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article imageStudy: Humans Caused Changing Rainfall Patterns

By Chris Hogg     Jul 24, 2007 in Environment
When it rains, it pours — especially when it comes to environmental news hitting the media. According to a major international study, scientists have confirmed human-caused global warming is affecting worldwide precipitation patterns.
Digital Journal — The first major study of its kind shows more rainfall is hitting Canada, Russia and Northern Europe, while drier weather is affecting tropical areas north of the equator, Southern India and Southeast Asia.
The study by Environment Canada says the changes over the last century are a direct result of humans. Researchers analyzed global rainfall patterns over land between 1925 and 1999, separating geography into groups based on latitude rather than global averages.
In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Francis Zwiers, a lead author of the study and director of climate research at Environment Canada, said, "It's the first time that we've detected in precipitation data a clear imprint of human influence on the climate system. Temperature changes we can cope with. But water changes are much more difficult to cope with. That will have economic impacts, and impacts on food production, and could ultimately displace populations."
The research group consisted of scientists from Canada, Japan, the UK and the United States. They report human activity such as burning fossil fuels is likely the reason annual precipitation has increased by 62 mm over the past 100 years across land areas located 40-70 degrees north (Canada, Russia and Northern Europe).
According to Daniel Cressey of, this is the first evidence that human activity has altered rainfall patterns. In Cressey's article, he quotes climate researcher and study author Nathan Gillet as saying: "We expected rainfall patterns to change, but there's been no conclusive evidence that we are seeing human effects. This study shows we are."
Scientists have warned that global warming will eventually change or interfere with snow and rainfall patterns, as sea and air temperatures are already changing.
"This is a very important paper," climate researcher Myles Allen of the University of Oxford, told Nature. "It identifies the fingerprint of human influence. This means that the precipitation trends they identify may be harbingers of more to come."
The findings of this study are set to be published in the scientific journal Nature this Thursday.
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