A new study is reporting that that precipitation in the northeastern portion of the United States has seen an increase in heavy rain events over the past 50 years. The report, authored by the Clean Air-Cool Planet and the University of New Hampshire’s Carbon Solutions New England group, is based on an examination of National Weather Service precipitation records.

While the trend is obvious, the authors are cautious about linking it to global climate change. “I can’t point to these recent storms and say, that is global warming,” UNH associate professor Cameron Wake told the Boston Channel.

Regardless of what’s causing the trend, though, the authors point out that municipalities must address it:

Requirements for how and where we build our homes, businesses, roads, wastewater treatment plants, power lines and other infrastructure need to be re-evaluated. For example, flood relief structures are constructed to a certain level of performance, in many cases, built to prevent flood impacts from the 100-year flood threshold (based on an outdated definition of the 100-year flood). The problem with increasing frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation is that the 100-year flood is now occurring much more frequently. It may be necessary to alter building codes to withstand even larger events and adopt floodplain ordinances to exclude/restrict construction in high risk areas. Knowing the trends will assist society in becoming more prepared and possibly help prevent the worst-case scenarios projected for our future, if current trends in climate change indicators continue.

Trends in Extreme Precipitation Events for the Northeastern United States: 1948-2007 (PDF, 15 MB)

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