatment either, after all it can only postpone the death of the patients, not avoiding it.

This is an interesting way to put it. Indeed, I have already decided that if I were to have an illness that is anything like I have seen family and friends struggle with treatment, pay a bunch and then die early anyway that I won't do that.

There is an opportunity cost to money spent on anything, including giving $100B a year (is that what is proposed?) to countries like China to use to adapt to change. That is only the straight cash spending, with very dubious expectations that it would be spent wisely. One could argue very easily that the opportunity spend would also be wasteful, but it would be debated as it is spent in smaller increments. Currently, if you question the climate spending, you are labeled a "denier" and the conversation is over.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Speaking of increased water vapor in the Stratosphere, "the Tonga eruption sent around 146 teragrams (1 teragram equals a trillion grams) of water vapor into Earth’s stratosphere – equal to 10% of the water already present in that atmospheric layer. That’s nearly four times the amount of water vapor that scientists estimate the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines lofted into the stratosphere."

And next, are the climate alarmists going to blame human activity for the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Apia volcanic eruption? That would be some very interesting mental gymnastics!

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

And just to be clear that the data I referenced is not from some "fringe" source (though I did misspell the name of the volcano : it's Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai) please refer to :

https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/tonga-eruption-blasted-unprecedented-amount-of-water-into-stratosphere

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.

You are wrong.

Just because "scientists agree" that doesn't mean there is scientific evidence!

How do you explain that the whole scientific community says there is enough evidence to prove beyond any rational doubt that human activity is the cause of climate change? are you going to being discussing semantics?

The whole scientific community?

Let's see the source for that claim,

Once again completely wrong 

https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/science/causes-effects-climate-change

The problems originated by climate change are listed in an easy to understand way, you are proved wrong again

You are wrong again. NOTHING in that source says "climate change is a problem".

That does nothing to disprove the analogy, if the argument is that postponing something is worthless it does not matter what, so medical treatment is also worthless. 

Climate change do not have to be the death of the earth to be worth posponing it, that is all your strawman.

Wrong.

You made a fundamental illogical analogy, plain and simple.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Just because "scientists agree" that doesn't mean there is scientific evidence!

You thought this was an intelligent statement? Ouch, you can read a LOT into the fact you thought that was an intelligent statement. Although it would take intelligence to be able to do that reading.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

StrangerlandToday  11:23 pm JST

You thought this was an intelligent statement? Ouch, you can read a LOT into the fact you thought that was an intelligent statement. Although it would take intelligence to be able to do that reading.

Hilarious!

Just to confirm, because scientists agree on something, that makes the something a fact, right?

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Just because "scientists agree" that doesn't mean there is scientific evidence

Yes that is what it means, that is what scientist use to agree, do you have evidence of the contrary? if you don't that means you are still wrong.

The whole scientific community?

Let's see the source for that claim,

Is was already presented, that is the whole point of the reference, do you think CalTech is lying? based on what? that you think differently so they must be wrong? because that is not an argument, that is just being in denial.

You are wrong again. NOTHING in that source says "climate change is a problem".

The source includes a list of problems cause by climate change, thus it proves your position as clearly irrational.

Wrong.

You made a fundamental illogical analogy, plain and simple.

Since you have given up trying to argue how this is so, it is clear there is no problem with the analogy, just you trying to criticize something without having the arguments to do it.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Just because "scientists agree" that doesn't mean there is scientific evidence

Yes that is what it means, that is what scientist use to agree, do you have evidence of the contrary? if you don't that means you are still wrong.

Wrong.

Any laymen knows that scientists agreeing on something doesn't make it scientific evidence. When scientists in the field of biology agree on something in the field of physics, their biology background does not qualify them to make conclusions from experiments or studies conducted according to scientific method in the physics field. That ability would go to the physics experts.

It's like Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize winner in chemistry agreeing with Syukuro Manabe, Nobel Prize in physics and telling people they should take more than the daily recommended dose of Vitamin C to ward off sickness.

Classic appeal to authority fallacy.

Is was already presented, that is the whole point of the reference, do you think CalTech is lying? based on what? that you think differently so they must be wrong? because that is not an argument, that is just being in denial.

Fallacy of small sample.

The source includes a list of problems cause by climate change, thus it proves your position as clearly irrational.

Small sample, appeal to authority.

Since you have given up trying to argue how this is so, it is clear there is no problem with the analogy, just you trying to criticize something without having the arguments to do it.

Circular reasoning fallacy.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Wrong.

Any laymen knows that scientists agreeing on something doesn't make it scientific evidence

The wrong part is you trying to misrepresent the comment with the opposite causal relationship, when the whole of the scientific community agrees on something it is precisely because there is enough scientific evidence, pretending you can do the job of interpreting the evidence available better than the whole scientific community makes no sense. That is what their job is, believing all of them are doing it wrong just because they reached a conclusion you refuse to accept is simply irrational, and obviously wrong.

Classic appeal to authority fallacy.

That would be on your case, that appeal to your own authority to oppose the perfectly valid appeal to authority to the whole scientific community.

Fallacy of small sample.

The references is there, and the sampling is not small,

In 2007, Harris Interactive surveyed 489 randomly selected members of either the American Meteorological Society or the American Geophysical Union for the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) at George Mason University. The survey found 97% agreed that global temperatures have increased during the past 100 years; 84% say they personally believe human-induced warming is occurring, and 74% agree that "currently available scientific evidence" substantiates its occurrence. Only 5% believe that human activity does not contribute to greenhouse warming; 41% say they thought the effects of global warming would be near catastrophic over the next 50–100 years; 44% say said effects would be moderately dangerous; 13% saw relatively little danger; 56% say global climate change is a mature science; 39% say it is an emerging science.

Small sample, appeal to authority.

Do you even understand what you try to use as an argument? even one single example would prove climate change is a problem, having a list of serious problems that can be confirmed without any difficulty clearly shows your opinion is false, also there is no appeal to authority, the problems are not being decided according to anybody's authority but the evidence that proves they exist.

Circular reasoning fallacy.

There is nothing circular about it, if an argument proves something and you fail to produce any argument against it that means your criticism is invalid, and baseless.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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