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Climate Change May Bring More Extreme Rainfall In The US, Study Warns

First Posted: Dec 08, 2016 02:02 AM EST
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A new research has revealed that climate change could bring a 400 percent increase in the number of extreme summer rains in some parts of the United States by 2100. Experts behind the study believe that this could worsen flash flooding events that have destroyed several communities across the country in the recent years.

This is the result that many climate scientists have already predicted for the planet as a whole, according to Andreas Prein, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the new study's lead author.

"We expect that intense rainfall extremes will get more frequent and more intense in the future climate because if we warm up the atmosphere, air can hold more moisture," he said. In fact, he added, records from the past few decades indicate that people are already seeing this effect in the warming United States.

"What we were interested in is how these kinds of storms might change in the future," Prein said, reported Time.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, examined the association between rising temperatures and precipitation throughout the lower 48 states. With the use of special climate models, researchers mimicked the precipitation across the continent under both current climate conditions and a hypothetical high warming scenario.

According to The Washington Post, the researchers found that the way warming affects precipitation depends a lot on humidity, which is the amount of moisture available in the air to begin with. In moist areas, rising temperatures would cause an increase in extreme precipitation, while the opposite can be true in drier places.

In general, Prein said that there tends to be a "sweet spot" in terms of the temperature that produces the most extreme precipitation events on average in the United States, which is currently about 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, Prein also noted that the study claims that "in the future climate, storms keep on intensifying up to something like 87 or 88 degrees Fahrenheit."

Because of future climate change, many parts of the nation will become both warmer and wetter, he explained. This will result in an increase in both the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events that will be experienced by the country. This is especially true for parts of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, as well as some mountain regions like the Rockies, where humidity is high to begin with.

Meanwhile, according to Prein, places across the U.S. will experience extreme precipitation events may become nearly three times more likely. And at highest, their frequency may increase five-fold in some locations. One way to think about this is to imagine the most intense storm of the summer, he said. In the future, a storm of that magnitude might occur five times in a season instead of just once.

"If we can manage to level out temperature increases at a lower rate than what we see here...then the consequences will be less," Prein said.

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