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Environment New York Research & Policy Center
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The Journal News
By
Michael Risinit

OSSINING — More intense and more frequent rain and snowstorms — on the rise because of climate change, according to an environmental advocacy group — mean more property damage and a greater threat to human life.

Such is the danger posed by the growing regularity of stronger storms, which drop more rain and snow compared to storms past and are lashing New York and other states, said Eric Whalen of Environment New York. Whalen’s group on Tuesday released “When It Rains, It Pours: Global Warming and the Increase in Extreme Precipitation from 1948 to 2011.”
“If we allow global warming to continue unchecked, we will see a lot more extreme weather events,” he said.

Several studies released recently have concluded storms are becoming wetter and stronger because more carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is being trapped in the atmosphere. That causes global temperatures to rise, increasing evaporation and allowing the warmer atmosphere to hold more moisture. It’s a finding echoed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Over time, the northern United States is expected to become wetter and the South, particularly the Southwest, is expected to become drier, according to the EPA.

Environmental New York’s analysis found that heavy snow or rainstorms that used to happen every 12 months across the state now occur about every seven months. Plus, the amount of precipitation released by the largest annual storms increased by 25 percent.

Whalen released the report at an event next to the Hudson River and the Ossining train station. The station’s tracks were covered with several feet of water after Tropical Storm Irene last year. Ossining Mayor Bill Hanauer said he wasn’t surprised storms are becoming more intense and happening more often. He said he was concerned about construction on the waterfront, which is vulnerable to rising waters, and also worried about the threat toppling trees pose to life and property.

“We have had significant trees, historic trees, thrown over by major storms,” Hanauer said.
The report used data from more than 3,700 weather stations across the country. Nationally, the report found storms with large amounts of precipitation increased in frequency by 30 percent across the contiguous 48 states and produced an average of 10 percent more precipitation.

The document can be found on the group’s website, http://www.environmentnewyork.org. Whalen said he hoped the public would read it and pressure state and federal lawmakers to pass legislation to reduce carbon emissions.