Extreme rain: New research predicts wetter, riskier storms for much of U.S.

By A. Adam Glenn

In the news: Extreme rains are expected to increase significantly across nearly the entire continental United States, according to a government study that provides a highly detailed picture of wetter storms to come with climate change. 

Back story: Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research said in the Dec. 5 study that extreme precipitation can be expected to increase as much as five fold, especially in the Northeast and Gulf Coast regions. But even the Midwest, which is getting drier, will see intense rains that could cause serious erosion.  

Adaptation angle: The resulting rise in flash flood risk and challenges for existing infrastructure suggests “a clear need to increase societal resilience … and fundamental reassessments of planning approaches to intense precipitation, local flooding, landslides, and debris flows,” argued the authors. 

Questions to ask 

  • What specific changes in extreme precipitation events are expected in your area?  
  • What kinds of disruptions, such as landslides or erosion, can be expected as a result of heavier rains? 
  • How well prepared are local authorities for impacts from extreme weather and floods, such as power outages and transportation disruptions?  
  • Does your community have an early warning systems? 
  • What changes in area stormwater management might be needed to prepare for overflowing reservoirs or overtaxed sewage systems? 

Check for additional questions to ask in our backgrounder on inland flooding

Reporting resources 

Dig deeper on the extreme rains story using the dozens of related resources on storms and floods in the Reporter’s Guide to Climate Adaptation database. 

Know of other extreme precipitation resources we should include in our database? 

Posted by A. Adam Glenn on Dec. 15, 2016