You're Not Imagining It: Northeast US Extreme Precipitation Has Been Increasing

rhode island flood photo

photo: Jef Nickerson via flickr.

Though you can't directly link any particular storm to global warming, as the atmosphere warms the likelihood of more extreme weather is predicted to increase. And now some new analysis by the folks at Clean Air-Cool Planet shows that in the northeast United States the trend is bearing out that prediction, with extreme precipitation events increasing over the past sixty years.Over 200 Weather Stations Show More Rain and Snow
Examining precipitation data from 219 weather stations in New England, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania from the years 1948-2007, the researchers found that in all but 18 of the stations storms which produced at least 1" of rain in 24 hours (or the equivalent in snowfall) are increasing. Furthermore, storms which produce 2" and 4" of rainfall in a 48-hour period also are increasing in frequency.

More Research Needed, But Results Consistent With Warming Planet
The study's authors do not make the causal link between warming temperatures and the increases in precipitation (more sophisticated studies would be needed for that) and acknowledge that some aspect of natural variability could be at work, but do say that they found increases in temperature are "best correlated with one-inch events during the spring and fall, precisely the seasons where the rate of increase in extreme precipitation is greatest."

Furthermore, the study concludes,

Our results are also consistent with several investigations of the impact of warmer temperatures on extreme precipitation using regional and global climate models.

Read more: Trends in Extreme Precipitation Events for the Northeastern United States, 1948-2007 [PDF]

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More on Global Climate Change:
Higher Number of Atlantic Storms Linked to Global Warming
Number of Natural Disasters Up Four-Fold Over Last Two Decades: Global Warming to Blame?
Natural Disasters in Latin America Blamed in Part on Climate Change

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