Extreme storms will be a lot more frequent as climate warms

The number of heavy downpours in much of the U.S. could increase five-fold by the end of the century, causing flash floods, mudslides and ruining crops, climate researchers predicted Monday.

People need to start getting ready for these catastrophic storms now, because most places aren't prepared to handle such extreme weather, the team at the National Center for Atmospheric Research said.

And yes, climate change is to blame, the experts said. As the average temperature warms up, the air will get warmer and moister and more prone to these heavy storms, they reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.

RELATED: 10 of the biggest snowstorms in history

10 of the biggest snowstorms in history
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10 of the biggest snowstorms in history

10. The Knickerbocker Storm of 1922

View of a car buried in snow during the so-called Knickerbocker Storm, a blizzard that dropped 28 inches of snow on Washington DC, January 28, 1922. The storm, which also affected a large portion of the Eastern Seaboard, was named after the collapse of DC's Knickerbocker Theatre, caused by the excess weight of the snow on the structure's roof, which resulted in 98 deaths and 113 injuries; later, both the building's owner and architect committed suicide.

(Photo by Herbert A. French/Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

9. Blizzard Of 1888

A man stands by a snow hut, after the Great Blizzard of 1888, with U.S. Capitol in background, Washington, D.C. According to History.com, 55 inches of snow piled up in some areas and hundreds of people were killed.

(Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

8. The Blizzard of 1996

The Blizzard of '96 was a severe nor'easter that paralyzed the U.S. East Coast with up to 4 feet of wind-driven snow from January 6 to January 8, 1996. It is one of only two snowstorms to receive the top rating of 5, or 'Extreme', on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale. Looking west down Penn. Ave from the US Capitol during the Blizzard.

(Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

7. 2008 Blizzard in Tibet

Journeying outside of the Unites States, Tibet got a surprise storm that lasted 36 hours and dropped upwards of five feet of snow causing buildings to collapse and at least seven deaths

(Photo credit: Getty)

6. 1959 storm on Mount Shasta

Number six is the storm on Mount Shasta in California in 1959 which unloaded 189 inches of snow on the locals and is considered the largest snowfall from a single storm in North America according to NOAA.

(Photo by Frederic Lewis/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

2. Blizzard of 1977

At number two is the blizzard of '77 in Buffalo, New York. Powerful and sustained winds created massive snow drifts.

(Photo by Ira Block/National Geographic/Getty Images)

5. Blizzard of 1971

Next is the Eastern Canadian Blizzard of 1971. It is said the event closed down the Montreal Forum, canceling a Montreal Canadiens hockey game, something that hasn't occurred since the flu epidemic of 1918.

(Photo by Dave Norris/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

4. New England Blizzard of 1978

At number four is the New England Blizzard of 1978. Stalling over New England, this storm struck during the day, dropping over 27 inches of snow and stranding many at schools, businesses and others in their cars.

(Photo by David L Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

3. The Great Snow of 1717

Then there was the Great Snow of 1717 over the New England Area. With five feet of snow already on the ground, around four more fell on top of that creating drifts as tall as 25 feet, burying entire houses.

(Photo via Getty Images)

1. Blizzard of 1967

But the storm to top them all is the Blizzard of 1967. Laying waste to the Midwest, this storm took 76 lives, set the record snowfall for Chicago with 23 inches and was preceded by a severe tornado outbreak with temperatures in the 60's.

(Photo by Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)


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"Imagine the most intense thunderstorm you typically experience in a single season. Our study finds that, in the future, parts of the U.S. could expect to experience five of those storms in a season, each with an intensity as strong or stronger than current storms," said NCAR's Andreas Prein, who led the study team.

"Extreme precipitation intensities have increased in all regions of the contiguous United States and are expected to further increase with warming at scaling rates of about 7 percent per degree Celsius, suggesting a significant increase of flash flood hazards due to climate change," the team wrote.

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They ran a computer model for their study, plugging in recent details about climate and weather from 2000 and 2013 and adjusting for widely accepted predictions about how average temperatures will rise.

U.N. studies project that average world temperatures are set to rise by at least 5.4 Fahrenheit or 3 degrees C by 2100, based on current trends. And 2016 is expected to be the warmest since records began in the 19th century, beating 2015.

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As air gets hotter, it can hold more water vapor. Heavily wet air means for heavier storms.

"Short-term precipitation extremes cause flash floods, landslides, and debris flows in the entire continental United States," they wrote.

"We showed that hourly extreme precipitation events are projected to significantly increase in almost all North American land regions under the assumption that weather patterns in the future and current climate are similar. Increases in extreme frequencies of up to 400 percent are projected," they wrote.

At the same time, many areas will be drier overall — meaning those heavy rains will wash over desiccated ground. That's a recipe for crop disaster and mudslides.

"The frequency of extremes increases by a factor of more than five in large parts of Canada and over the western U.S. in December, January and February," they added.

Related: Devastating photos of Louisiana flooding

Louisiana flooding
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Louisiana flooding

And that will affect roads, bridges and dams as well as communities built in low-lying areas and on hillsides.

"Extreme precipitation events affect our infrastructure through flooding, landslides and debris flows," said Anjuli Bamzai of the National Science Foundation, which paid for the research.

"We need to better understand how these extreme events are changing."

President-elect Donald Trump has called climate change a 'hoax" but met former vice president Al Gore to talk climate Monday.

Weather patterns are unpredictable and climate experts agree that as temperatures warm, weather patterns will become more extreme and unpredictable. That means heavier rain but also heavier snow, floods as well as droughts and changes in ocean circulation patterns that can make some areas colder than they are now.

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