Detroit-area flooding consistent with long-term precipitation trends under changing climate

University of Michigan

University of Michigan experts are available to discuss the weekend flooding in the Detroit metro area. The flooding provides a dramatic reminder that the frequency and intensity of severe storms are expected to continue to increase in the Great Lakes region due to climate change.

Richard Rood, professor of climate and space sciences and engineering at the College of Engineering, is an expert on U.S. weather modeling and can discuss the connection between weather, climate and society. He is also a co-principal investigator at GLISA, the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments, a federally funded partnership between the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin.

According to GLISA, total annual precipitation in the Great Lakes region has increased by 14% since 1951. The frequency and intensity of severe storms has increased, and this trend will likely continue as the effects of climate change become more pronounced. The amount of precipitation falling in the heaviest 1% of storms increased by 35% in the U.S. Great Lakes region from 1951 through 2017, according to GLISA.

“The weekend flooding in Southeast Michigan is consistent with the trend of increasing extreme precipitation in a warming atmosphere. Coming into the weekend, exceptionally high quantitative precipitation forecasts were anticipated by weather models,” Rood said. “In these cases, when it rains, urban environments are at higher risk because of runoff from impervious surfaces. The flood control infrastructure of 30 years ago is no longer adequate. This is especially true when maintenance of the infrastructure has been neglected.”

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