If Global Warming Is Real, How Come It’s Always Raining?

If Global Warming Is Real, How Come It’s Always Raining?

Depending on whom you ask, global warming is either the biggest threat since the Cuban missile crisis or the biggest hoax since the 1969 moon landing. Most rational thinkers stand somewhere in the middle — but if the earth really is getting hotter, why have the past few summers been so wet and gloomy?

Rain picture from Shutterstock

Global warming is the rise in the average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, which is primarily blamed on human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels (say hello carbon tax) and deforestation on a massive scale.

According to some experts, this has begun to affect the world’s climate in a variety of ways — including droughts, heat waves… and (wait for it) extreme rainfall.

This theory has been lent extra credence by a new study from the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark, which has found the frequency of thunderstorms increases in tandem with rising air temperatures.

The research team combined measurements of rainfall over Germany with weather and temperature records to separate instances of showery, convective rainfall from rain events that occur when warm air masses override cooler ones. The team found that the intensity of extreme precipitation (AKA thunderstorms) rises markedly at higher temperature.

As the report explains; “convective precipitation responds much more sensitively to temperature increases than stratiform precipitation, and increasingly dominates events of extreme precipitation.”

The findings imply that the increase in extreme rain expected with climate warming will mostly be associated with thunderstorms. Better start packing a raincoat to work.

Strong increase in convective precipitation in response to higher temperatures [Nature Geoscience]


  • Thanks for the link to the article.

    I’m going to rise to the bait of the throwaway line “Most rational thinkers stand somewhere in the middle”. It’s probably true at face value: if you don’t know enough about a topic to form a strong opinion, then the rational thing to do is to sit on the fence. But in this case the rational thinkers who know the most about the topic – climate scientists – are the ones who are deeply worried, while in public debate there is a false balance given to the opposing points of view.

    Btw, the debate, such as it is, isn’t about whether the earth is getting hotter (it is), but about whether the increase in global temperatures is due to human influence.

    • I disagree. I don’t have the scientific knowledge to understand majority of what is used to back these studies. I am of the opinion that we should look at the what ifs in relation to the ultimate consequence. ie what if its true/false and we do something/nothing. Of the four possible outcomes the fatal one is what if its true and we do nothing. From this, my logical mind says that doing something regardless of whether it is false or true is, globally, the best. I do not therefore choose to take a side but instead explore the outcomes and base my opinion of what action should be taken based on those outcomes.

      That being said, I have seen a paper that only assesses what the outcomes of all the studies are and a massive majority from ALL studies done at the time of writing concluded that the majority of the studiers deemed it was true and it was most likely man made.

      So in short, logical mind, fence sitter who is saying we should do something in case its true.

      • This reminds me of a cartoon I once saw of an audience member standing up and asking a professor the question: “What if climate change is all a hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”

  • I am sooo sick of hearing idiots come out with facetious bullshit such as (on a cold day) “Ooohh it’s a chilly one! Must be all that global warming haw haw haw!”

    Average temperatures. Average.

    Also, “I’m not a climate scientist but…”. Perhaps if you’re not a climate scientist then you should consider whether your opinion needs to be broadcast as if you are.

  • “… which is primarily blamed on human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels…”

    Only if you subscribe to the Anthropogenic Global Warming theory. Not everyone does. Some believe that it’s a natural cycle the Earth is going through.

    Can we have some even-handed reporting here please?

    • One does not subscribe to a theory in science per se. If you are aware of evidence that disputes AGW, then we are all happy to listen. There are ways of doing spreading this message, such as publishing a peer reviewed scientific paper in a reputable scientific journal.

      Otherwise, you accept the current scientific consensus. If even-handed reporting means giving equal weigh to lunatics to don’t want AGW to be the case because it offends them, then the article is worthless.

      • Well, you can subscribe to a camp or school of thought – a very large number of disciplines allow for multiple and competing interpretations of data.

        That being said, the non-AGW camp in environmental science circles is pretty small – and of course the non-GW camp is essentially non-existent.

    • No matter what you believe (and when it comes to scientific research, that’s the most inappropriate word you can use), the majority of research on global warning does blame human activity.

      As you point out, Chris actually says “primarily blamed”, leaving the door open for non-AGW views. Frankly, given the preponderance of research supporting AGW, I think Chris is actually giving non-AGW views too much credence by putting it that way. That you suggest it isn’t enough suggests that it probably is fairly even-handed.

  • “Even handed reporting” suggests that there is a divided view on Anthropogenic Global Warming.

    This couldn’t be further from the truth.

    Among all the world’s science academies and scientific societies of national and international standing *not one* has a dissenting voice that human activity is contributing to global warming.

      • I think you may have misread that previous statement. I think dreadnaught meant that not one scientific society claims that human activity is not a contributor to global warming.

        As sparhawk0 said, there are a lot which haven’t explicitly stated a position, but there is no clear way of deciding whether that means “we don’t think it is necessary (or our role, perhaps) to make a statement on this” or “we are undecided on whether AGW is real or not” (or something else). I would suggest the first is more likely than the second, though.

    • I think people have to be very careful when throwing around statements about national scientific bodies. While it’s true that none provide a dissenting voice, all bar 19 don’t provide an assenting one, either. It’s not their role.

      In the case of the 19 that have, it’s because their memberships felt that the dangers presented by AGW are so great that they had to speak up. It’s commendable, but also potentially compromising. A lot of denialists latch onto this as proof that such organisations are really just lobby groups for scientists, and so riva … sorry, “competing” groups (say, I don’t know, the fossil fuel lobby for example) should be given equal representation and credence.

  • “Hmmm, its not suppose to be raining. I better make some adjustments to the models.”
    *tap tap tap tap*
    “Hey, look at that. Rain is caused by global warming! That covers all the bases now.”

    • A friend once claimed that an increase in polar bears was proof that global warming isn’t happening. I pointed out that a simple analysis would show that warming water provided more fish in the colder regions which fed the smaller mammals and increased their numbers which in turn fed the polar bears and increased their numbers. Not a conclusive argument by any means but just shows that one thing may or may not be related to another. Rain has always been a result of shifting atmospheric temperatures.

  • That’s why I never refer to it as “Global Warming” in conversation, I always use the term “Climate Change”. That covers off the extremities we’re seeing much better than just lumping it under the “warming” banner.

  • So relieved to see most lifehacker readers accepting the reality and importance of anthropogenic climate change. It surprises me how many people accept that we damaged the ozone layer with CFCs but then think the rest of everything we’re pumping into the sky could have no effect.

    I would really like to see a response from this author after he’s had a look at what, say, NASA has to say about this topic.

  • right on neizan, most rational (but uninformed) thinkers sit somewhere in the middle but the rational AND informed thinkers are seriously worried.


    Rising sea levels is probably the LEAST worrying aspect (even if millions are displaced)

    It’s disruption to agriculture and loss of species that’s far more serious. You can’t bring those species back and if for example South East Asia had failed monsoons a couple of years in a row, we could see hundreds of millions of people facing starvation. If you’re concerned about boat people now, just wait and see how that plays out.

    A bigger threat than Russia placing a few nukes in Cuba? You tell me.

    • Also the title of this article is very stupid. Global Warming is not equal to lower rainfall… It is equal to higher average temperatures, which in fact from what I remember from year 8 science will lead to higher levels of evaporation and we all know what usually happens to water after it has evaporated…

  • Warcroft must be a disciple of AGW’s foremost denier, the unqualified and discredited “Lord” Monckton.

    I wonder if he also subscribes to “Lord” Monckton’s claim that climate change is a global communist conspiracy hatched in the UN for the purpose of establishing world government?

    hmmm! I think I’ll back the climate scientists.

    • Or Monckton’s fantastic ideas on how we could have avoided all this nasty AIDS business… Leper colonies! Of course, they worked so brilliantly in the past why didn’t those silly doctors think of it sooner….

      It amazes me that man gets the media coverage he does, then again I guess having people like Gina Rinehart setting up conferences for you to speak at helps… >_

      • The trouble with people like Monckton is that any valid claims or ideas he may have are lost in the mountain of crazy. I’m not much of one for ad hominem attacks, and ideas should be examined on their own merit rather than based on who said them, but with someone like Monckton the signal-to-noise ratio is so poor that one doesn’t even know what would be worth checking out/validating.

        • That’s just it though if your going to examine ideas based on merit then it’s incredibly easy to write off his statements as their provably false (he’s been caught using fake data repeatedly). If you go down the path of any individual should have an equally valid opinion he’s also screwed because he’s an extremist yet is portrayed as presenting a widely accepted opinion. The last opinion would be following the scientific method, that in regards to presenting scientific theory one should follow the scientific method through research and publication. On that one he’s at his worst he has no tertiary science training, no peer reviewed papers published and parrots provably false data repeatedly.

          I haven’t actually heard any valid ideas of his yet, like you said that maybe lost in a valley of crazy but there’s also a ‘boy who cried wolf’ situation. If you’ve jumped about publicly making facts up and being a lunatic it shouldn’t come as any surprise that you lose all credibility.

  • Climate is not weather!

    Climate is long term overall averages.

    Weather is happening right now for a short period of time which can include extremes.

    Very different.

  • Regarding the title: it is akin to asking why an otherwise warm climate in the tropics is accompanied by torrential downpours.

    Regarding the controversy: I’d like to think most of us judge these complex topics, which we can never hope to understand the technical intricacies, on what experts tell us is the most likely reason. If we judge based on silly notions of gut feelings or the much abused term “common sense”, then we deny the importance of knowledge or pursuit of fact. Far too often, such a sentiment comes from conspiracy theorists and the anti-book crowd.

    And finally, regarding so called “equal coverage”. Not all theories are created equal. Im not going to get too far into it but evolution vs. creation comes to mind here. They are not competitive theories. One is science (that welcomes challenge and is incompatible with dogma) , the other religious doctrine that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

    Drawing from the public record to date, the reasonable debate seems to be not wether humans have anything to do with it, but by how much, and what measures we can reasonably take to slow it or reverse it, save wiping ourselves off the face of the earth, which, despite certain green inclined nutters promotion, is not a solution.

  • I get sick of both sides of the debate on this one.

    If there is rainfall, the ‘deniers’ bring out the “could do with some global warming right about now”. Meanwhile the “warmists” use every bit of weather that comes their way as proof of climate change, even if it has happened before.

    Both sides are spewing enough garbage to taint their own argument. Both sides also make very good points as to why they are right. I have tried to keep informed on both sides of this so that I can make an objective opinion, but with the vitriol existent in the debate it makes it very difficult.

    The best thing that could happen for this would be for a member of both sides to actually have an impartial discussion on the topic. Where theories and data can be compared and reasoning for conclusions given. This will never happen; neither side wants to admit they are wrong about anything.

    • I sort of agree with you. Cold weather is followed by ‘global warming, eh?’ from some of the AGW-is-bollocks crowd and hot weather is followed by ‘See? See?’ by some of the AGW-is-real crowd. I don’t think the size of those subsets are equivalent, but that may be attributable to my own beliefs on the matter.
      To make this clear: I think AGW is happening, I think there is enough evidence that it is happening for this to not be in doubt. I think there are questions about how much warming will occur and what some of the impacts will be, but those are the details rather than the idea as a whole.

      I think if someone actually tries to assess the evidence for AGW vs the claims of the ‘deniers’ (not skeptics) then they quickly run into a problem: some ‘deniers’ will continue to espouse claims long after they are demonstrated to be false. This leads to the problem where given any ‘denier’ claim, there is a good likelihood that the claim has already been addressed (in detail) or was never even a valid claim in the first place.
      The real challenge there is that although there are sites like Skeptical Science, which address a whole lot of ‘denier’ claims, if the accusations of deceit by ‘deniers’ are valid then those sites can’t be trusted and original sources need to be used. This means there is a very large overhead in doing the assessment – all the research needs to be tracked down and examined, all the outcomes of the investigations into fabled ‘missing data’ need to be located.
      That isn’t to say that some AGW-is-real folk don’t use hyperbole, outdated claims, etc. They do. And that just makes the situation worse, because it impairs the credibility of sites or sources which are actually correct and up to date, simply because both the valid and useful sources and the hot-weather-must-be-AGW folk have aligned ideas (at broadest level).

      Another big problem is that there is simply so much research that it is virtually impossible for a non-specialist to be across much of it, let alone the average time-limited individual. Both ‘deniers’ and some ‘believers’ fall into this camp (note I’ve not said ‘some deniers’ because I believe if they were across the research they wouldn’t be deniers; and believers is a bad word, but here covers those who are across all the research and those who are not).

      What I ended up doing was looking through a bunch of ‘denier’ arguments, finding what original material I could, assessing it, and comparing my understanding with discussions on sites like Skeptical Science. What I found was that the ‘denier’ arguments were typically outdated or not really valid, whereas the arguments on good clear AGW-is-real sites (which generally provided good explanations) were consistent with what I found.

      I’ve ignored genuine skeptics of AGW because I am not sure I know of any. Assuming they exist, they probably feel similarly about “It’s-raining-so-much-for-AGW” people as those who are conducting research on AGW and believe the evidence clearly indicates it feel about the “another-hot-day-must-be-AGW” people.

    • THOUSANDS of Scientists from multiple disciplines have been observing and recording big changes in all kinds of things environmental for decades. They can do all kinds of clever examinations of earth samples, ice cores and other things that have ‘recorded’ climate events and earth changes over a long period of time. I disagree with people who think this should be some kind of balanced debate like it’s some social issue or something. Scientists train for many years and continue to learn as they research. People who have no scientific training and indicate little or no scientific understanding are continuing to throw their opinions around as if they have meaning. Scientists rarely fully agree on something – that’s the nature of scientific development, but climate change is one that the vast majority do agree on and they are really worried and people are ignoring their advice and warnings. Perhaps the human race deserves to be whittled down on account of being too STUPID!

      • I am not a scientist, but more than 31,000 Americans who are scientists have signed a petition in the last 15 years announcing that “…there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” Included are atmospheric physicists, botanists, geologists, oceanographers, and meteorologists.

        The link is an interesting read as to how consensus on this topic was formed. It is by no means proof either way, but I feel gives more credence to my keeping an open mind on the topic.

        Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2012/07/17/that-scientific-global-warming-consensus-not/

          • Cheers Gnoshi for the link. You seem to have a good approach to this whole debate in regards to forming an opinion on it from the approach of a non climate scientist.

        • In 2001, Scientific American took a random sample “of 30 of the 1,400 signatories claiming to hold a Ph.D. in a climate-related science.”

          Of the 26 we were able to identify in various databases, 11 said they still agreed with the petition —- one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages. Crudely extrapolating, the petition supporters include a core of about 200 climate researchers – a respectable number, though rather a small fraction of the climatological community.[26]

  • Some people still seem to believe there’s a petition signed by “31,000 scientists” saying global warming is not man-made and not a problem.

    “In between Aaagard and Zylkowski, the first and last names on the petition, are an assortment of metallurgists, botanists, agronomists, organic chemists and so on. … The vast majority of scientists who signed the petition have never studied climatology and don’t do any research into it.”

    ’nuff said!

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