Torrential rain events and the flooding they cause are nothing new. Global warming, however, is helping to make them more likely.
According to the most recent National Climate Assessment, heavy precipitation events have increased in both frequency and intensity across the United States. While there are seasonal variations with different regions, the greatest increases have been observed in the northeast.
Climate scientists attribute this increase in heavy precipitation to our warming world. As greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere, the air is able to hold more water vapor. More specifically, according to the Clausius–Clapeyron relation, for every increase of 1°F, the saturation level of the atmosphere increases by about 4%. That means there is more evaporation from oceans, rivers, and lakes, and therefore more water vapor available to condense and fall as precipitation.
Heavy rain events have a number of consequences, including an increased risk of both flash floods and river floods. This, in turn, is a threat to life and property. Over the long-term, it also affects insurance rates and property values. According to NOAA, individual billion-dollar flooding events (excluding tropical cyclones) in the U.S. have added up to $39 billion in losses since 2010.
As our global temperature continues to rise, experts say we should expect to see more extreme rain events, even in areas where overall precipitation is projected to decrease. In other words, when it rains, it will likely pour.