The Rain in Spain: The Many Uncertainties of Tinkering With the Climate


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Climate Geoengineering: Who Gets the Rain?

The study reveals that climate tinkering could shift the impacts of climate change to countries that would not otherwise experience large changes in rainfall. In the business-as-usual scenario, there would be a 9 percent increase in rainfall by the end of the century. However, this rainfall would spread out differently in the world.  For example, the Mediterranean area would get a lot drier.

In the climate models, reducing the sun that hits the earth by 4 percent sets the earth’s climate back to that of the pre-industrial era. However, global rainfall amounts are about 5 percent less than that in the pre-industrial era, on average. Rainfall decreases most significantly in the Amazon, Northern Europe, and North America.

Changes in rainfall will have profound human impacts. Image Credit: art mast

Shaping the Future of the Global Climate

Our future climate is full of deep uncertainties. With an incomplete understanding of planetary ecology and climate, and with potential feedback loops, it’s important to model climate scenarios so that we can understand the benefits and drawbacks of different interventions, including the option of doing nothing.

Schmidt’s study shows us that the Earth doesn’t have a magic reset button: when the climate shifts, a simple solution such as a temperature change will not restore all aspects of the climate to what they once were. These models underscore the fact that human climate engineering is an imperfect solution, and that climate policies and interventions will be profoundly political, shaping the climates of countries and continents.


H. Schmidt, K. Alterskjær, D. Bou Karam, O. Boucher, A. Jones, J. E. Kristjánsson, U. Niemeier, M. Schulz, A. Aaheim, F. Benduhn, M. Lawrence, and C. Timmreck. Solar irradiance reduction to counteract radiative forcing from a quadrupling of CO2: climate responses simulated by four earth system models. (2012). Earth System Dynamics. 3, 63-78. Accessed June 15, 2012.

Schmidt, Hauke.  Personal Interview. June, 2012. Max Planck Institute for Meteorology.

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