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Climate Change Is Causing a Surge in Extreme Rainfall Events

The number of record-breaking rainstorms jumped 56 percent in Southeast Asia in the last three decades and is up 12 precent worldwide.

by VICE News
Jul 8 2015, 3:38pm

Photo by Omar Saleem/EPA

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You're not imagining things — the rain is getting worse.

Climate change is driving a sharp increase in heavy storms worldwide, with the resulting flash floods wreaking havoc in some parts of the world, European scientists reported Wednesday.

The worst-hit area was Southeast Asia, where the number of record-breaking rainstorms has jumped 56 percent in the last three decades according to researchers at Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Worldwide, those types of storms were up 12 percent.

Scientists compared the number of heavy storms between 1980 and 2010 to the number in the previous 80 years. The increase they reported is consistent with the ongoing rise in global temperatures over the same period, since warmer air carries more water, the study's lead author, Jascha Lehmann, said in a statement accompanying the report.

Several countries suffered from devastating flash floods during the study period, the study notes. In Pakistan, a 2010 flood killed hundreds and led to an outbreak of cholera from contaminated water. Germany saw three "once-in-a-century" floods between 1997 and 2010, while Texas was hit hard by heavy rainstorms in 2010.

"In all of these places, the amount of rain pouring down in one day broke local records — and while each of these individual events has been caused by a number of different factors, we find a clear overall upward trend for these unprecedented hazards," Lehmann said.

In Europe, the number of record rainfalls jumped 30 percent during the last 30 years of the study period. In the central United States, the number was up 24 percent. But other regions already at risk of severe drought saw sharp decreases — heavy rainfalls occurred 27 percent less often around the Mediterranean region, while the western United States saw a 21 percent decline.

Related: 'Seek higher ground immediately': sifting through the wreckage of Texas' deadly floods