Dartmouth researchers say extreme weather in the long-term forecast

Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 4:20 PM EDT
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HANOVER, N.H. (WCAX) - When it comes to climate change and its impact on the weather, new research at Dartmouth College predicts people living in the Northeast will see more extreme precipitation events.

“We simulated a historical period, so 1986 to 2005, and then a future period which would include the effect of climate change,” explained Jonathan Winter, an associate professor of geography at Dartmouth and the lead author of the new study published in the journal Climatic Change.

And the result -- extreme precipitation in the Northeast will increase by more than 50% by the end of the century. Extreme precipitation was defined as about 1.5 or more inches of rainfall in a day or roughly 1.5 feet of snowfall.

“There is more fuel in the atmosphere. There is more water vapor, there is more liquid that you can push down. And if it is below freezing, you get that as snow. But in the future, we also expect there to be a lot more rain than we currently have,” Winter said. And more humid conditions, he says, is directly connected to the planet getting warmer over the long term. “Yes, you have warmer years and cooler years, but if you look at the trend -- so basically like the overarching -- you’ll see an increase.”

While heavy rainfall is expected to double by the end of the century, researchers say that does not necessarily mean the same for destructive storms like Tropical Storm Irene, which took lives and destroyed countless properties.

“Because they are so rare and we have so little data about them, it’s really tough to say whether we are going to get more Irenes or less Irenes. We are much more comfortable being able to predict whether we are going to get more of these like one-and-a-half-plus-inch events,” Winter said.

Moving forward, the researchers plan to use the data to take a closer look at flooding and which areas are most vulnerable to that extreme precipitation.