Jul 23, 2007

Detection of human influence on twentieth-century precipitation trends

by
Xuebin Zhang, Francis W. Zwiers, Gabriele C. Hegerl, F. Hugo Lambert, Nathan P. Gillett, Susan Solomon, Peter A. Stott, Toru Nozawa
,
Nature
  • States that human-induced changes have not, however, previously been detected in precipitation at the global scale, partly because changes in precipitation in different regions cancel each other out and thereby reduce the strength of the global average signal
  • States that models suggest anthropogenic forcing should have caused a small increase in global mean precipitation and a latitudinal redistribution of precipitation, increasing precipitation at high latitudes, decreasing precipitation at sub-tropical latitudes
  • Compares observed changes in land precipitation during the twentieth century averaged over latitudinal bands with changes simulated by fourteen climate models
  • Shows that anthropogenic forcing has had a detectable influence on observed changes in average precipitation within latitudinal bands, and that these changes cannot be explained by internal climate variability or natural forcing
  • Estimates  that anthropogenic forcing contributed significantly to observed increases in precipitation in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes, drying in the Northern Hemisphere subtropics and tropics, and moistening in the Southern Hemisphere subtropics and deep tropics
  • Concludes that observed changes, which are larger than estimated from model simulations, may have already had significant effects on ecosystems, agriculture and human health in regions that are sensitive to changes in precipitation