Climate experts warn that, without urgent action, climate change will continue to cause an increase in the intensity of extreme rainfall that can lead to severe flooding.

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An international research team have concluded that increases in extreme rainfall and associated flooding are projected to continue as global temperatures continue to rise. Efforts to limit warming to +1.5C will help limit changes in extreme rainfall, though some societal adaptations will still be required.

Sharing their findings in a new ScienceBrief Review, published today (7 June), scientists from Newcastle University, the University of East Anglia (UEA), the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), São Paulo, Brazil, analysed over 170 peer-reviewed scientific papers.

They found that in small and in urban catchments in many parts of the world extreme rainfall has increased the chance of floods occurring and their magnitude, severely impacting local populations and infrastructure. In larger, rural catchments floods depend on many different factors and flooding is less directly linked with extreme rainfall events.

The findings show that the risk of flash flooding on urban areas has likely increased in recent decades, due to the expanding impermeable landscape increasing surface runoff, and increased extreme rainfall, while increases are projected to continue.

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