Extreme rain: New research predicts wetter, riskier storms for much of U.S.

By A. Adam Glenn

In the news: Extreme rains are expected to increase significantly across nearly the entire continental United States, according to a government study that provides a highly detailed picture of wetter storms to come with climate change. 

Back story: Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research said in the Dec. 5 study that extreme precipitation can be expected to increase as much as five fold, especially in the Northeast and Gulf Coast regions. But even the Midwest, which is getting drier, will see intense rains that could cause serious erosion.  

Adaptation angle: The resulting rise in flash flood risk and challenges for existing infrastructure suggests “a clear need to increase societal resilience … and fundamental reassessments of planning approaches to intense precipitation, local flooding, landslides, and debris flows,” argued the authors. 

Questions to ask 

  • What specific changes in extreme precipitation events are expected in your area?  
  • What kinds of disruptions, such as landslides or erosion, can be expected as a result of heavier rains? 
  • How well prepared are local authorities for impacts from extreme weather and floods, such as power outages and transportation disruptions?  
  • Does your community have an early warning systems? 
  • What changes in area stormwater management might be needed to prepare for overflowing reservoirs or overtaxed sewage systems? 

Check for additional questions to ask in our backgrounder on inland flooding

Reporting resources 

Dig deeper on the extreme rains story using the dozens of related resources on storms and floods in the Reporter’s Guide to Climate Adaptation database. 

Know of other extreme precipitation resources we should include in our database? 

Posted by A. Adam Glenn on Dec. 15, 2016


Hurricane watch: Could coastal storms cost your community?

In the news: Hurricane Hermine lingered in the Northeast this week after making landfall last Friday, Sept. 2, and causing damaging storm surge, strong winds and heavy rain from Florida to the coastal southeast states. By Tuesday, the storm had taken three lives, damaged property and knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of residents. Meanwhile, Hurricane Newton drove across Mexico en route to the Southwest, before weakening on Wednesday.

Back story: Climate change may be compounding the widespread flooding that followed Hermine, according to researchers. There’s likely more of the same to come: North Atlantic hurricanes have increased in intensity, frequency and duration since the early 1980s, and climate models project an increase in the strongest hurricanes by late this century. While the science around global warming and storms is complex, experts expect a likely increase in intensity of wind and rain from future hurricanes. Estimates suggest that within 15 years, the annual cost of hurricanes and other storms will total $35 billion.

Adaptation angle: Preparation for worsening storms, in large part, means the prevention of flooding, especially from surging ocean waters that can erode beaches, damage coastal infrastructure and take lives.

Questions to ask

  • For coastal communities, what are the specific risks of intensifying hurricanes? What is your area doing to protect against those impacts?
  • Are large sections of your community’s population at risk, for instance, because they live in vulnerable, low-lying areas prone to flooding?
  • What can residents do to better prepare for and be safe during hurricanes? Do families need disaster supply kits and emergency communication plans?
  • What emergency evacuation procedures are in place for your area, and how well are they communicated to residents? How well are emergency responders prepared for rescues?
  • How vulnerable is coastal property in your area, whether residential or commercial?
  • What can residents or businesses do to secure buildings, such as retrofitting windows, installing power generators or building safe rooms? What are the hurricane or flood insurance considerations?
  • How are local infrastructures like roads and public transit, power grid, and water treatment facilities hardened against the impacts of hurricanes and storm surge?
  • What is the risk of potential damage to natural coastal areas that provide important ecosystem services, such as wetlands that serve as fish hatcheries?
  • If tourism is part of your area’s local economy, how will hurricane activity affect visitor numbers? And if beach-related tourism is big, what will be the impact of ongoing beach erosion from storm surge?

Reporting resources

Dig deeper on the hurricane story using storm-related resources in the database of the Reporter’s Guide to Climate Adaptation.

Plus, see our recent news backgrounder on the flood-ravaged Southeast.

Know of other hurricane-related resources we should have in our database?

Posted by A. Adam Glenn on Sept. 9, 2016


Building Climate Resilient Transportation

U.S. Federal Highway Administration

Overview: The Federal Highway Administration is run through the U.S. Department of Transportation and is responsible for the upkeep of our roads and highways.

How to Use This Resource: Journalists will find a detailed analysis of climate changes’ impact on the U.S. transportation system and what efforts are in place to combat it on the federal and state level.

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