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Are human-caused and natural global warming different? Study says yes.

A study suggests that human-caused and natural global warming episodes affect rainfall rates differently. The finding could help scientists better forecast what's ahead.

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Researchers calculate that global warming has made heat waves in Texas (O.C. Fisher Lake in San Angelo, Texas, is shown here) about 20 times more likely to happen during a La Niña year. La Niñas occur when the difference in temperature between the cooler water in the eastern tropical Pacific and the warmer water in the west intensifies.

Tony Gutierrez/AP/File

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Human-triggered climate warming appears to leave a unique fingerprint on global rainfall rates compared with natural warming, according to a new study.

While rainfall rates increase whether the long-term warming trend is natural or not, the rate of increase appears to be higher during natural warming trends.

The result might help resolve a long-standing discrepancy between changes in rainfall projected in global climate models and changes projected by studying the historical record, researchers say.

 

The study suggests that "carbon dioxide has a fundamentally different mode of warming than natural climate change" – one that leaves a unique signature on rainfall rates, says Jeff Severinghaus, a climate researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. While the effect is most pronounced the the Pacific basin, the work "is about something more fundamental.... Natural and human-caused climate change really produce different effects."

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