If you have watched the news at all recently, you've probably heard two topics being talked about at length: climate change and flooding. While climate change has been a hot topic for years now, the number of floods that are occurring across the United States is also garnering more attention. While many people associate flooding with hurricanes that are commonplace along coastlines in the US, more and more floods occurring inland.
According to Floodlist.com, the last year has seen deadly floods in the inland areas of Alabama and Washington State, while other floods have resulted in mass destruction and loss of life in West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, Minnesota, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Virginia. In June, Yellowstone Park in Montana was shut down for a period of time as emergency evacuations took place, and flash floods in Death Valley were so bad that hundreds were left stranded. Yes, that's the same Death Valley that is widely known for its dry, arid weather.
There is no denying that floods are becoming more common than before. What does this mean for homeowners across the United States of America? Not only does more flooding increase flood insurance premiums, but it also makes flood insurance a necessity for more people. Additionally, homeowners must take steps to better protect their homes, such as installing waterproof drywall. Such measures can ensure that your home suffers less damage than homes that must be rebuilt, rehabbed, or at worse, replaced.
What's the Relationship Between Heavy Rain, Flooding and Climate Change?
To understand the relationship between flooding and climate change, we will need to first look at the source of those floods: heavy rainfall. We're already keenly aware of the relationship between hurricanes and flooding, but when discussing the kinds of floods that have been in the news most recently, we will need to better understand why areas are seeing such an increase in rainfall.
As humans continue to burn more and more fossil fuels, certain gasses, such as methane and carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. This increase in greenhouse gasses leads to an increase in atmospheric temperatures. Hotter air is capable of holding more water vapor than cooler air, which means when it rains, it rains harder.
Scientists who focus primarily on the climate and climate change have been saying for years that a continued increase in the atmosphere's temperature would lead to heavy rainfall becoming more common. Thanks to advances is meteorological technology, scientists are able to measure what's happening in real time.
According to the National Climate Assessment, the amount of rain falling in the heaviest rainstorms across the country increased between 1958 and 2016. The same data also points to the fact that while the entire nation is in danger, the problem is most serious in the eastern half of the United States. You may have noticed that most of the states that we discussed as having major flooding in the last 12 months are found in the eastern portion of the US. More rain is falling in the Midwest and the northeast, which means flood risks have increased farther away from the traditional coastal areas.
For instance, eastern Kentucky recently saw massive flooding that has resulted in 37 deaths. Governor Andy Beshear has been vocal about the fact that state leadership expects the death toll to rise, as many bodies are still unaccounted for. Eastern Kentucky is known for it's coal production, meaning that the presence of fossil fuels and greenhouse gasses could plausibly be one of the reasons for floods like this one.
While floods like the ones in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia are considered flash floods (a sudden buildup of water due to fast, heavy rainfall), there is another type of flooding plaguing other parts of the nation which can also be attributed to climate change.
River Flooding and Climate Change
Heavy rainfall also impacts flooding that originates in rivers and streams. This isn't a difficult phenomenon to understand on a purely surface level. When rain falls into a river or stream at a faster rate than the banks of said river or stream can contain, flooding will occur. The ground along these bodies of water become saturated, meaning that rivers and streams overflow their banks, forcing the water to go somewhere else.
According to the EPA, the risk for river and stream flooding has significantly increased in more than a dozen places across the US and has increased somewhat in dozens more. The reason for this flooding goes back to the same atmospheric principle that we already discussed. Most of the areas that are significantly more prone to river and stream flooding are found in the northeast, but there are also several in the Pacific northwest.
The northeast is known for its population density, which means that there are more homes in the area than there are in some other parts of the United States. More homes with an increased likelihood of river and stream flooding is a recipe for disaster.
While riverfront property has always been a hot commodity in real estate, it's important to understand that these homes, at least in some areas, are at a greater risk for flooding than they were in the past. Since most flood insurance companies rely on a 100-year flood map provided by FEMA to determine how much flood insurance a homeowner needs to carry, there will be a correlation between increasing flood insurance prices and an increase in flooding.
That's why it's even more important to take steps, such as installing EnduraFlood drywall in your home, that can help mitigate some of the damage that floods can cause.
Climate Change and Coastal Flooding
It's easy to look at the facts surrounding climate change and its relation to flooding and assume that coastal areas are exempt, but that's simply not the case. No, a heavy rainstorm doesn't result in the oceans overflowing and flooding nearby homes. However, coastal flooding is still a very real problem in relation to climate change.
Flooding along coastlines in the United States has become a very real problem. Based on EPA studies, every site that they measure has experienced an increase in coastal flooding since the 1950s. Of the 33 coastal sites that the EPA measures flooding in, the Atlantic coast has reported the largest increase in flood days since 2011. During that time span, Boston, Massachusetts has reported the most days in which the flood threshold was exceeded with an average of 13 days per year. The other cities with the highest number of flood days are Bar Harbor, Maine and Sandy Hook, New Jersey. The EPA reports that floods along the Atlantic Coast, primarily in the northeast are five times more common today than they were in the 1950s.
The relationship between coastal flooding and climate change is based on human activity and the release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Tidal flooding, often caused by shore erosion is a major problem. When you combine that with an increase in storm events and aquifers becoming saltier, it's obvious that global warming is impacting flooding along the coasts.
What Climate Change and Flood Risk Means for You
As a homeowner, you want to do everything possible to protect your home. After all, it's probably your biggest investment. It's hard to doubt that flood insurance premiums are going to continue to rise as the threat of flooding becomes more common in every area of the United States. There is also the fact that even with insurance, you don't want to lose your home to a flood. Consider installing a waterproof wall paneling solution like EnduraFlood to reduce the damage from flooding.