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More rainy days from climate change could dampen economic growth: Study

TERADAT SANTIVIVUT/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- More rainy days and extreme rainfall likely will hurt global economies, according to new research from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

"This is about prosperity -- and ultimately about people's jobs," Leonie Wenz, a lead scientist, told ABC News. "Economies across the world are slowed down by more wet days and extreme daily rainfall, an important insight that adds to our growing understanding of the true costs of climate change."

"We know from previous work that flooding associated with extreme rainfall can damage infrastructure, which is critical to economic productivity, and also cause local disruptions to production," said Wenz, adding that the new findings also suggest everyday disruptions caused by more rain will have "a disruptive effect on businesses, manufacturing, transportation."

The analysis, conducted by a team of scientists who examined 40 years of data in more than 1,500 regions across the globe, shows that as wet days go up, economic growth goes down.

"Intensified daily rainfall turns out to be bad, especially for wealthy, industrialized countries like the U.S., Japan or Germany," Wenz said. But smaller, more agrarian economies can see some benefits.

More rainfall is occurring as the planet warms because warm air holds more water vapor. While global precipitation trends vary wildly, and are extremely complex because of factors including geography and terrain, extreme precipitation is increasing -- it's widely accepted by many climate scientists that regions already prone to intense rainfall events will see them more frequently.

"It's rather the climate shocks from weather extremes that threaten our way of life than the gradual changes -- by destabilizing our climate, we harm our economies," said Anders Leverman, a co-author of a study.

Some of those extremes can include devastating flooding that has massive consequences, Stamford University researcher Frances Voigt Davenport explained to ABC News in 2021.

"We're seeing that climate change increases extreme precipitation and makes the most extreme events bigger," said Davenport, adding that nearly one-third of U.S. flood damage from 1988 to 2017 -- costing roughly $73 billion -- resulted from long-term changes in precipitation.

Other recent extreme rainfall events have resulted from tropical cyclones or severe weather outbreaks, which cost the U.S. some $101 billion last year. Among the 10 costliest events from extreme rainfall, tropical cyclones and severe weather in the U.S., nine have happened since 2004.

Dr. Kai Kornhuber, a climate researcher from Columbia University, told ABC News in an interview how these extreme events have both direct and indirect consequences.

"Extreme rainfall," Kornhuber explained, "often leads to floods, and thereby can cause significant economic damage -- directly, by destroying property, and indirectly by disrupting supply chains, infrastructure and production sites."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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