The frequency of downpours of heavy rain — which can lead to flash floods, devastation, and outbreaks of waterborne disease — has increased across the globe in the past 50 years, research led by the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) has found.
The number of extreme downpours increased steadily between 1964 and 2013 — a period when global warming also intensified, according to research published in the journal Water Resources Research.
The frequency of 'extreme precipitation events' increased in parts of Canada, most of Europe, the Midwest and northeast region of the U.S., northern Australia, western Russia and parts of China, (see maps and graphics).
The USask study of over 8,700 daily rain records from 100,000 stations monitoring rain worldwide found the frequency of torrential rain between 1964 and 2013 increased as the decades progressed.
Between 2004 and 2013, there were seven per cent more extreme bouts of heavy rain overall than expected globally. In Europe and Asia, there were 8.6 per cent more 'extreme rain events' overall, during this decade.
Global warming can lead to increased precipitation because more heat in the atmosphere leads to more atmospheric water which, in turn, leads to rain.