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An increase in heavy precipitation that has afflicted many countries is at least partly a consequence of human influence on the atmosphere, climate scientists reported in a new study.
In the first major paper of its kind, the researchers used elaborate computer programs that simulate the climate to analyze whether the rise in severe rainstorms, heavy snowfalls and similar events could be explained by natural variability in the atmosphere. They found that it could not, and that the increase made sense only when the computers factored in the effects of greenhouse gases released by human activities like the burning of fossil fuels.
That it took a decade to come to that conclusion illustrates one of the major problems of climate science at the moment. Researchers are barraged with questions about weather extremes like the recent winters in Europe and the United States and the heat waves and droughts of last summer.
Yet, even when adequate weather statistics are available for an affected region, the scientists need years to run computer analyses of any specific event and calculate whether it was made more or less likely by global warming.