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Deluge and Changing Precipitation

Precipitation changes are different across the world, with higher latitudes experiencing greater rain due to warmer temperatures. Extreme rain, or deluge, has been happening across the world in increasing frequency, resulting in immense flooding. This flooding results in billions of dollars in damages and disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities. 

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Kids Fight Climate Change Team

A Stormy Seattle

As the temperature increases, the amount of moisture the air can hold increases proportionally. Generally, the atmosphere can hold 7% more water with each degree of warming. But that varies across the world. Precipitation changes have developed a specific pattern: higher latitudes are getting wetter, while areas closer to the equator are getting drier, except for the monsoon season. This concept is an important part of climate change; one pattern does not apply to the entire world just because there is "global warming." Indeed, the World Health Organization concludes simply that climate change exacerbates the extremes of precipitation. Arid regions will become ever drier due to a lack of precipitation, while high- to mid-latitude regions will become wetter.

Furthermore, climate change disrupts atmospheric rivers, which are long, narrow columns in the atmosphere that carry most of the water vapor outside of the tropics. Most of this water vapor is released via precipitation. However, if these "rivers" are disrupted, then there is less water vapor traveling and therefore less precipitation in some areas.

Increased precipitation leads to more deluge, which is severe rain. A 2019 analysis found that U.S. cities, on average, had over an inch more rain since 1950 during deluges. This increase was even as high as 2.8 inches in Houston, Texas. While one inch may not seem like much, it is important to realize that most rainy days do not see even one inch at all. Similarly, another study shows that annual precipitation has increased in 90% of U.S. states analyzed. However, one noteworthy state that experienced a decrease in precipitation in California, a state prone to drought and wildfire.

As precipitation increases, so does flooding. Flash floods are a result of heavy rain and are particularly dangerous because they can occur with little to no notice and can reach their full peak in mere minutes. Floods indeed result in billions of dollars of damages and often disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities. This is for primarily two reasons. First, low-income communities are less likely to have the money to relocate nor flood insurance, or even the ability to get transportation during an evacuation. Similarly, many minority and low-income communities are underdeveloped. As a result, they have poor infrastructure, which sustains heavier damages during a flood. Floods also have negative effects on both agriculture and human health.


Trenberth, Kevin E. “Changes in Precipitation with Climate Change.” Climate Research 47, no. 1 (March 31, 2011): 123–38.

“Clausius-Clapeyron Equation.” Chemistry LibreTexts. Libretexts, February 17, 2021.

Ezzati, Majid, Anthony J. McMichael, Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, Sari Kovats, Sally Edwards, Paul Wilkinson, Theresa Wilson, et al. “Chapter 20: Global Climate Change.” Chapter. In Comparative Quantification of Health Risks: Global and Regional Burden of Disease Attributable to Selected Major Risk Factors 2, 2:1543–1649. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2004.

“Wettest Days Getting Wetter.” Climate Central, May 15, 2019.

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Cho, Renee. “Why Climate Change Is an Environmental Justice Issue.” State of the Planet. Columbia University Earth Institute, September 16, 2020.

“Flood Waters Can Be Extremely Dangerous.” NJ Department of Human Services. The State of New Jersey. Accessed March 11, 2021.

“What Are Atmospheric Rivers?” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. U.S. Department of Commerce. Accessed March 12, 2021.

“Drought and Climate Change.” Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, April 16, 2020.

Image: Jacobs, Suzanne. Stormy Seattle. June 4, 2015. Grist Magazine.

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