Northeast flooding is a reflection of the growing frequency of heavy rain events

Higher frequency of heavy precipitation events being spurred by a warming climate

The deadly, historic floods across the northeastern United States on September 1st are an example of an increasing frequency of heavy precipitation events due to climate change
The deadly, historic floods across the northeastern United States on September 1st are an example of an increasing frequency of heavy precipitation events due to climate change

While Hurricane Ida devastated the Louisiana Gulf Coast back on Sunday, the leftovers — or remnants — of the tropical system brought more weather woes to a different part of the country several days later.

Prolonged periods of very heavy rain caused damaging and deadly flooding across major metropolitan areas of the Northeast and New England on Wednesday.

Several major metro areas across the Northeast and New England set daily rainfall records on Wednesday, September 1st (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

A wide swath of the heaviest rain stretched from near Washington D.C. up to coastal Massachusetts. Record daily rainfall totals were set in cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, Newark, and Hartford.

Some of the highest rainfall totals were recorded across parts of New Jersey and New York City where more than eight inches of rain fell in a matter of hours.

Data from scientific research supports the fact that heavy precipitation events — like the one that occurred across the Northeast Wednesday — are becoming more and more common across the country and are the result of climate change caused by humans.

“While the individual weather pattern may allow for heavy rain, the heaviest of this precipitation is increasing as the world warms from climate change,” scientists at Climate Central wrote.

According to Climate Central, there was an increase in heavy rain events across the United States from 1958 to 2016 (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

A heavy precipitation event is defined as the top 1% of rain events for a given area, according to Climate Central, “an independent organization of leading scientists and journalists researching and reporting the facts about our changing climate and its impact on the public.”

For example, if you took every day that rainfall was recorded in San Antonio and listed each day’s rainfall totals from highest to lowest, the top 1% of those days would be considered the heavy precipitation events for the San Antonio area.

These types of events — essentially, the most extreme rainfall events — increased at various levels across the country from 1958 to 2016.

In the Northeast, where Wednesday’s historic flooding occurred, these events increased at a rate of 55% from 1958 to 2016.

In Texas, heavy precipitation events increased at a rate of 12% over the same period.

Further, data also supports the fact that, as the Earth’s climate warms, the amount of water vapor in the air will increase. An increase in water vapor results in more rain.

Increasing global temperature and the resulting impacts - not just limited to heavy rain events - have been addressed by a major group of scientists in detail in the recently released IPCC report on climate change.

According to Climate Central, a warming climate will lead to heavier rain (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

About the Author:

Kaiti Blake is a child weather-geek-turned-meteorologist. A member of the KSAT Weather Authority, Kaiti is a co-host of the Whatever the Weather video podcast. After graduating from Texas Tech University, Kaiti worked at WJTV 12 in Jackson, Mississippi and KTAB in Abilene.