Climate

The Southeast Is Set To Be Hit By Potentially Historic Rainfall

CREDIT: NOAA via AP

This satellite image taken Friday, Oct. 2, 2015 at 12:45 p.m. EDT, and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Joaquin, bottom center, pounding the Bahamas and a deepening low pressure system on the U.S. east coast. Millions along the east coast breathed a little easier Friday after forecasters said Hurricane Joaquin would probably veer out to sea instead of joining up with a drenching rainstorm that is bringing severe flooding to parts of the Atlantic Seaboard.

Major rainfall is expected in parts of the country over the next few days, as Hurricane Joaquin moves up the East Coast.

The hurricane — which is currently pummeling the Bahamas, leaving thousands without power and trapping some inside their homes — isn’t projected to make landfall in the United States. But a separate weather system is pulling in moisture from Joaquin and is expected to increase rainfall and cause flooding in some states along the East Coast — a region that’s already seen substantial rainfall this week. South Carolina has already declared a state of emergency due to the threat of heavy rainfall and flash flooding, as have North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia. Almost all of North Carolina is under a flash flood watch, according to one meteorologist, and the state could get 5 to 10 more inches of rain.

Already, one person has died in South Carolina as a result of flooding. Weather Underground projects that South Carolina could receive 18 inches of rainfall over the next few days — with NOAA projecting that some parts of the state could experience a one in 1,000 year rainfall event.

“Even if Hurricane Joaquin heads out to sea, the entire state could experience significant flooding from heavy rains that are predicted,” South Carolina Emergency Management Division Director Kim Stenson said in a statement. “We’ve already seen flooding in many parts of South Carolina, these storm systems could make conditions worse.”

Joaquin has been able to intensify rapidly — as of Thursday, it was the strongest Atlantic hurricane in five years. Part of that could be due to warm ocean temperatures — as Weather Underground points out, ocean temperatures in the region are the highest record-keeping began in 1880.

Warm ocean temperatures are expected to drive up the risk of intense hurricanes in the future, as the climate continues to change. Both the heat content of the oceans and water vapor — two things that contribute to hurricanes’ intensity — have increased as the planet has warmed. And as sea levels rise due to melting land ice and heat-driven water expansion, the risk of storm surge due to hurricanes grows stronger.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, who has worked to prepare his city for a possible onslaught of rain in the coming days, referenced climate change in a press conference this week.

“As a result of global warming, climate change we are going to deal with more extreme weather,” he said.

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