By Dan Shapley
Climate models have predicted -- and data in many parts of the world have already shown -- that as the climate warms, rain showers will come in punctuated intense bursts. Expect periods of drought, followed by flood. A new analysis of leading climate models found that the picture is right, but off by a degree. There will be even more moisture in the atmosphere, meaning those floods are likely to be even more intense. The good news here is that the droughts predicted by those same climate models look less intense. But ask a farmer how well short bursts of intense rain treat his crops. Those storms wash away topsoil -- flushing nutrients pesticides into streams -- and do no more to replenish crops than a slow soak. The study reinforces a general principle: The climate models that scientists have used to predict the effects of global warming are correct in broad strokes, but some details shift. And, as other recent studies have shown, many of the changes are happening faster than first predicted -- proving the models accurate, but conservative, according to a story in the June 1 USA Today.