A Human Influence On Precipitation
‘Has Yet To Be Detected’
“Climate model output suggests decreasing rainfall as a consequence of anthropogenic greenhouse gas radiative forcing.”
“[I]f anthropogenic forcing has impacted the [regional rainfall pattern], the signal has yet to be detected above the level of natural climate variability.” – Lachniet et al., 2017
According to climate models, precipitation trends were supposed to have intensified as a consequence of human activity.
And yet after compiling decades of observational and proxy (paleoclimate) evidence, it has been determined there has been no detectable global-scale human influence on rainfall patterns in the last hundred years (even hundreds of years). Instead, any variability in the hydrological cycle can be strongly linked to non-anthropogenic forcing mechanisms, namely solar activity and natural oceanic/atmospheric oscillations (NAO, PDO, AMO, ENSO).
The hydrological cycle is expected to intensify in response to global warming. Yet, little unequivocal evidence of such an acceleration has been found on a global scale. This holds in particular for terrestrial evaporation, the crucial return flow of water from land to atmosphere. Here we use satellite observations to reveal that continental evaporation has increased in northern latitudes, at rates consistent with expectations derived from temperature trends. However, at the global scale, the dynamics of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) have dominated the multi-decadal variability.
Modern Precipitation Trends Similar To Past Centuries
Overall, the inter-annual and inter-decadal variability of rainfall and runoff observed in the modern record (Coefficient of Variation (CV) of 22% for rainfall, 42% for runoff) is similar to the variability experienced over the last 500 years (CV of 21% for rainfall and 36% for runoff). However, the modern period is wetter on average than the pre-instrumental (13% higher for rainfall and 23% higher for runoff). Figure 9 also shows that the reconstructions contain a number of individual years (both wet and dry) of greater magnitude than what has been recorded in the instrumental record.
A nested July–June precipitation reconstruction for the period AD 1777–2012 was developed from multi-century tree-ring records of Pinus sylvestris L. (Scots pine) for the Republic of Khakassia in Siberia, Russia. … The longest reconstructed dry period, defined as consecutive years with less than 25th percentile of observed July–June precipitation, was 3 years (1861–1863). There was no significant difference in the number dry and wet periods during the 236 years of the reconstructed precipitation.
Five of the six coupled ocean-atmosphere climate models of the Paleoclimate Modeling Intercomparison Project Phase III (PMIP3), can reproduce the south-north dipole mode of precipitation in eastern China, and its likely link with ENSO. However, there is mismatch in terms of their time development. This is consistent with an important role of the internal variability in the precipitation field changes over the past 500 years.
20th century precipitation variability in southern Tibet falls within the range of natural variability in the last 4100 yr, and does not show a clear trend of increasing precipitation as projected by models. Instead, it appears that poorly understood multidecadal to centennial internal modes of monsoon variability remained influential throughout the last 4100 yr. … Until we have a predictive understanding of multidecade to multi-century variability in the Asian monsoon system, it would be wise to consider the risk of prolonged periods of anomalously dry and wet monsoon conditions to be substantial (Ault et al., 2014). Such variability may also explain why the predicted anthropogenic increase in Asian monsoon precipitation is not widely observed.
Corresponding ~4-8 year periodicities identified from Wavelet analysis of particle size data from Pescadero Marsh in Central Coast California and rainfall data from San Francisco reflect established ENSO periodicity, as further evidenced in the Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI), and thus confirms an important ENSO control on both precipitation and barrier regime variability.
In this study, a monthly water-balance model is used to simulate monthly runoff for 2109 hydrologic units (HUs) in the conterminous United States (CONUS) for water-years 1901 through 2014. … Results indicated that … the variability of precipitation appears to have been the principal climatic factor determining drought, and for most of the CONUS [conterminous US], drought frequency appears to have decreased during the 1901 through 2014 period.
[M]onsoon dynamics appear to be linked to low-frequency variability in the ENSO and NAO, suggesting that ocean-atmosphere processes in the tropical oceans drive rainfall in Mesoamerica. … Climate model output suggests decreasing rainfall as a consequence of anthropogenic greenhouse gas radiative forcing (Rauscher et al., 2008; Saenz-Romero et al., 2010). Our data show, however, that the response of the monsoon will be strongly modulated by the changes in ENSO and the NAO mean states … Our data also show that the magnitude of Mesoamerican monsoon variability over the modern era when the anthropogenic radiative forcing has dominated over solar and volcanic forcings (Schmidt et al., 2012) is within the natural bounds of rainfall variations over the past 2250 years. This observation suggests that if anthropogenic forcing has impacted the Mesoamerican monsoon, the signal has yet to be detected above the level of natural climate variability, and the monsoon response to direct radiative forcing and indirect ocean-atmosphere forcings may yet to be fully realized.
Past, Modern Precipitation Patterns Modulated By Solar Forcing
The precipitation variability on decadal to multi-centurial generally always reflects changes in solar activity and large-scale circulation, e.g., the ENSO and the EASM [East Asian Summer Monsoon] (Chen et al., 2011; Vleeschouwer et al., 2012; Feng et al., 2014). [D]uring the MWP [Medieval Warm Period], the wetter climate in this region was consistent with more frequent ENSO events, stronger EASM and higher solar activity, whereas the opposite was found for the LIA. In particular, d13Cac fluctuations on multi-decadal to centennial scales is consistent with the changes in solar activity, with fewer dry intervals corresponding to periods of minimum solar activity within dating errors, which are referred to as the Oort Minimum (AD 1010-1050), Wolf Minimum (AD 1280-1340), Sporer Minimum (AD 1420-1530), Maunder Minimum (AD 1645-1715) and Dalton Minimum (AD 1795-1820).