How Climate Change Will Impact Your Local Rainfall Totals

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Climate change is a global environmental issue that raises the planet’s temperatures and disrupts weather patterns. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C to stabilize global temperatures. This means reducing greenhouse gasses and increasing the use of climate-smart techniques. If this doesn’t happen, the world will likely begin to struggle with unpredictable weather events.

How Climate Change Affects Precipitation

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Warmer temperatures affect the hydrological cycle. The hydrological cycle, also known as the water cycle, is a process that helps with the constant circulation of water between the earth and its atmosphere. In the cycle, evaporation, transpiration, precipitation, condensation and runoff take place. These increase and decrease water availability.

Evaporation occurs when warm temperatures heat the water on Earth, turning them into vapors that rise into the atmosphere. The same process happens in plants, but it is known as transpiration. Warm temperatures cause plants to lose water as vapor.

Vapor from the Earth’s surface rises to the atmosphere, where temperatures are cooler. Cooler temperatures cause condensation, turning the water vapor into liquid water. This then falls back to Earth as precipitation in many forms, including rain, snow and hail. Depending on the intensity of the precipitation, runoff may occur. Severe runoff from rain can cause serious floods.

The water cycle is heavily dependent on temperature. Climate change, which causes warmer temperatures, intensifies the water cycle. Warmer temperatures cause dry areas to lose water faster, creating more extreme drought events, while wet regions experience excessive rainfall. We are now facing an increasing risk of frequent, extreme precipitation and floods.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that intense precipitation will cause an increase in the frequency of extreme precipitation events. Additionally, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reports that rainfall will reduce in dry areas and frequency will increase in storm-affected areas. 

Every 1°F increase in temperature causes the atmosphere to hold 4% more water vapor, increasing the capacity for more intense and frequent precipitation.

How Extreme Rain Events Affect Communities

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Climate change has devastating effects on communities. In 2019, Iowa and Nebraska residents lost three lives after rivers burst their banks, breaching more than 200 miles of levees. This forced the governors of Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa to declare a state of emergency to deal with the triple precipitation threat of ice jams, rain and melted snow. These extreme weather events cost about $6.9 billion in losses and caused crop and infrastructure damage.

In 2014, a powerful storm hit the San Francisco Bay Area. It resulted in 8 inches of rainfall, strong winds of 139 miles per hour and power outages in more than 150,000 houses.

If nothing is done, these events may become more frequent. Data from the U.S Global Change Research Program shows that the Northeast and Midwest regions are more affected by extreme climate change-related precipitation. These regions have experienced up to a 42% increase in precipitation since 1901. People living in these areas should expect an increase in average yearly rainfall.

Scientists predict that we will now see twice as many extreme precipitation events in a decade. Previously, this happened at least twice in a decade, but researchers expect the frequency to increase by two more events per decade.

Over 57 million people in the Asia Pacific region were affected by climate-related disasters in 2021. A third of Nepal grappled with landslides and floods. More than 500,000 people in Bangladesh lost their homes to floods when hundreds of villages were swamped.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, drought-stricken communities moved from one climate disaster to another. After two years of droughts, rainfall resumed. Unfortunately, the precipitation was extreme, causing immense flooding and displacing more than 700,000 people.

What You Can Do to Help

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The climate change issue may seem massive in scope, but that doesn’t mean individuals can’t take action. The fifth United National Environment Assembly agrees: collective action is key. The IPCC calls for a limit of 1.5°C increase in temperature. Industries and activities causing an increase in greenhouse gasses, such as methane and carbon dioxide, should employ climate-smart technologies.

On a wider scale, the use of fossil fuels is discouraged. People are now encouraged to embrace renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar. There’s a global shift from fossil fuel-powered vehicles to electric cars. There’s a bit of controversy about the eco-friendliness of electric vehicles because of how their batteries are manufactured. However, the EPA says this is a myth. Electric cars have lower lifetime emissions than gasoline-powered vehicles even when battery manufacturing is accounted for.

On a personal level, opting for plastic-free everyday products, such as bamboo toothbrushes, bamboo swabs and eco-friendly reusable straws, helps deal with the climate crisis. Refusing plastic items will reduce demand for them, and the industry may be forced to look for marketable eco-friendly items.

Carpool, bike or use public transport to reduce greenhouse emissions. Even eco-friendly cars impact the environment, so you need to use them only when necessary.

Increase tree cover by planting native trees and shrubs around your home, and embrace agroforestry. Agroforestry is the agricultural practice of planting trees with crops. The trees provide timber, fruits  and shelter for livestock while reducing the effects of climate change.

Raise awareness of climate change issues by voting for politicians with eco-friendly policies who hold companies accountable for their green-practices claims and emissions. Additionally, participate in tree-planting activities that promote reforestation. Use tree-free products whenever possible to enhance the sustainability of our forests.