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It was true chaos in many areas of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after the country witnessed the heaviest rainfall in 75 years.

Dubai, the most populous city in the UAE, had incredible flooding on Tuesday after two years’ worth of rain fell in just 24 hours. The Dubai Meteorological Office says over a half foot — 6.26 inches — of rain was recorded there between 10 p.m. Monday and 10 p.m. Tuesday.

The normal yearly rainfall is just 3.12 inches, with most of that (92%) falling between November and March. A typical month of April receives just 0.13 inches of rain.

Flooding in desert city of Dubai after being hit by extraordinary storms (Picture: Dubai Media Office @DXBMediaOffice)

Flights headed to Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest airport for international travel, were diverted and more than 40 were cancelled. “Together with our partners, we’re working to restore normal operations and minimize inconvenience to you,” the airport announced in a post to X Tuesday.

Extreme flooding around Dubai, United Arab Emirates on April 16, 2024 as more than 2 years of average rain falls in just 24 hours.

Extreme rain events becoming more common

Dubai isn’t the only desert area that has seen recent extreme rain events.

Death Valley, California, known as the driest place in all of North America, typically receives about 2 inches of rain over the course of an entire year. Over the past twelve months, however, the park has received more—much more. Recent readings from the Furnace Weather Gauge show that the region received 4.9 inches of rain over the past 6 months alone, “with most of that happening in just two events: the remnants of Hurricane Hilary (2.2 inches on August 20) and the recent atmospheric river (1.5 inches from February 4-7).

Over the past several years, historic rains have washed out infrastructure and caused monthslong closures on multiple occasions. In August, Hurricane Hillary led to crumbling roads, a park-wide closure, and a new lake in Badwater Basin, which remains visible today.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport closed due to historic flooding rainfall from Wednesday evening, April 22, 203 until Friday morning, April 24, 2023.

Climate warming is causing extreme rainfall events all over the world to become more frequent and more intense.

We saw this last year in and around Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Stationary thunderstorms were able to drop torrential rainfall over Fort Lauderdale.  Up to two feet of rain fell in a matter of hours on April 23, 2023 in Broward County leaving many areas underwater. The torrential downpours came after the area had already been drenched with several days of rain.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was closed for parts of three days as the city saw up to 25.91 inches of rainfall.

The future of climate induced flooding

As global temperatures rise, more intense extreme rainfall events and the frequency and scale of flash flooding can be expected.

A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, leading to the heavier rainfall during storms. It’s important to adapt to these changes by improving infrastructure, implementing better flood management strategies, and raising awareness about the risks associated with heavy rain events.

Read more about the link between heat and extreme rainfall here.

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