Climate change: Dry regions can expect extreme rainfall as planet warms

The UNSW work findings were consistent across models and observations.

Some of the planet's dry regions can also see extreme rainfall events leading to flooding, warned a study from University of New South Wales. This is in addition to the wet regions getting wetter, all thanks to global warming.

Coinciding with the study, low pressure systems brought heavy rains and thunderstorms across the Middle East last week, causing flooding in many parts. Such flooding could become a regular event as the planet gets warmer. This will not result in more water available for storage as the heat will only cause increased evaporation, warns the research published in in Nature Climate Change.

"We found a strong relationship between global warming and an increase in rainfall, particularly in areas outside of the tropics," said lead author UNSW's Dr Markus Donat from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science. "Within the tropics we saw an increase in rainfall responding to global warming but the actual rate of this increase was less clear."

Such extreme rainfall events will increase at regional levels in dry areas, not just as an average across the globe, say the researchers after studying regions with similar characteristics. Importantly, the findings remained consistent across observations and models.

"It appears the uncertainties in climate models were greatest where the observational uncertainties were greatest. This suggests that improved observations will be vital for those planning for climate change if they are to reasonably determine how future precipitation will change in every corner of the world with global warming," said Dr Donat.

February hottest month
Nasa and NOAA have announced 2015 as the warmest year on record. Data released Saturday from NASA confirms that February 2016 was the warmest month ever measured globally, at 1.35 degrees Celsius above the long-term average. NASA's global temperature data is measured from a 1951-1980 baseline, about 0.3 degrees warmer than pre-industrial levels making February 2016 the first month in history when global average temperatures passed the 1.5 degree Celsius mark. In addition, average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere have breached the 2 degrees Celsius above "normal" mark for the first time in recorded history, possibly for the first time since human civilization began thousands of years ago.

The two degree threshold marks the point of no-return beyond which irreversible climate change is expected to affect the planet catastrophically.