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Humans clearly linked to rising rainfall

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« on: January 24, 2008, 02:51:47 am »

Humans clearly linked to rising rainfall, study says
Climate scientists show warming's impact on Northern Hemisphere
CanWest News Service
Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2007
By Randy Boswell

A landmark Canadian-led study has drawn a clear link between human activity since the early 20th century and increased rainfall across much of the Northern Hemisphere -- a finding that comes in the midst of flooding crises in Britain and China, and which appears to confirm a key argument about human-induced global climate change.

"For the first time, climate scientists have clearly detected the human fingerprint on changing global precipitation patterns over the past century," the researchers said Monday in a statement, adding that their team has "determined that human-induced climate change has caused most of the observed increase in precipitation north of 50 degrees latitude, a region that includes Canada, Russia and Europe."

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Font:****In an article to be published later this week in the journal Nature, the four-nation team headed by two Toronto-based climate scientists with Environment Canada compared 75 years of rainfall records from around the world with the precipitation predictions in nearly 100 computer simulations based on 14 separate global climate models.

The researchers concluded that at least 50 per cent, and as much as 85 per cent, of average rainfall increases at northern latitudes between 1925 and 1999 could be attributed to human activity.

The team's data showed that in Canada and other northern countries, average annual precipitation increased by 62 millimetres between 1925 and 1999.

In their statement, the scientists noted that "greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have increased steadily over the past century."

And "over the past century," the team added, "climate records indicate there have been sizable shifts in precipitation patterns around the globe."

The buildup of greenhouse gases and the resulting acceleration of the world's hydrological cycles were also deemed responsible for increased wetness in a band of latitudes just south of the Equator and for significant rainfall decreases in some drought-stricken regions just north of the planet's mid-line.

"The simple take-home message is that the wet will get wetter and the dry will get drier," Francis Zwiers, director of Environment Canada's climate research division, told CanWest News Service Monday, as the study began generating worldwide media attention.

"Overall, Canada will become wetter and most of that moisture will arrive in winter," he added. But he cautioned that drought-prone areas of this country -- such as the Prairies -- appear unlikely to benefit from the expected increases in precipitation elsewhere in northern latitudes.

But in places with traditionally heavy rainfall, such as Britain and Canada's West Coast -- where a record snowpack this year threatened B.C. with a spring flood disaster -- Zwiers and his team foresee ongoing risks of severe weather events.

Zwiers, along with the other researchers, note in their paper that human influence has previously been detected in air and ocean temperature trends and other climate measures, but never in rainfall patterns.

The Vancouver Sun 2007
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