Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Extreme Floods May Be the New Normal


By Erika Bolstad, ClimateWire on August 18, 2016

Over the past year alone, catastrophic rain events characterized as once-in-500-year or even once-in-1,000-year events have flooded West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and now Louisiana, sweeping in billions of dollars of property damage and deaths along with the high waters.

These extreme weather events are forcing many communities to confront what could signal a new climate change normal. Now many are asking themselves: Are they doing enough to plan for and to adapt to large rain events that climate scientists predict will become more frequent and more intense as global temperatures continue to rise?

The answer in many communities is no, it’s not enough.


climate change also likely played a role, if mostly to intensify the amount of rainfall because of an increased amount of water vapor in the atmosphere caused by higher temperatures. It’s an emerging field of study, but climate scientists are working on models that could determine whether specific extreme weather events are caused by climate change


What climate scientists do know is that the intensity of extreme precipitation events is on the rise. With rising global temperatures, the 2014 National Climate Assessment predicts that many communities will see such extreme precipitation events more frequently.


Climate change could expose vast swaths of U.S. infrastructure to additional natural hazards that are likely to intensify as sea levels rise, temperatures increase and precipitation patterns shift, the report found. Power transmission lines, ports, refineries and wastewater treatment facilities across the country are vulnerable to climate change.


“We know it’s more cost-effective to take these actions up front instead of just waiting for a disaster to strike,” she said. “It’s just a matter of political will and funding. That’s why we don’t see as much of this happening as we need to.”


“At the one level it’s a political problem, it’s a resource and economic problem, but it’s also a cultural problem,” she said. “We’re not thinking about protecting these assets down the line. We don’t think in the future, we think in the present.”

tags: extreme weather, severe weather

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