Surely some of you noticed that the area around Houston Texas suffered extreme flooding recently. At least 8 people were killed and damages ran into the billions of dollars. It was a major disaster.
And it followed less than a year after major flooding hit the Dallas-Fort Worth area back in May of 2015. Texas was so hard hit last year, that May was the wettest month in Texas history:
The graph doesn’t include the recent flooding, since April 2016 isn’t over yet.
One might wonder, are such deluges on the increase? Is it happening elsewhere, besides Texas? I took the precipitation data for all of the 48 states of the conterminous U.S. (the “lower 48”) and determined which were the top-10 wettest months (in terms of total precipitation) for each state. Then I counted how many top-10 months (for any state) occured each year. I got this:
It certainly looks like the number of extreme wet months is on the rise in the U.S. Of course, looks can be deceiving — but not in this case. The recent increase (suggested by the smooth curve in the above graph) is easily confirmed, statistically significant.
That statistical significance isn’t just because 2015 had more top-10 wettest months (for states) than any previous. If you omit 2015 from the analysis, the recent increase is still statistically significant. So: we had an increase in “deluge months” by the end of 2014 already — then we broke the record in 2015.
I was also interested in breaking it down by smaller regions than states, so I did the same analysis, not just for the 48 states, but for the 344 climate divisions of those 48 states. I got this:
Once again, the recent increase (suggested by the smooth curve) is easily confirmed, statistically significant.
Once again, that statistical significance doesn’t depend on 2015 having more top-10 wettest months (for climate divisions) than any previous. Leave out 2015, the recent increase is still statistically significant. Once again: we had an increase in “deluge months” by the end of 2014 already — then we broke the record in 2015.
Deluges like that tend to bring flooding. Flooding tends to bring extreme loss, extreme cost, and death.
I wouldn’t be surprised if deniers object that the increased frequency of extreme wet months can’t be due to man-made climate change. But it is. Of course, conditions will still fluctuate and we simply can’t be sure when the next spate of deluges will hit. Unfortunately, we can expect it to get worse.
It’s not just rainfall that brings flooding. These days, sea level rise has reached the level that it can happen even without storms or rain, just from high tides. For places like Miami (for a lot of places, actually) it’s already a very costly problem. Unfortunately, we can expect it to get worse. A lot worse.
Heat waves have already gotten worse. They not only cost money, they’re deadly — like last year, when over 1,000 people died because of the heat wave in Pakistan and over 2,500 died from the heat wave in India. Temperature will continue to fluctuate, we don’t know when the next spate of killer heat waves will strike, but we can be damn sure of this: it’s going to get worse.
Global warming, man-made climate change, call it what you will, is already a problem. It already costs our economy billions upon billions of dollars. It already destroys homes, ruins crops, ends lives. It’s not a “distant future” problem, it’s not even a “near future” problem any more. It’s not a 3rd-world problem. It’s a right-here-right-now problem.
The uncertainties in climate science are tremendous. We can’t be sure how much temperature will rise, or how fast, or which regions will be hardest hit by extreme weather, or how far how fast the ocean will rise. But there is one thing we can be sure of, something we can be absolutely certain of …
It’s going to get worse.
The time to act is now.
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