Global Warming Will Drive 'Extreme Rain' And Flooding, Study Finds

Scientists say that even the world's driest places are in for a drenching.

10/03/2016 1:02 PM AEDT | Updated 10/03/2016 1:02 PM AEDT

Whether you live in Seattle or the Sahara desert, the time has come to invest in a good raincoat or umbrella, a new study suggests.

As global temperatures continue to rise, more "extreme rain" events -- intense, cats-and-dogs downpours -- can be expected, said the study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

And that, scientists said, means an increased flood risk, particularly for the world's driest regions.

The study challenges the idea that global warming is causing dry areas to become drier and wet areas wetter.

“In both wet and dry regions, we see these significant and robust increases in heavy precipitation,” lead author Markus Donat, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales, told Nature.

Donat and his team collected data from 1951 to 2010 on extreme precipitation events from 11,000 weather stations around the world, Nature reported.

In that time, the number of days with "extreme precipitation" increased 1 percent to 2 percent per decade. The trend is forecast to continue intensifying through the end of the century, likely leading to additional flooding. 

"We found a strong relationship between global warming and an increase in rainfall, particularly in areas outside of the tropics," Donat said in a statement.

"The concern with an increased frequency and in particular intensity of extreme precipitation events in areas that are normally dry is that there may not be infrastructure in place to cope with extreme flooding events," Donat added. "Importantly, this research suggests we will see these extreme rainfall events increase at regional levels in dry areas, not just as an average across the globe."

Peter Stott, a senior climate scientist at Met Office, told Climate Central that the study's findings are important, because more intense rainfall and flooding will "challenge our capability to be resilient to a rapidly changing climate."

As Nature reported, the research aligns with a 2015 study that found global warming has led to a surge in record-breaking precipitation events. Donat told the publication that his study should come as a warning to world governments.

"It is probably a good idea to invest in infrastructure that helps in dealing with heavier precipitation, in particular if you are not yet used to those events," Donat said.

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