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Total Precipitation Increase

While heavy precipitation events in most parts of the United States have increased in both intensity and frequency, there are important regional and seasonal differences in total precipitation change. Climate change is linked to increased total precipitation and flood risk in the US Midwest and Northeast.

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Climate science at a glance

  • The 12 months spanning July 2018 through June 2019 were the wettest year-long period in the United States in records dating back to 1895.

  • Climate change has increased the likelihood of wet years across the US.[1][2]

  • In the Midwest, significant increases in flooding are well-documented, and the change is likely due to increases in total precipitation linked to climate change.

US total precipitation trends and climate change

  • In the Northeast, increases in total precipitation are expected during the winter and spring but with little change in the summer.[3]
  • In the Southern Great Plains, total precipitation decreased over the past 30 years.[3] An increase in extreme precipitation, however, has led to an increase in record-breaking flooding over this same period of time.[3]

US studies attribute changes in total precipitation to climate change

  • (Knutson and Zeng 2018): Climate change has increased the amount of annual precipitation in the Midwest.
  • (Diffenbaugh et al. 2017): Climate change has increased the likelihood of wet years over the US.
  • (Knutson et al. 2014): Extreme seasonal and annual mean precipitation during 2013 in the north-central and eastern US were due in part to human-caused climate change.

Global total precipitation trends and climate change

  • Climate models robustly predict an increase in global-mean precipitation in response to CO2 doubling. They agree that the magnitude of this increase will be less than the increase of water vapor concentrations.[4]

Global studies attribute changes in total precipitation to climate change

  • (Wan et al. 2014): Increases in high latitude precipitation has showed an increase in various datasets, and this is due in part to human caused climate change.
  • (Sarojini et al. 2012): Human-caused climate change has likely increased total precipitation across the globe, with the largest effect in high-latitude regions.
  • (Zhang et al. 2007): Models detect the effect of anthropogenic climate change on average precipitation across latitudinal bands.

Select a pillar to filter signals

Air Mass Temperature Increase
Arctic Amplification
Extreme Heat and Heat Waves
Glacier and Ice Sheet Melt
Global Warming
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Land Ice and Snow Cover Decline
Land Surface Temperature Increase
Permafrost Thaw
Precipitation Falls as Rain Instead of Snow
Sea Ice Decline
Sea Surface Temperature Increase
Season Creep/ Phenology Change
Snowpack Decline
Snowpack Melting Earlier and/or Faster
Atmospheric Moisture Increase
Extreme Precipitation Increase
Runoff and Flood Risk Increase
Total Precipitation Increase
Atmospheric Blocking Increase
Atmospheric River Change
Extreme El Niño Frequency Increase
Gulf Stream System Weakening
Hadley Cell Expansion
Large Scale Global Circulation Change/ Dynamical Changes
North Atlantic Surface Temperature Decrease
Ocean Acidification Increase
Southwestern US Precipitation Decrease
Surface Ozone Change
Surface Wind Speed Change
Drought Risk Increase
Land Surface Drying Increase
Intense Atlantic Hurricane Frequency Increase
Intense Cyclone, Hurricane, Typhoon Frequency Increase
Intense Northwest Pacific Typhoon Frequency Increase
Tropical Cyclone Steering Change
Wildfire Risk Increase
Coastal Flooding Increase
Sea Level Rise
Air Mass Temperature Increase
Storm Surge Increase
Thermal Expansion of the Ocean
Winter Storm Risk Increase
Coral Bleaching Increase
Habitat Shift or Decline
Parasite, Bacteria and Virus Population Increase
Pine Beetle Outbreaks
Heat-Related Illness Increase
Infectious Gastrointestinal Disease Risk Increase
Respiratory Disease Risk Increase
Vector-Borne Disease Risk Increase
Storm Intensity Increase
Tornado Risk Increase
Wind Damage Risk Increase
What are Climate Signals?