Contribution of historical precipitation change to US flood damages

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Date: Jan. 26, 2021
Publisher: National Academy of Sciences
Document Type: Report
Length: 6,790 words
Lexile Measure: 1610L

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Abstract :

Precipitation extremes have increased across many regions of the United States, with further increases anticipated in response to additional global warming. Quantifying the impact of these precipitation changes on flood damages is necessary to estimate the costs of climate change. However, there is little empirical evidence linking changes in precipitation to the historically observed increase in flood losses. We use 6,600 reports of state-level flood damage to quantify the historical relationship between precipitation and flood damages in the United States. Our results show a significant, positive effect of both monthly and 5-d state-level precipitation on state-level flood damages. In addition, we find that historical precipitation changes have contributed approximately one-third of cumulative flood damages over 1988 to 2017 (primary estimate 36%; 95% CI 20 to 46%), with the cumulative impact of precipitation change totaling $73 billion (95% CI 39 to $91 billion). Further, climate models show that anthropogenic climate forcing has increased the probability of exceeding precipitation thresholds at the extremely wet quantiles that are responsible for most flood damages. Climate models project continued intensification of wet conditions over the next three decades, although a trajectory consistent with UN Paris Agreement goals significantly curbs that intensification. Taken together, our results quantify the contribution of precipitation trends to recent increases in flood damages, advance estimates of the costs associated with historical greenhouse gas emissions, and provide further evidence that lower levels of future warming are very likely to reduce financial losses relative to the current global warming trajectory. precipitation | flooding | climate change

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A649927425