Aug 16, 2016

Flooding in the South Looks a Lot Like Climate Change

Baton Rouge, LA
USA
by
Jonah Engel Bromwich
,
The New York Times
Volunteers pitched in to help residents fill sand bags against flooding from the Vermilion River in Lafayette, La., on Monday. Photo: Scott Clause/The Daily Advertiser, via Associated Press
Volunteers pitched in to help residents fill sand bags against flooding from the Vermilion River in Lafayette, La., on Monday. Photo: Scott Clause/The Daily Advertiser, via Associated Press

Climate change is never going to announce itself by name. But this is what we should expect it to look like.

That’s what many scientists, analysts and activists are saying after heavy rains in southern Louisiana have killed at least 10 people and forced tens of thousands of residents from their homes, in the latest in a series of extreme floods that have occurred in the United States over the last two years.

That increase in heavy rainfall and the resultant flooding “is consistent with what we expect to see in the future if you look at climate models,” said David Easterling, a director at the National Centers for Environmental Information, which is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Not just in the U.S. but in many other parts of the world as well.”

The flooding in Louisiana is the eighth event since May of last year in which the amount of rainfall in an area in a specified window of time matches or exceeds the NOAA predictions for an amount of precipitation that will occur once every five hundred years, or has a 0.2 percent chance of occurring in any given year.

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“This is exactly what scientists have been predicting,” said the climate activist Bill McKibben. “The basic physics are simple: Warm air holds more water vapor, something that is turning out to be one of the most important facts of the 21st century.”

“And while Louisiana was flooding, there were also huge flood events underway in Moscow (biggest rains in 129 years of record-keeping), the Sudan, Manila, and probably plenty of other places,” he added