Catastrophic rainfall is increasing in the northeastern United States, a new climate change report has found. As New England residents continue the clean up from the latest round of disastrous flooding, researchers at the University of New Hampshire commissioned by Clean Air-Cool Planet found these calamities are part of a long-term trend of extreme precipitation. The region, like the planet in general, is warming, shifting precipitation into more extreme events. As weather patterns are increasingly shaped by manmade pollution, the climate change impacts in specific regions like the Northeast become more starkly evident:
One of the most obvious examples of these impacts is the increase in extreme precipitation events, which, combined with changes in land use, have led to an increase in freshwater flooding events across the region, exemplified by the “100-year” floods that have occurred in southern New Hampshire in 2005, 2006, 2007. And again in 2010, powerful nor’easters drenched the northeast with 3″ to 8″ of rain three times (late February, middle of March, and end of March) which resulted in significant flooding across the region.
Examining precipitation data from “219 weather stations in New England, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania from the years 1948-2007,” including some with long-term data going back to 1900, the researchers found that in “all but 18 of the stations storms which produced at least 1″ of rain in 24 hours (or the equivalent in snowfall) are increasing. Furthermore, storms which produce 2″ and 4″ of rainfall in a 48-hour period also are increasing in frequency.” The report authors note that we must abandon the idea that “100-year storms” will come only once every century, and must completely rethink public and private infrastructure and planning in our future of increasingly rapid climate change:
Requirements for how and where we build our homes, businesses, roads, wastewater treatment plants, power lines and other infrastructure need to be re-evaluated. For example, flood relief structures are constructed to a certain level of performance, in many cases, built to prevent flood impacts from the 100-year flood threshold (based on an outdated definition of the 100-year flood). The problem with increasing frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation is that the 100-year flood is now occurring much more frequently. It may be necessary to alter building codes to withstand even larger events and adopt floodplain ordinances to exclude/restrict construction in high risk areas. Knowing the trends will assist society in becoming more prepared and possibly help prevent the worst-case scenarios projected for our future, if current trends in climate change indicators continue.
The United States is under siege from manmade global warming. Increasingly extreme weather is already destroying homes, families, and even entire communities across this nation. As temperature rises increase, we must prepare to meet the coming deluge even as we make every effort to stop spewing climate-destroying greenhouse gases into the air.