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Cars submerged beneath floodwaters under a bridge with pedestrians looking down from above.
Flooding in Nambour, Queensland, 2020. AAP Image/Jonny Duncan

Fear and Wonder podcast: how climate change is affecting rainfall, droughts and floods

“The wet gets wetter and the dry gets drier”.

That’s one of the key messages from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report on how climate change is impacting the Earth’s water cycle.

It’s the topic of the latest episode of Fear & Wonder, a new podcast from The Conversation taking you inside that era-defining IPCC report via the hearts and minds of the scientists who wrote it.

The water cycle describes the physical processes that move water around the planet. Simply speaking, when water evaporates it is transported through the atmosphere as water vapour. It then condenses to form clouds and precipitates as rain or snow. Without water, human societies and ecosystems would not be able to function, so understanding how climate changes is influencing the water cycle is vital.

In this episode, we hear from Professor Paola Arias from Colombia and Dr Krishnan Raghavan from India. They explain how climate change is intensifying wet and dry extremes, and how human influences like air pollution and land degradation are impacting regional rainfall patterns.

As temperatures increase over land, water evaporates more readily which can cause drier conditions and lead to more severe droughts. As a warmer atmosphere is able to hold more moisture, heavy rainfall events are also becoming more intense as temperatures continue to rise, increasing flood risks in many parts of the world.

We discuss the various impacts of this phenomenon, citing examples such as Australia’s east coast floods of 2022, extremes in the South Asian monsoon that impacts millions of people, and the devastating 2020 wildfires in South America’s Pantanal, the largest tropical wetland in the world.

To listen and subscribe, click here, or click the icon for your favourite podcast app in the graphic above.

Fear and Wonder is sponsored by the Climate Council, an independent, evidence-based organisation working on climate science, impacts and solutions.

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