Magazine article Science News

Continents Growing Wetter as Globe Warms

Magazine article Science News

Continents Growing Wetter as Globe Warms

Article excerpt

A study of global precipitation records going back to 1900 shows that the United States and other land areas in the midlatitudes have grown wetter, whereas the tropics have generally dried out, reports Aiguo Dai of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. Such changes offer a taste of the kinds of precipItation shifts predicted to accompany greenhouse Warming, the researchers say.

Rain and snow patterns profoundly influence social well-being by controlling factors ranging from food production to the frequency of floods. Concern about the potential for changes in Precipitation underlie the international climate treaty negotiations taking place next week in Kyoto, Japan.

"Precipitation is what we really need to address. A lot of natural disasters are related more to Precipitation than to temperature," says Inez Y. Fung of the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Dal, Fung, and Anthony D. Del Genio of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York report their findings in the November Journal of Climate.

Dai and his colleagues examined monthly precipitation records from 5,328 meteorological stations for the period 1900 through 1988. Using a statistical technique that teases out independent patterns in the data, they minimized errors introduced when instruments were changed or stations moved.

"This is by far the most comprehensive compilation of precipitation data. It is a much larger and cleaner data set than has existed before," says Ring. …

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