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Weather

Because warming causes more water to evaporate, climate change can alter rainfall patterns, making wet places wetter and dry places drier. This means that climate change can contribute to both increased precipitation and increased drought. Globally, there has been a rise in extreme weather events such as heat waves, drought, and heavy rainfall.

Drought Has Been More Frequent Globally

Globally, the areas affected by drought have more than doubled since the 1970s. This sequence shows the effects of a 2012 drought on the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Wetlands area in central Kansas.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat Missions Gallery, "Effects of Drought," U.S. Department of the Interior / USGS and NASA. Source  Larger Image

Heat Waves Have Been More Frequent

Heat waves are the leading cause of weather-related illness and death in the United States. Statistics show a trend towards increased frequency and intensity of heat wave events around the world.

Heat waves often contribute to poor air quality and pose the greatest threat to vulnerable populations such as the elderly and children. A 2003 heat wave in France was associated with 14,800 excess deaths.

Graph derived from EM-DAT, The International Disaster Database, Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED; http://www.emdat.be/), Université Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium, v12.07.

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Heavy Precipitation Events Have Become More Frequent

Precipitation has increased globally, as has the proportion of precipitation falling in the form of heavy rain events. This graph shows the increase in heavy rainfall events in the United States during the 20th century.

Graph provided by Dr. Kenneth Kunkel at the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites (CICS-NC), North Carolina State University and NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC. Source

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This graph shows projected changes in light, moderate, and heavy precipitation in North America for the 21st century. Light precipitation is projected to decrease, while heavy precipitation is projected to increase, continuing observed trends.

From U.S. Global Change Research Program. Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States: 2009 Report. Source

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Next: Changes to Oceans and Sea Level

Drought Impacts in Kansas

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat Missions Gallery, "Effects of Drought," U.S. Department of the Interior / USGS and NASA. Source

Heat Waves

Graph derived from EM-DAT, The International Disaster Database, Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED; http://www.emdat.be/), Université Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium, v12.07.

Heavy Rainfall Over the United States

Graph provided by Dr. Kenneth Kunkel at the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites (CICS-NC), North Carolina State University and NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC. Source

Global Mean Sea Level Rise

Data from Church, J. and N. White (2011), Sea-level rise from the late 19th to the early 21st century. Surveys in geophysics, 1573-0956. DOI: 10.1007/s10712-011-9119-1. Source

Precipitation Frequency and Intensity

From U.S. Global Change Research Program. Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States: 2009 Report. Source