Study forecasts drastic rainfall increase by 2057

Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 4:50 PM
Last updated Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 12:34 AM
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Recurring droughts have taken center stage in Georgia in recent years, but a new study shows the region will become much wetter in the future.

Cars drove through puddles in Augusta after rainfall in September. A study found rainfall in the Southeast is expected to increase over the next half-century.  SARA CALDWELL/FILE
SARA CALDWELL/FILE
Cars drove through puddles in Augusta after rainfall in September. A study found rainfall in the Southeast is expected to increase over the next half-century.

Rainfall in the Southeast is expected to increase about 35 percent over the next half-century, according to the study by Joshua Fu, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Tennessee.

Researchers used supercomputers at the university and at Oak Ridge National Labora­tory to compare climate details from 2001-04 with new models that predict weather conditions for 2057-59.

The study, which covered the 23 states east of the Mis­sis­­sippi River, concluded that heat waves will become more severe in most regions of the eastern U.S., while a drastic increase in precipitation was forecast for the North­­east and Southeast, with the greatest increase in coastal states.

Current rainfall averages 45 to 50 inches in central Georgia, 50 to 55 inches in north Georgia and more than 60 inches in the mountains, according to the National Wea­ther Service.

A 35 percent increase could be more than 17 inches.

The study produced specific forecasts for the top 20 most populated cities in the eastern United States.

For Atlanta, it predicts that future heat waves will be 0.72 days longer and reach temperature extremes that average 3.08 degrees Celsius higher than current trends, while the frequency of heat waves would increase by 3.69 events per year.

“Currently, the mean heat wave duration is about four days in the Northeast and eastern Midwest and five days in the Southeast,” Fu said in a news release summarizing the findings. “By the end of the 2050s, the North­east and eastern Mid­west will be gaining on the South­east by increasing two days.”

The Northeast and eastern Midwest are also likely to endure steeper increases in heat wave severity.

“While the Southeast has the highest intensity in heat waves, the Northeast is likely to experience the highest increase,” Fu said. “We are looking at temperature increases of 3 to 5 degrees Cel­sius with New York experiencing the highest hike.”


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