Global Precipitation and Extreme Rainfall Events Are Increasing

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In general, changes in precipitation are harder to measure and predict than changes in temperature. Nevertheless, some conclusions and projections are robust. For example, based on the fundamental properties and dynamics of the climate system, it is expected that the intensity of the global water cycle and of precipitation extremes (droughts and extremely heavy precipitation events) should both increase as the planet warms. Increases in worldwide precipitation and in the fraction of total precipitation falling in the form of heavy precipitation have already been observed; for example, the fraction of total rainfall falling in the heaviest 1 percent of rain events increased by about 20 percent over the past century in the United States. Climate models project that these trends, which create challenges for flood control and storm and sewer management, are very likely to continue. However, models also indicate a strong seasonality in projected precipitation changes in the United States, with drier summers across much of the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, and California, for example.

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