Although projected precipitation increases in East Asia due to future climate change have aroused concern, less attention has been paid by the scientific community and public to the potential long-term increase in precipitation due to rapid urbanization. A ten-year precipitation dataset was analysed for both a rapidly urbanized megacity and nearby suburban/rural stations in southern China. Rapid urbanization in the megacity was evident from satellite observations. A statistically significant, long-term, increasing trend of precipitation existed only at the megacity station (45.6 mm per decade) and not at the other stations. The increase was attributed to thermal and dynamical modifications of the tropospheric boundary layer related to urbanization, which was confirmed by the results of our WRF-SLUCM simulations. The results also suggested that a long-term regional increase in precipitation, caused by greenhouse gas-induced climate change, for instance, was not evident within the study period. The urbanization-induced increase was found to be higher than the precipitation increase (18.3 mm per decade) expected from future climate change. The direct climate impacts due to rapid urbanization is highlighted with strong implications for urban sustainable development and the planning of effective adaptation strategies for issues such as coastal defenses, mosquito-borne disease spread and heat stress mortality.