Climate change is linked to bigger tropical storms bringing more rain

Big thunderstoms are becoming more common in the tropics increasing total rainfall. Image: Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center.

Climate change scientists are predicting an increase in rainfall in tropical areas.

And now Australian-led research has found a weather phenomenon, known as an organised deep convection, is responsible for half of all rainfall in the tropics.

Observations have shown that while some types of rainfall have decreased, and thunderstorm numbers have remained the same, an increase in big storms has brought more rain overall.

The research published in the journal Nature is a joint project by the Monash branch of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (ARCCSS) and NASA.

“The observations showed the increase in rainfall is directly caused by the change in the character of thunderstorms in the tropics rather than a change in the total number of thunderstorms,” said lead author from ARCCSS Dr Jackson Tan.

“What we are seeing is more big and organised storms and fewer small and disorganised storms.”

The research has also contributed to answering the important question of whether the increase in rainfall observed in the tropics is caused by a warmer atmosphere or whether the underlying circulation in that region has changed.

The changes to the deep convection discovered in the study suggest a dynamic change in the climate system is responsible for the change in rainfall.

Climate model results have long pointed to an increased in rain in the tropics as a result of climate change. However, the exact nature of this change is unclear.

The revelation that large thunderstorms appear to be the source of increased rain explains why climate models may have difficulties in accurately representing the details of tropical rainfall.

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