By Nilanjana Goswami
According to a recent study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), tropical regions may experience more rainfall in the future due to climate change caused by global warming.
The study, led by scientist Hui Su of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in the US, combined the efforts of researchers from JPL and four other universities. It introduced the facts by stating that global availability of rainfall isn’t simply dependent on cloud formation. A balance between the incoming energy from the Sun and the outgoing heat energy from the Earth’s surface and atmosphere—commonly known as the Earth’s “energy budget”—is also required.
Tropics that matter
The tropics, covering 39.78% of the Earth’s surface area, receive most of the solar radiation directly as they are situated around the equator. This solar radiation generates a large amount of heat, which is in turn trapped by high-altitude clouds that form around this zone. As water vapour evaporates from the surface of the Earth, it carries with it the surface heat energy and warms the atmosphere.
The study goes on to illustrate a major shrinkage in high-altitude cloud cover, having compared meteorological data from the past few decades. The reduction in high-altitude cloud cover can be attributed to a shift in atmospheric circulation that includes a huge belt of rising air in the tropics.
Where are the clouds?
Researchers from JPL have run 23 model climate simulations. The results illustrate that this belt of rising air that disperses heat energy into the upper atmosphere, has gradually narrowed over the past 30-40 years. This affects the complex thermodynamics that governs rainfall in the tropics.
If there are less high-altitude clouds in the future, a large amount of heat energy circulating in the energy budget would be knocked out of the equation. As a result, the tropical climate will be cooler than it is now, but there will be no decrease in the amount of solar radiation received by these areas. In order to level the equation, tropical rainfall will increase.
Nations should take notice
NASA’s study of this decrease in high-altitude cloud cover is an important observation because of the time at which this reminder comes. With the US pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, this study, along with other emerging ones, go to show how apathy has grown to be less of an argument.
The US administration has been adamant to treat global warming and climate change as make-believe rumours. Its policy has consistently been to “let God take care of climate change”. Evidence from new research ought to inspire countries to direct resources and personnel towards the field of meteorological research.
An increase in rainfall in the tropics will be calamitous, leaving 40% of the world population more prone to flash-floods and other natural disasters. Most of the developing countries are bunched around the equator, and they lack the infrastructure required to combat the consequences of this shift. The world population should organise, mobilise and face this threat head-on because once cities start falling into the ocean, there will be no God to hide behind.
Featured Image Source: Pexels
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