The paper looked at three factors that go into the maximum precipitation value possible in any given location: moisture in the atmosphere, upward motion of air in the atmosphere, and horizontal winds. The team examined climate model data to understand how a continued course of high greenhouse gas emissions would influence the potential maximum precipitation. While greenhouse gas increases did not substantially change the maximum upward motion of the atmosphere or horizontal winds, the models did show a 20-30 percent increase in maximum moisture in the atmosphere, which led to a corresponding increase in the maximum precipitation value.
NOAA indicated that the findings of this report could inform "design values," or precipitation amounts, used by water resource managers, insurance and building sectors in modeling the risk due to catastrophic precipitation amounts. Engineers use design values to determine the design of water impoundments and runoff control structures, such as dams, culverts, and detention ponds.
Thomas Karl, L.H.D., director of NOAA's NCDC in Asheville, N.C., and co-author on the paper said, "Our next challenge is to translate this research into local and regional new design values that can be used for identifying risks and mitigating potential disasters. Findings of this study, and others like it, could lead to new information for engineers and developers that will save lives and major infrastructure investments."