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Effect of important air pollutants may be absent from key precipitation observations
Date:3/30/2014

Pioneering new research from the University of Exeter could have a major impact on climate and environmental science by drastically transforming the perceived reliability of key observations of precipitation, which includes rain, sleet and snow.

The ground breaking study examines the effect that increased aerosol concentrations in the atmosphere, emitted as a result of burning fossil fuels, had on regional temperature and precipitation levels.

Scientists from Exeter's Mathematics department compared observed regional temperature and precipitation changes throughout the 20th century with results produced by the latest complex climate models over the same period.

The study showed that the observed regional temperature changes, as well as observed precipitation levels in the tropics, were in agreement with the range of the modelled responses given current best estimates of the influence of aerosols on the Earth's energy budget.

However, when looking at geographical areas within the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes which includes Europe, much of North Asia and North America the study showed a significant discrepancy between observed precipitation levels and those predicted from the models.

This new analysis could transform our understanding of observed changes in the local hydrological cycle and offer a unique opportunity to correct for potential biases in measurements.

The new study, published in leading scientific journal Nature Climate Change, was produced by Joe Osborne and Dr Hugo Lambert, from Exeter's College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences.

Dr Lambert explained: "Scientists have known that observed mid-latitude precipitation trends may be in error for many years. Our new physical framework fits together temperature changes, aerosol changes and other precipitation changes to show by how much. We now have the opportunity to correct 20th century precipitation trends."<
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Contact: Duncan Sandes
d.sandes@exeter.ac.uk
University of Exeter
Source:Eurekalert

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