Increased risk of extreme rainfall due to warming

Journal: Nature

Climate warming is causing a decrease in snowfall and increase in rainfall at high altitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, and is predicted to increase the risk of extreme rainfall, suggests a study published in Nature

The intensity and frequency of extreme precipitation events is expected to increase as global warming continues to affect the planet. Of particular concern are extremes in rainfall, which often cause more damage than similar snowfall events due to their instantaneous runoff, increasing the risk of floods, which can cause infrastructure damage and landslides. Precisely how increases in global temperature will affect extreme rainfall events remains unclear. 

To assess how climate change might be driving a shift in precipitation patterns, Mohammed Ombadi and colleagues combined data from climate observations from between 1950 and 2019 with future projections, up to 2100, taken from Earth system models. Their results suggest that warming is causing an increase in rainfall extremes within regions of high elevation in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in regions usually dominated by snowfall. On average, the intensity of extreme rainfall events is estimated to increase by 15% per 1 °C of warming. These patterns are seen both in the historical observations and future projections. The estimated rate of increased rainfall in high altitudes is approximately double that of low altitudes, highlighting the increased vulnerability of mountainous regions to extreme precipitation.  

These results may guide infrastructure and mitigation strategies to avert the damage such rainfall events could cause, as well as making predictions of their occurrence more precise, the authors conclude. 


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