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Will Global Warming Increase Flood Hazards in Texas?
Flood hazards are widespread across the State of Texas. A newly published study suggests that future changes in precipitation extremes due to global warming may be underestimated by climate models. Daily precipitation from satellite observations for the period 1988-2004 was compared to simulated precipitation from a number of climate models. The study focused on the response of tropical precipitation events to naturally-driven changes in surface temperature and atmospheric moisture content, represented by variability in the El Niño Southern Oscillation - ENSO. The results showed that warmer regional conditions produced by an El Nino increased very heavy rain events (90th percentile) in both satellite observations and model simulations. However, while the models qualitatively reproduced the observed behavior, the rate of amplification of extreme rainfall events to atmospheric warming is found to be weaker in the models compared to observations. The study also showed that while the frequency of light rainfall events (below 30th percentile) tended to be anti-correlated with the frequency of very heavy precipitation (1-5% heaviest) in the satellite data, the reverse was found for model simulations.
The GFDL CM2.1 fully coupled climate model was forced with the IPCC A1B emission scenario for the periods 2001-2005 and 2101-2105. The results showed that the simulated future climate had an increased frequency of very heavy and moderate precipitation at the expense of light and heavy precipitation. This study has significant implications for investments in water management infrastructure design and deployment in Texas where flooding is a major hazard.
Source: Allan, R. and B.J. Soden. Atmospheric warming and the amplification of precipitation extremes. Science Vol 321, 12 September, pp1481-1484.

Climate Models: An Assessment of Strengths and Limitations.
CCSP, 2008: Preliminary review of adaptation options for climate-sensitive ecosystems and resources. A Report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research. [Julius, S.H., J.M. West (eds.), J.S. Baron, L.A. Joyce, P. Kareiva, B.D. Keller, M.A. Palmer, C.H. Peterson, and J.M. Scott (Authors)]. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, USA, 873 pp.


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