Droughts and Floods Are Likely to Increase

Given the observed increases in heavy precipitation events and the expectation that this intensification will continue, the risk from floods is projected to increase in the future. Local water, land use, and flood risk-management decisions, however, can modify the actual flood vulnerability of communities.

Drought is a complex environmental impact. It is strongly affected not only by the balance between precipitation and evapotranspiration (the sum of evaporation of water from the surface and transpiration of water though the leaves of plants) and the resulting effect on soil moisture, but also by other human influences such as urbanization, deforestation, and changes in agriculture. Additionally, historical data on drought frequencies and intensities are limited, making it difficult to unambiguously attribute severe droughts to climate change. Climate model projections indicate that the area affected by drought and the number of annual dry days are likely to increase in the decades ahead. In areas where water is stored for part of the year in snowpack, reductions in snowpack and earlier snowmelt are expected to increase the risk of water limitations and drought.

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