Weird and Getting Weirder

Intensification of the Water Cycle

Natural Disasters

Natural Disasters of the United States, 1980-2010     Photo: Munich Re

There’s a lot of confusion about what is responsible for the changes in global weather patterns, but according to climate scientists, there’s a logical cause for some of the events we’re seeing: a phenomenon referred to as the intensification of the water cycle. As the planet warms, the air holds more moisture, resulting in increased evaporation. Water vapor works similar to greenhouse gases, trapping heat that in turn causes more evaporation. According to Ray Schmitt, an oceanographer with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, for every degree centigrade the planet warms, atmospheric moisture increases 7 percent. Result: the planet’s dry areas get drier (wildfires in Texas, droughts in sub-Saharan Africa) and wet areas see more precipi­tation and storms (Hurricane Katrina). Good fodder for those trying to sway climate-change skeptics; bad news for everyone else.

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