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 due to climate change, a study 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 US, northern Australia, western Russia and parts of China.
"By introducing a new approach to analysing extremes, using thousands of rain records, we reveal a clear increase in the frequency extreme rain events over the recent 50 years when global warming accelerated," said Simon Papalexiou, a hydro-climatologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.
"This upward trend is highly unlikely to be explained by natural climatic variability. The probability of this happening is less than 0.3 per cent under the model assumptions used," said Papalexiou, who led the research.