Publication Date August 3, 2016

Rain bombs? From heat domes to rain bombs, climate change is changing how we talk about weather

United States
Photo: Grist stock

Let’s face it: We actually like talking about the weather. Whether we’re languishing in record-breaking heat or bundling up to face a cold snap, we bond over whatever misery the skies throw at us. And the list of meteorological marvels we encounter just keeps on growing.

The relationship between climate and weather is complex, but we do know that our changing climate is causing extreme weather events to crop up more often — and to describe these anomalies, we’ve coined some new words and dusted off a few obscure phrases. Here’s a guide to some of the terms we’ve been chattering about.


Rain bombs

The catastrophic flooding in Maryland and West Virginia this year? Those floods were the result of “rain bombs,” severe downpours that have battered landscapes in the United States, Europe, and Australia. Rain bombs (also called “wet microbursts”) can douse an area with two to four inches of water in less than an hour, causing swift flooding and damage. And to make matters worse, we’re pretty sure they’re our fault.

Watch one unfold in Tucson, Arizona, in this crazy time-lapse: