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How Is Climate Change Affecting Precipitation?

Climate change can affect the intensity and frequency of precipitation. Warmer oceans increase the amount of water that evaporates into the air. When more moisture-laden air moves over land or converges into a storm system, it can produce more intense precipitation—for example, heavier rain and snow storms.

How does latitude and temperature affect precipitation?

To simplify, precipitation decreases as latitude increases toward the poles (since how much precipitation air can hold depends largely on its temperature, and depending on the seasons higher latitudes are typically colder).

What causes changes in precipitation?

As average temperatures at the Earth’s surface rise (see the U.S. and Global Temperature indicator), more evaporation occurs, which, in turn, increases overall precipitation. Therefore, a warming climate is expected to increase precipitation in many areas.

What happens to precipitation as latitude increases?

Precipitation is expected to increase in higher latitudes and decrease in areas closer to the Equator. The northern United States will become wetter while the South, particularly the Southwest, will become drier.

What is the most likely effect of increase in precipitation?

In addition to flooding, heavy precipitation also increases the risk of landslides. When above-normal precipitation raises the water table and saturates the ground, slopes can lose their stability, causing a landslide.

Who will Changing rainfall patterns affect?

Changes in precipitation patterns will impact people and ecosystems by altering the availability of water throughout the year. The predicted impacts of altered precipitation patterns include: Floods and droughts will become more frequent and more severe. Wildfires are expected to become stronger and more common.

How does temperature affect the amount of precipitation?

Precipitation begins when heat from the sun evaporates water from the Earth’s surface. Water will continue to evaporate until the local atmosphere reaches total saturation. How much moisture the atmosphere can hold is a function of temperature: warm air can hold more water vapor than cold air.

How does the increase in temperature affect the world?

Warmer temperatures can also lead to a chain reaction of other changes around the world. That’s because increasing air temperature also affects the oceans, weather patterns, snow and ice, and plants and animals.

How does temperature affect the formation of clouds?

Evaporated water will often form into a cloud, but not all clouds lead to precipitation. Clouds that form at the highest altitudes are often too cold for liquid water to form. A cloud will only produce precipitation within a narrow band of temperatures where liquid water can condense and coalesce.

Why are heat waves dangerous to the environment?

Heat waves can be dangerous, causing illnesses such as heat cramps and heat stroke, or even death. Warmer temperatures can also lead to a chain reaction of other changes around the world. That’s because increasing air temperature also affects the oceans, weather patterns, snow and ice, and plants and animals.


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