Increase in Deadly Rains Linked to Climate Change

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Don’t let the drought in the U.S. fool you, intense rainfall around the world has been causing deadly floods in the past few years. Several have died in the current flooding in Queensland, Australia. In July 2012, the heaviest rain in decades left 37 dead in Beijing, China. More than 400 Pakistanis died in floods in September 2012. The now shriveled Mississippi River was a raging flood in 2011, killing 24 Americans in associated flash floods.

Recent extreme rains may have been intensified by the rising global average temperature, according to a recent study, which examined data from more than 8,000 weather stations around the planet. The study looked for correlations between atmospheric temperature and extreme rainfall between 1900 to 2009.

“The results are that rainfall extremes are increasing on average globally,” lead author Seth Westra of the University of Adelaide said in a press release. “They show that there is a 7% increase in extreme rainfall intensity for every degree increase in global atmospheric temperature.

“If extreme rainfall events continue to intensify, we can expect to see floods occurring more frequently around the world.

“Assuming an increase in global average temperature by 3 to 5 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century, this could mean very substantial increases in rainfall intensity as a result of climate change,” Westra said.

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The majority of weather stations showed an increase in rainfall. The largest increase in rainfall occurred in tropical nations.

“Most of these tropical countries are very poor and thus not well placed to adapt to the increased risk of flooding, which puts them in a larger threat of devastation,” said Westra.

Westra’s study was published in the Journal of Climate.

IMAGE: Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia flooded in 2007 (Roderick Breis, Wikimedia Commons)