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Global warming boosted rainfall in some of the USA's worst hurricanes, study suggests

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 11/16/2018 Doyle Rice
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Rainfall from catastrophic hurricanes such as Katrina, Irma and Maria was intensified by human-caused global warming, a new study suggests.

In fact, the Earth's warming climate increased the rainfall by as much as 9 percent, and could cause up to 30 percent more rainfall in storms of the future, study authors said. 

"We're already starting to see (human-caused) factors influencing tropical cyclone rainfall," said study lead author Christina Patricola, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "And our simulations strongly indicate that as time goes on, we can expect to see even greater increases in rainfall," she said.

Using computer models, researchers simulated how 15 historically destructive hurricanes and typhoons would develop in pre-industrial, modern, and future climates. The study found that human-caused climate change significantly increased rainfall from those three storms, but did not boost their wind speed.

Future storms, however, will see increases in both rainfall and wind speed, the study said. Specifically, if the climate continues to warm, peak wind speeds could increase by as much as 29 mph.

"Scientists are coming to a consensus that global warming will lead to increases in rainfall from tropical cyclones," Patricola said. "One of the remaining uncertainties is how much."

Maria hit Puerto Rico and other parts of the Caribbean in 2017, killing as many as 3,000 people. Irma hit the Caribbean and Florida that same year, while Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, leaving over 1,800 dead.

A separate study that dealt with 2017's Hurricane Harvey said the city's topography increased rainfall totals, which included some of the nation's most extreme rains ever recorded.

First, the city's skyscrapers increased atmospheric drag, leading to heavier rainfall. Second, the rock-hard city surface increased flooding, probably due to the extensive concrete and asphalt coverage.

The studies were published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Global warming boosted rainfall in some of the USA's worst hurricanes, study suggests

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