The impact of a warming climate on precipitation is very complex and the outcome of two opposing forces: a surface-drying effect that reduces the frequency of precipitation, and a wetting effect that increases atmospheric water vapor. A research project led by Dr. Hengchun Ye, professor and chair of the Department of Geosciences and Environment and the director for NASA DIRECT-STEM, aims to quantify the relationship between a warming climate, changing precipitation characteristics, and their associations with atmospheric conditions, such as air temperature, atmospheric circulation patterns, and atmospheric water vapor content.

This data is critical to understanding changing trends and interactions with other climatic components of the earth’s system; understanding these factors will enable the planet to develop resilience to climate change and its effects. Dr. Ye’s research is unique because it uses multiple sources of data, different methods of data processing and data imaging, and various statistical tools to improve our understanding of the changing world.

So far, the research findings predict that a warming climate will lead to a shorter snowfall season, increasing precipitation intensity, decreasing frequency of wet days, and increasing the frequency of severe weather. Consequences include more flooding and prolonged droughts.

This project is jointly funded by three offices of the National Science Foundation: Geography and Geospatial Sciences, Climate Dynamics, and Arctic Natural Sciences. Dr. Ye is also supported by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a summer faculty fellow.