New NCAR Model Suggests Future Extreme Rainfall Events Influenced By Climate Change

December 5, 2016

Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder simulated what rain storms would look like at the end of the century if temperatures warmed by 5 degrees Celsius. That’s the increase expected by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. They found extreme downpours increased 400 percent in some places.

“The highest prone areas are really the mountain areas,” said Andreas Prein, a researcher at NCAR and lead author of the study. “The northeast is clearly a hotspot and also along the Gulf Coast and along the Atlantic Coast.”

Prein said the increase in extreme rainfall events may require infrastructure changes to things like drainage systems and dams.

“I think the main point is these kind of changes — the higher intensity and frequency of downpours — will be very harmful to existing infrastructure,” Prein said.

Colorado is expected to become drier with climate change, but Prein said an increase in extreme downpours could create more flash floods. Researchers obtained the results by running a new dataset on the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputer. Those simulations took one year to run. The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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