Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Louisiana Floods Directly Linked to Climate Change

Flooding in Louisiana in August. (Credit: Louisiana National Guard/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Climate change played a heavy role in the nightmarish storm that brought a three-day deluge to coastal Louisiana last month, triggering floods that killed 13 and left thousands more homeless, research released Wednesday showed.

The unprecedented 1 to 2 feet of rain that fell over parts of Baton Rouge and nearby communities over several days in the middle of August stunned experts.  While such deluges are rare, the new research indicated that the likelihood the region will experience them may have doubled during the past century.

“This is a storm that’s going to be studied for years to come,” said Barry Keim, the Louisiana state climatologist and a professor at Louisiana State University.  He was not involved with the study, which was published as a discussion paper Wednesday before being peer reviewed.

The findings were consistent with the general principle that global warming caused by greenhouse gas pollution from energy, farming and deforestation is increasing the risk and intensity of heavy storms worldwide.

The stubbornly slow-moving storm dumped more rain over the flood-prone region than its flood infrastructure could handle.  At least one city, Central, home to 30,000 residents and 9,000 buildings that were flooded, is working to help property owners rebuild as quickly as possible, despite the rising risks that such floods could happen again.

“The odds of an event like this have increased over the past 100 years by at least 40 percent — and most likely a doubling,” said Karin van der Wiel, a Princeton University and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researcher who was involved with the study.  She is based at the federal lab that conducted the analysis.

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