A new study published at the beginning of the month in the journal Water Resources Research shows that torrential rains have become more common nowadays compared to the middle of the last century when global warming first started to intensify. The world is getting rainier because as the climate warms, the atmosphere can hold and release more moisture, meaning torrential downpours are on the rise around the planet.
“There is a crystal clear analysis that shows for decades that we have many of these extremes,” said Simon Papalexiou, a professor of civil engineering, geology and environmental sciences at Saskatoon University in Canada, regarding the study.
For this new study, professor Papalexiou and hydrology professor at the University of Bologna, Alberto Montanari, have analyzed data collected at 8,730 weather stations around the world between 1964 and 2013, charting the time and intensity of the worst downpours in each region then comparing the results to the patterns they were expecting to see.
Even though rain is an essential part of the world’s meteorological system, heavy downpours can devastate communities, disrupt agriculture, and contribute to road accidents and other problems. In the past year alone rain has destroyed crops and delayed maize and soybeans, pushed rivers across their banks and into communities taking lives and destroying homes. Papalexiou said there are many possible consequences of excessive rain:
“Flash floods, landslides, infrastructure destruction, outbreaks of waterborne disease, water contamination, traffic chaos… The list is really large.”
Their analysis showed there were 7 percent more downpours than expected between 2004 and 2013, North America, Europe, and Asia leading the charts with about 8.5 percent more downpours during those years than expected. Moreover, it seems that heavy rains show no signs of stopping according to experts, that actually say they may intensify, even as climate change is bringing drought in many parts of the world.