In another grim warning of the inheritance we have left future generations, a new NOAA-led study details how global warming is set to intensify already extreme "precipitation events."
As the planet's temperature continues to rise, the warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, which will fuel these more intense rains.
“We have high confidence that the most extreme rainfalls will become even more intense, as it is virtually certain that the atmosphere will provide more water to fuel these events,” Kenneth Kunkel, Ph.D., senior research professor at CICS-NC and lead author of the paper, said in a statement.
In addition to intensifying already extreme precipitation events, if the world continues on its trajectory of increased greenhouse gases, the team of scientists found a "20-30 percent expected increase in the maximum precipitation possible over large portions of the Northern Hemisphere by the end of the 21st century."
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Noting that the rise in extreme will have direct impacts on people's lives, the scientists advocate infrastructure investments to deal with the coming risks.
“Our next challenge is to translate this research into local and regional new design values that can be used for identifying risks and mitigating potential disasters. Findings of this study, and others like it, could lead to new information for engineers and developers that will save lives and major infrastructure investments,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., and co-author on the paper.
For the U.S. at least, those infrastructure investments have a long way to go. In their 2013 infrastructure report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. a D average for its water and environment infrastructure.
The new study appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.