The new NASA study shows that warming up of tropical oceans due to climate change can lead to a significant increase in the frequency of extreme rainstorms by the end of the century.
The research team, led by Hartmut Aumann of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, dealt with 15 years of NASA Atmospheric Infrared Sounder instrumentation over the tropical ocean to determine the relationship between the average sea surface temperature and the storm.
They found that extreme storms, producing at least three millimeters of rain per hour on a 25-kilometer area, occurred when the sea surface temperature was higher than about 28 degrees Celsius, according to a JPL release on Tuesday.
The team also found that 21 percent more storms form each 1 degree Celsius as the ocean temperature increases.
Aumann said that heavy storms would increase in a warmer environment. Thunderstorm usually occurs in the hottest part of the year.
"Our data provides a first quantitative estimate of how likely it is to increase, at least for tropical oceans," Aumann said.
At present, climate models predict that by rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at an annual rate of 1 percent, the surface temperature of the tropical ocean may rise by as much as 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, according to the team.
If this happens, it is expected that the incidence of extreme storms will rise by as much as 60 percent by then, according to the study.
"Our results quantify and give visual meaning to the consequences of anticipated ocean warming," said Aumann. "More storms mean more floods, more damage to the structure, more damage to crops, and so on if no mitigation measures are taken."