The Probable Maximum Precipitation and Climate Change study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was recently published.
It shows extra moisture from a warmer atmosphere due to increasing greenhouse gases dominates every other factor and makes extreme precipitation events more intense.
Lead Author Kenneth Kunkel says the study’s team has high confidence the most extreme rainfalls will become even more intense as it is virtually certain the atmosphere will provide more water to fuel these events. In fact, the study shows a 20 to 30-percent expected increase in the maximum precipitation possible over large portions of the Northern Hemisphere by the end of this century, that is if greenhouse gases continue to increase at a high emissions rate.
Co-Author Thomas Karl says the next challenge is to translate this research into local and regional new design values that can be used to identify risks and mitigate potential disasters. Karl says this study’s findings, and others like it, could provide engineers and developers with new information to save lives and major infrastructure investments.