By Chris Spears

DENVER (CBS4) – A new study published Monday in the journal Natural Climate Change says that we should get ready for larger and more intense thunderstorms in the future.

“This implies that the flood guidelines which are used in planning and building infrastructure are probably too conservative,” said NCAR scientist Andreas Prein, the study’s lead author.

The reason for bigger storms? A warming climate.

A person walks through a flooded street with a dog after the area was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

There’s a very basic principle in meteorology that says the warmer the air, the more water it can hold, which can be a problem in a warming climate.

That’s because water vapor (water in the gas state) contains a hidden energy called latent heat. When clouds form latent heat is released to the atmosphere and helps fuel storms.

Thus a warmer climate can generate bigger storms that produce more water over a shorter period of time.

Flooding in Colorado during Sept. 2013. (credit: CBS)

The study builds on previous work showing that storms are becoming more intense as the atmosphere warms.

In addition to higher rainfall rates, the new research found that the volume of rainfall from damaging storms will increase by as much as 80% across North America by the end of the century.

“This is a warning signal that says the floods of the future are likely to be much greater than what our current infrastructure is designed for,” Perin said.

Meteorologist Chris Spears travels weekly in the CBS4 Mobile Weather Lab reporting about Colorado’s weather and climate. Check out his bio, connect with him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @ChrisCBS4.