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Climate Change & Floods: What Can We Learn? By City Tech Blogger Saliou Diallo

Natural disasters are more common than ever before. They are all very devastating and their effects can last a long time because of their nature and destructive force. Among the natural disasters, we can cite hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, earthquakes and floods which is water related.

A flood is a natural disaster that brings excessive water to a certain area that is usually dry.

The primary causes of floods are torrential rainfalls, the swelling of rivers and seas due to the rising of the sea level, and hurricanes and tropical storms that can push coastal water inland. Therefore, although a flood is likely to happen in coastal regions, they can also be experienced in areas far away from the coastline. Inland floods occur most of the time after rainfalls that last many days in a row and because of brief periods of a tremendous amount of precipitation, water takes time to evacuate.

Last August, Raymond Zhong published in the New York Times an article called “THE COMING CALIFORNIA MEGASTORM: A different ‘Big One’ is approaching. Climate change is hastening its arrival”. In this article, he explained how climate change will contribute to the intensity of that megaflood, the one that would be worse than any in living memory. Floods are also correlated to the spread of infectious diseases and food shortages loom. Pakistan has seen the worst floods in a decade where the rainfalls lasted for weeks inundating 75.000 square kilometers of the country. According to the World Weather Attribution initiative, the rains that hit southern Pakistan were likely made more intense by climate change.

There is a way to stay alert in case of disaster. For instance, in the United States, the National Weather Service issues warnings when minor or nuisance coastal flooding is occurring or is imminent. One of their missions is to mitigate the loss of life and property damages caused by floods.

As said above, floods are related to water as well as another extreme weather disasters such as hurricanes. In late August 2005, Hurricane Katrina which struck the southeastern United States produced widespread flooding in Louisiana and New Orleans. The flooding occurred when the levee system failed to retain Katrina’s storm surge and  80% of New Orleans was underwater by August 30, which was an example of a Hurricane-related Flood. We know that global warming contributes to the rising of the sea level because of the fast melting glaciers. Therefore, we can easily relate climate change to the recurrence of floods. Therefore, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) noted in its special report on extremes that climate change has influenced several of the water-related variables that contribute to floods.

The immediate impacts of flooding include loss of human life, property damage, disturbances of the public transportation system, destruction of crops, spread of related diseases, loss of livestock, and so on. It is difficult to estimate all losses caused by floods. Between 2014 and 2017, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) paid an average of $2.9 billion per year to cover flood-related losses while FEMA spent about $48.6 billion in repairing roads, bridges, and utilities… (between 1998 and 2014). Based on these numbers, we can see how serious floods can be in the short and long term.

We learned that climate change is almost related to all-natural disasters, hence, fighting against climate change will reduce considerably the frequency of floods.  There are a few actions that we can take such as talking about the issue, making a climate change pledge by contacting our representatives, becoming a climate advocate, learning how to reduce carbon emissions, and using social media to spread the truth about the threat of natural disasters. In addition, the government must invest more in renewable energy by involving schools to collaborate and bring solutions to address this common concern of climate change.










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  1. Climate changes have always been happening, but without humans’ interference the changes were happening through thousands or hundreds of thousands of years, not in a span of a few decades like nowadays. Floods, whether from the excessive rainfalls, hurricanes, or melting ices have also been happening forever, but not so many people used to live on Earth than there live now, 8 billion already, right? The effect of floods can be sometimes exaggerated and should not only be connected to man-made climate change because floods have been carving channels, canyons and flooding plains regularly for millions of years. We need go back 15000 years and look at the former Glacial Lake Missoula in the Northwest, the lake that burst and flooded the Columbia River drainage basin area and permanently changed the environment. This happened because of natural processes on our planet; the last ice age was ending and glaciers were melting and disappearing. If this happened today it would be catastrophic since around 5 million people live in the area. As population has been increasing rapidly in the past few centuries, people started to move to areas which used to get regularly flooded thousands of years ago but may have not been flooded in the past few centuries. With all these warnings from every scientist, urban planners, engineers and others about living in those areas can be risky, people stay and governments do not care, until something happens. However, man-made climate change might increase the frequency and strength of floods, but it is up to people to learn how to adapt to them, because they will keep coming to those flood-prone areas. It’s the same thing about hurricanes. People want to live almost directly on the beach, later complaining about the government not doing enough or anything to protect them. Hurricanes have been around forever too, we might have records of them only from the last century or so, and people surely know they will keep coming, stronger and more frequent, but they still do not want to move away. So, in my opinion the floods (hurricanes) should not be necessarily associated with the current and man-made climate change, because when we interfere with natural processes, they will hit us back.


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