Study: West African Floods 80 Times More Likely by Climate Change
A new study published in the journal Science this week is raising questions about the ability of climate models to project future changes in weather. Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research say climate models produced by government agencies were too simplistic and that they overestimated the influence of rising carbon dioxide levels.
The study also raised questions about the ability of the global climate models to predict long-term trends, especially the ones driven by rising CO2 levels.
“These findings are consistent with reports that predict the increasing intensity of tropical storms will make them much more powerful – increasing the probability of extreme rainfall events in West Africa,” said lead author Dr. Patrick Michaels, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
The study did not prove the models were wrong, however. Instead, the results were able to be reproduced by the researchers’ climate simulations, which looked at two separate methods to simulate changes in sea level along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
“The most important finding is that the simple models overestimate the intensity of precipitation associated with Atlantic tropical storms by 20 to 30 percent,” said Michaels. “We think the reason is that the models failed to account for the ability of the ocean to store and release water during storms.”
The study also suggests that there is little evidence to suggest that climate change is driving a more intense rain pattern over the Atlantic or a stronger hurricane season over the Atlantic.
“We don’t really have a handle on a key component to understand the impacts of climate change on the Atlantic,” said Michaels. “If we only measure one thing, we may be missing a lot.”
“The bottom line is that our models have an issue that is difficult to address. It’s called incomplete representation of climate and ocean. We don’t really have a handle on that.”
“I think it’s fair to say that most climate researchers believe climate change is happening, but their models struggle to predict it. We have our own models that are not as perfect as the climate models, but we still think the climate models are far more accurate and can be used to provide a more accurate forecast of how climate change is affecting the region,” said Mike Cai.