Wednesday, August 25, 2021

How did Tennessee flooding downpour fall so fast? By JONATHAN MATTISEAugust 23, 2021



August 23, 2021

A rural Tennessee community was pummeled Saturday with up to 17 inches (43 centimeters) of rain in less than 24 hours, shattering the state record for one-day rainfall by more than 3 inches and leading to quick-rushing floods that killed at least 22 people and left a trail of destruction.

The hardest-hit areas were inundated with nearly twice the amount of rain the region had seen in the previous worst-case flooding scenario, meteorologists said. Lines of storms moved over the area around the small town of Waverly for hours, wringing out a record amount of moisture — a situation scientists have warned may be more common because of global warming.


Recent scientific research has determined that extreme rain events will become more frequent because of man-made climate change.

Dorian Burnette, a University of Memphis associate professor in earth sciences, said climate change has “put the atmosphere on steroids,” offering a “more robust way to get super heavy rainfall rates out of thunderstorms now when you get the right meteorological setup.”


“We’re probably going to see more of these events as time goes along and as the Earth continues to warm,” Burnette said.

A federal study found man-made climate change doubles the chances of the types of heavy downpours that in August 2016 dumped 26 inches (66 centimeters) of rain around Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Those floods killed at least 13 people and damaged 150,000 homes.


Hurley said her region of Tennessee has seen four significant flood events recently, happening nearly every six months. She noted floods once expected maybe every 100 years happened last September south of Nashville and in March closer to the city.

Even so, Hurley said the rainfall over the weekend was exceedingly rare.

Waverly has endured other floods in the last decade or so, including in 2010 and 2019. The February 2019 flooding brought 10 to 12 inches of rain over two days. The weekend’s storms exceeded that amount of rainfall over an eight- to 12-hour period, Hurley said.

tags: extreme weather, severe weather

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