Increased flood exposure due to climate change and population growth in the United States

D Swain*, Oliver E J Wing, Paul D Bates, J M Done, K Johnson, D R Cameron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

104 Citations (Scopus)
144 Downloads (Pure)


Precipitation extremes are increasing globally due to anthropogenic climate change. However, there remains uncertainty regarding impacts upon flood occurrence and subsequent population exposure. Here, we quantify changes in population exposure to flood hazard across the contiguous United States. We combine simulations from a climate model large ensemble and a high-resolution hydrodynamic flood model—allowing us to directly assess changes across a wide range of extreme precipitation magnitudes and accumulation timescales. We report a mean increase in the 100-year precipitation event of ~20% (magnitude) and >200% (frequency) in a high warming scenario, yielding a ~30-127% increase in population exposure. We further find a non-linear increase for the most intense precipitation events—suggesting accelerating societal impacts from historically rare or unprecedented precipitation events in the 21st century.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020EF001778
Number of pages17
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2020


  • climate change
  • extreme events
  • flood risk
  • large ensemble
  • hydrodynamic modeling


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