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Extreme Precipitation Events are on the Rise

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If you get the feeling that heavy downpours are more intense than they used to be, you’re not imagining it. According to the National Climate Assessment, released in draft form back in January, the most extreme precipitation events (those in the 99th percentile of intensity) have increased in every region of the contiguous states since 1950. As the map above shows, the rise in intensity has been greatest in the Northeast and least in the Northwest — and in all cases, climate scientists believe, the reason is simple: in a world warmed by heat-trapping greenhouse gases, there’s more evaporation, and the atmosphere can hold on to more water. And when that water vapor condenses as rain or snow, there’s more of it.