NASA Projects Carbon Pollution Impact: ‘Some Regions Outside The Tropics May Have No Rainfall At All’

In September, NOAA put together a video showing how climate change means wet areas get wetter and dry gets drier. Now NASA has a video of their own with similar findings.

Here is a screen-shot (NASA didn’t make the video embeddable):

Model simulations spanning 140 years [video here] show that warming from carbon dioxide will change the frequency that regions around the planet receive no rain (brown), moderate rain (tan), and very heavy rain (blue). The occurrence of no rain and heavy rain will increase, while moderate rainfall will decrease. Credit: NASA.

The summer precipitation varies year by year, of course, but as the snapshot above shows, by mid-century there is basically no rain in much of the Southwest and California some years. And the Amazon is not looking too good either (see also “NASA-Led Study Finds Warming-Driven Megadroughts Jeopardizing Amazon Forest“).

NASA’s news release explains

“In response to carbon dioxide-induced warming, the global water cycle undergoes a gigantic competition for moisture resulting in a global pattern of increased heavy rain, decreased moderate rain, and prolonged droughts in certain regions,” said William Lau of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and lead author of the study….

Areas projected to see the most significant increase in heavy rainfall are in the tropical zones around the equator, particularly in the Pacific Ocean and Asian monsoon regions.

Some regions outside the tropics may have no rainfall at all. The models also projected for every degree Fahrenheit of warming, the length of periods with no rain will increase globally by 2.6 percent. In the Northern Hemisphere, areas most likely to be affected include the deserts and arid regions of the southwest United States, Mexico, North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, and northwestern China. In the Southern Hemisphere, drought becomes more likely in South Africa, northwestern Australia, coastal Central America and northeastern Brazil.

“Large changes in moderate rainfall, as well as prolonged no-rain events, can have the most impact on society because they occur in regions where most people live,” Lau said.

This matches the findings of many other climate studies, including those on Dust-Bowlification:

22 Responses to NASA Projects Carbon Pollution Impact: ‘Some Regions Outside The Tropics May Have No Rainfall At All’

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Here in the Morongo Basin, rainfall in the last year has been less than an inch. Joshua trees are in massive bloom, something that normally happens in anticipation of death.

    Meanwhile, local “green” groups have identified the main threat to the desert: solar farms! They have no real science on their side, but that’s never been the point in this discussion. It’s all about money.

  2. stop Keystone XL pipeline!!

  3. Merrelyn Emery says:

    In April, we got 9mm instead of the average of 46mm. But after the last 12-13 year drought, we were pleased to get the 9, ME

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Mike, I am desperate to find out if these are real ‘greens’ who’ve taken leave of their senses (our local Greens Party is heading that way, just as the German Greens did) or are they ‘astroturf’ phoneys? The trees flowering strongly as a survival mechanism, by ensuring lots of seeds, is something I’ve often seen in the last few years. We had no rain here for seven months, although a little has fallen lately, but I’ll not be surprised if the last two relatively wet years will be seen in the near future as but a brief hiatus in a long-term, inexorable, onset of dessication.

  5. Mike Roddy says:

    It’s a complicated, horrifying story, Mulga, and I’m working on an article about it for a major magazine. The short answer is that the greens were never especially sincere to begin with, and now are totally bought and comfortable in their roles.
    Send me an email to and I’ll fill you in on the details- can’t let the cat out of the bag prior to publication. I promise you that this story will take your cynicism to the next level.

  6. An essential element of the story is that the severe results projected are based on a business as usual emissions trajectory.

    From the NASA press release:

    “Lau and colleagues based their analysis on the outputs of 14 climate models in simulations of 140-year periods. The simulations began with carbon dioxide concentrations at about 280 parts per million — similar to pre-industrial levels and well below the current level of almost 400 parts per million — and then increased by 1 percent per year. The rate of increase is consistent with a “business as usual” trajectory of the greenhouse gas as described by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. ”

    Decisive and continued emissions reductions would reduce the projected impacts.

  7. Jeff Poole says:

    Green parties have a major problem – too many hippies/countryside lovers and not enough science. The science and rationalist wing of every Green party are generally overwhelmed by the unthinking anarchist/gaiaists and their nonsensical ideologies.

    In the interests of disclosure I’ve been the convener of Green party branches in NSW and Qld.

    We need to purge the ‘Earth Mothers’ who continue to overbreed and ditch the weed-growing ‘permaculturists’ for a start. And any idiot who talks about ‘companion planting’ – a complete myth – in my presence usually gets a carrot inserted…

  8. prokaryotes says:

    More heavy rain aslo means more pore pressure.

    Fluids are known to be of major importance for the earthquake generation because pore pressure variations alter the strength of faults. Thus they can initiate earthquakes if the crust is close enough to its critical state. Based on the observations of the isolated seismicity below the densely monitored Mt. Hochstaufen, SE Germany, we are now able to demonstrate that the crust can be so close-to-failure that even tiny pressure variations associated with precipitation can trigger earthquakes in a few kilometer depth. We find that the recorded seismicity is highly correlated with the calculated spatiotemporal pore pressure changes due to diffusing rain water and in good agreement with the response of faults described by the rate-state friction law.

  9. Bill D. says:

    And the truly scary thing is that we’re only aware of SOME of the potential impacts of global climate change (those currently being studied by scientists with limited budgets and resources). There are more surprises in store that nobody is even talking about yet. After all, why should we spoil a perfectly nice day by actually facing reality?

  10. rollin says:

    Just as with that classic mouse population study back in the 60’s, the population starts to get mentally warped as the stresses of overpopulation take effect. With people it’s mostly the stresses of civilization causing confusion. People latch onto simple solutions and groups with simple solutions without thinking them through.

    I really am into nature but realize that if we do not stabilize our energy, food and population problems, humans will rampage through the eco-system like a nuclear storm.

    So put up those windmills, solar panels and grow food in backyards or anywhere else nearby (real food, not food for fuel). If we lose a few lizards and birds, it’s better than losing most of them.

  11. SecularAnimist says:

    Jeff Poole, with all due respect, there is a lot of ignorance in your comment, especially your closing attacks on permaculture and companion planting.

    Companion planting is not a “myth” — it’s a well-understood scientific reality, documented by plenty of research (see the Rodale Institute), used for millennia in sustainable farming practices, and used successfully today to increase yields and reduce inputs while building soil.

    Likewise, permaculture has been used for millennia (ever hear of vineyards?), is well-supported with scientific research, and is in use today to produce large amounts of food from perennial plants with little or no energy or fertilizer inputs, while supporting the surrounding natural ecologies. In fact permaculture is one of the keys to rapidly and drastically reducing the GHG footprint of agriculture.

    As for the Green Party, I know nothing of your experience but I am a long-time member of the USA Green Party, and it is nothing like what you describe. Moreover, I believe the preceding comments by Mike and Mulga were not referring to the Green Party per se, but to “green groups“, e.g. citizen activist groups that may be local or national, legitimate or astroturf.

  12. SecularAnimist says:

    And of course, when rainfall patterns evolve exactly as projected in this model, it will be called “weather”, and every responsible climate scientist (not to mention the deniers) will be at great pains to emphasize that no weather event can be attributed to global warming.

  13. prokaryotes says:

    The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….
    The air is on average warmer and moister than it was prior to about 1970 and in turn has likely led to a 5–10 % effect on precipitation and storms that is greatly amplified in extremes. The warm moist air is readily advected onto land and caught up in weather systems as part of the hydrological cycle, where it contributes to more intense precipitation events that are widely observed to be occurring.

    Framing the way to relate climate extremes to climate change

    The atmospheric and ocean environment has changed from human activities in ways that affect storms and extreme climate events. The main way climate change is perceived is through changes in extremes because those are outside the bounds of previous weather. The average anthropogenic climate change effect is not negligible, but nor is it large, although a small shift in the mean can lead to very large percentage changes in extremes. Anthropogenic global warming inherently has decadal time scales and can be readily masked by natural variability on short time scales. To the extent that interactions are linear, even places that feature below normal temperatures are still warmer than they otherwise would be. It is when natural variability and climate change develop in the same direction that records get broken. For instance, the rapid transition from El Niño prior to May 2010 to La Niña by July 2010 along with global warming contributed to the record high sea surface temperatures in the tropical Indian and Atlantic Oceans and in close proximity to places where record flooding subsequently occurred. A commentary is provided on recent climate extremes. The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.

    I think i’ve to re-blog this…

  14. prokaryotes says:

    Here with a video:

    Kevin Trenberth: How To Relate Climate Extremes to Climate Change

    Notice the link changes soon to

  15. prokaryotes says:

    Another important point Trenberth makes is:

    “Heavy precipitation days are increasing even in places where precipitation is decreasing.”

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    One of my favourite cartoons of all time was one in which a group of scientists, wearing white lab coats for easy identification, were gathered around a large, open-topped container. The vessel was being strongly illuminated, and a loudspeaker was pointed directly at it. Wispy fumes were emerging from within. One boffin spoke, ‘We’ve given the rats everything…noise, pollution, bright lights, junk food etc…
    Second Boffin; ‘So, how have they reacted?
    First Boffin, ‘They’ve just elected a Rightwing Government’. And we all live in just such a Ratopia.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Even unto the end. I’d be pretty certain that the higher levels of administration would make it plain that the public must not be ‘alarmed’, and, in any case, you do not get far in any career path if you have a questioning mind. Indeed, even if you have you eyes open, and a semi-functional mind. Conformity is everything in the ‘Free World’. In the hierarchy you’re totally free, to do as you are told.

  18. Merrelyn Emery says:

    And all they really needed to give them was a hierarchical system in which they could become more competitive, more self interested and more vicious, a rat race, ME

  19. fj says:

    Climate Change May Bring Drought To Temperate Areas

  20. Daniel Coffey says:

    Common sense would suggest some practical action, but unthinking rabble rousers have suggested that tearing down what works and replacing it with half measures will make us better. The strain of thinking that is self destructive seems to have taken hold. Fatalism is not the answer, but some practical, large scale deployment is needed and that occur timely when the perverse incentives are removed. We need to suspend the intervenor rules that pays people to object when there is little objectionable.

  21. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    What exactly ‘works’ in end-stage capitalism? Massive transfer of wealth to the elite-that works. Purchase of politicians en masse by the rich-that works. Turning the MSM into a blatant propaganda system for the interests of its owners-that works. And destroying every life-sustaining ecosystem on the planet in the search for more and more filthy lucre-that certainly works. And not much else.