Disruptions in precipitation cycles: Attribution to anthropogenic forcing

Francisco J. Tapiador, Ali Behrangi, Ziad S. Haddad, Dimitris Katsanos, Manuel de Castro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Disruptions of the spatiotemporal distribution of surface precipitation that are induced by global warming may affect Earth’s climate more significantly than changes in the total precipitation amount. Identifying such disruptions at global scales is not straightforward, as it requires disentangling a weak signal from comprehensive, gapless data in a 5-D configuration space whose dimensions are latitude, longitude, time, power, and period. Drawing on reliable, state-of-the-art climate model simulations from the fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) experiments and using well-tested analytical methods, clear changes in the global precipitation cycles have been found for the simulated period 1862–2003. It has also been found that the disruptions may be attributable to anthropogenic forcing. The disruptions are relevant enough to envision significant changes in precipitation timing if human greenhouse gas emissions continue to accumulate in the future. It is noteworthy that the effects of anthropogenic forcings have been found not predominantly in the intra-annual cycles, i.e., in the short-term weather patterns that would be indicative of local effects, but rather in the interannual planetary long-term variability of the atmosphere. This suggests a global, distributed effect of the anthropogenic forcings on precipitation, which in turn is indicative of changes in the precipitation patterns linked with changes in the thermodynamics of the precipitation microphysics and to a lesser extent with the dynamical aspects of the precipitation processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2161-2177
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of geophysical research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 16 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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