Climate Change: How The Wet Will Get Wetter And The Dry Will Get Drier

How much extra energy are we putting in the atmosphere through emission of greenhouse gases? One Australian researcher put it into context: “The radiative forcing of the CO2 we have already put in the atmosphere in the last century is … the equivalent in energy terms to almost half a billion Hiroshima bombs each year.”

With more energy radiating down on the planet rather than back up into space, the planet continues to heat up. As the atmosphere warms, it is able to hold more water vapor — thus strengthening the global hydrological cycle.

With all that extra energy, more water is pulled out of the subtropic regions and moved toward higher-precipitation areas in the subpolar regions, resulting in stronger droughts and stronger storms. Or, as the video below explains, how the wet gets wetter and the dry gets drier.

Through five decades of observations and future climate modeling, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has put together this educational piece on how a warming planet will make weather more extreme:

9 Responses to Climate Change: How The Wet Will Get Wetter And The Dry Will Get Drier

  1. Pennsylvania Bob says:

    Here’s a somewhat related question from a non-scientist. I recalling reading that, as the earth and the lower atmosphere warms, the far upper atmosphere (name?) actually cools. Can someone verify and perhaps send a link to more information? Thank you.

  2. Jack Burton says:

    A good scientist could make this very clear, but I believe the answer is YES. Simply put, less heat radiated back up to space means less heat passing through the upper atmosphere, thus it will show some cooling. More heat trapped in the lower atmosphere simply must, in the equations, result in LESS reaching back to the upper atmosphere.
    Climate change deniers love to quote the cooling upper atmosphere as proof global warming is a lie, yet it is pure evidence that global warming is real.
    I am amazed at the lengths deniers will go to to find some shred of dubious evidence that global warming is a hoax. In all cases their efforts fail badly.
    The melting in Greenland and in the Arctic seas this year are a clear warning that global warming is about two decades ahead of where most conservative climate scientists have said we would be. Even this decade could bring changes so radical that nobody saw it coming, not even the scientists,
    I believe past climate history shows that climate can be forced very quickly into a new state and that potential feedback loops can amplify this effect. Think Methane from the arctic seas, already spewing forth, and the effect of open water replacing ice. The two taken together can force a very fast feed back warming. This summer is a warm up for the real show coming in this decade and after that god help us. Simply imagine your 10 year old child and what they will face when they are 50 years old! Imagine 40 years into the future! It could be a complete and utter disaster by then.

  3. john c. wilson says:

    Hi Bob

    Just google on ‘stratospheric cooling’ and read some of the top hits. Wunderground and RealClimate are good for these sorts of things.

  4. Oh man! I love New Mexico but I fear for our future. Great animation. Keep funding NOAA; vote for Obama…

  5. Joan Savage says:

    Jeff Masters, meteorologist, has a clear introduction to the subject, and some keywords to carry you further, if you wish.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Yes-the IPCC was nobbled by politicians, producing far too sanguine estimates of future change, and leisurely preparing Reports as if we have all the time in the world. The last Report was clearly under-estimating the danger even as it was released, which did not stop the morally insane denialists, in their upside-down world, berating it as ‘álarmist’, when it was, in fact, the precise opposite. The human propensity to lie, and then begin to believe your own lies, has proved a real Achilles heel.

  7. Spike says:

    When you get serious climate scientists like Ken Caldeira talking about the possibility of a return to a Cretaceous climate then you realise the gravity.

  8. Bob Pollock says:

    It should be noted that there has been no significant trend in stratospheric cooling over the last 19 years (since Mt. Pinatubo). A couple of years ago Judith Lean wrote a summary article on climate and solar influences titled ‘Cycles and trends in solar irradiance and climate’.

    Figure 4 on page 115 breaks down the atmosphere into Lower Troposphere, Middle Troposphere and Lower Stratosphere. The lowest panel for each shows the anthropogenic influence. As can be seen, over the last 20 years the anthropogenic influence has flattened for the stratosphere.

    One can therefore assume that carbon dioxide levels are not a dominate influence in this ‘fingerprint’. Indeed, in the text Lean writes “stratosphere cooling is actually modeled better by changes in CFCs than by increases in greenhouse gases.”

  9. Ozonator says:

    “Almost half a billion Hiroshima bombs each year” means the dream of some to dig a new Panama canal may be achieved with flooding.