Cars lie in floodwaters after heavy rain undercut a road in Boulder, Colorado, in 2013. NOAA

By 2100, parts of the U.S. could see a 400 percent leap in extreme summer storms.

The multiday storms that unleashed 6.9 trillion gallons of rain upon Louisiana this August wound up creating the worst U.S. natural disaster since 2012’s Superstorm Sandy. But while the catastrophic flooding might’ve seemed rare and shocking, such paralyzing deluges could become common by the end of the century if emissions continue at their current pace.

Now we know what parts of the country are likely to get slammed by such extreme rainfall, thanks to scientists at Boulder’s National Center for Atmospheric Research. Using computer simulations so comprehensive they took a year to run, researchers found that by 2100 many places around the U.S.’s Gulf and Southwest could see up to a 400 percent increase in the number of ultradrenching summer storms. Mexico is also facing a big uptick in extreme rains, and the risk is jacked up on Atlantic Coast and around the Rockies:

NCAR

In their investigation, the researchers assumed the world will be 9 degrees hotter by the end of the century, a consequence of taking no more action to cut emissions. Because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, it’s plausible the storms of the future will not only be more frequent but more intense. Summer storms will probably deliver heavier rain-bombs over most of the country, the researchers believe, but especially in the Southwest and the Northeast where rain intensity could swell by 70 percent.

“These are huge increases,” NCAR‘s Andreas Prein says in a press release. “Imagine the most intense thunderstorm you typically experience in a single season. Our study finds that, in the future, parts of the U.S. could expect to experience five of those storms in a season, each with an intensity as strong or stronger than current storms.”

A street in Baton Rouge was turned into a river after extreme rains this August. (NOAA)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    A History of the American Public Library

    A visual exploration of how a critical piece of social infrastructure came to be.

  2. Equity

    Berlin Builds an Arsenal of Ideas to Stage a Housing Revolution

    The proposals might seem radical—from banning huge corporate landlords to freezing rents for five years—but polls show the public is ready for something dramatic.

  3. Maps

    Mapping the Growing Gap Between Job Seekers and Employers

    Mapping job openings with available employees in major U.S. cities reveals a striking spatial mismatch, according to a new Urban Institute report.

  4. a map of the Mayan Train route in Mexico
    Environment

    Mexico’s ‘Mayan Train’ Is Bound for Controversy

    President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s signature rail project would link cities and tourist sites in the Yucatan with rural areas and rainforests.

  5. A photo of a design maquette for the Obama Presidential Center planned for Jackson Park and designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.
    Design

    Why the Case Against the Obama Presidential Center Is So Important

    A judge has ruled that a lawsuit brought by Chicago preservationists can proceed, dealing a blow to Barack Obama's plans to build his library in Jackson Park.