Friday, June 20, 2008

Global Warming and the 2008 Mississippi Flood

If I interpret this article the way that I am reading it, life along the Mississippi River will never be the same again.
The chances for extreme weather in the U.S. such as the record rainfall and flooding in Iowa this month are increasing as worldwide temperatures rise, a government agency that researches climate change said.

North America may get more abnormally hot days and nights, heavier downpours and deadlier storms from global warming, today's report from the Bush administration's U.S. Climate Change Science Program said. Elevated temperatures in recent decades already have led to more intense rainstorms in the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, said Thomas Karl, co-chairman of the report.[...]

The Iowa disaster helped drive corn prices to a record high. Flood damage may exceed $2.7 billion, according to economics professors Mark Burton at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Michael Hicks at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.[...]

Eleven levees on the 96-mile stretch of the Mississippi River from Hannibal, Missouri, to St. Louis have overtopped and four more are in danger of failing from this week's flooding, the Army Corps of Engineers said.
The fact that so many levees are failing could be as a result of many being agricultural levees instead of a concrete floodwall. Cities like Memphis and Louisville have floodwalls to protect lower lying areas along the river...although some places are SOL when it comes to higher water.

Take a look at this one.
"There’s a big problem with the calculation of what is a 100- and 500-year flood plain: it’s based on the original shape of the Mississippi Basin," says Timothy Kusky, an earth scientist at St. Louis University. He believes that a triple whammy of factors is contributing to this year’s flooding. The first, he says, is increased rainfall due to global warming, but the second two reasons are based on relatively recent physical changes in the region.

Bottomlands that used to absorb floodwaters have been overdeveloped. What’s worse, the miles of new levees that were built to protect the malls, industrial parks and homes in those areas have hurt more than they’ve helped by constricting rivers into narrower channels. "Once we reduce capacity, things that used to be beyond the flood plains are at risk, because floods become higher and more frequent." Models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict 20 percent more rainfall in the region, which Kusky says could mean about 50 percent more water in the river systems.

Klusky can’t stop the rain, but his digital models of possible flood outcomes might just help prevent developers from building in the most vulnerable spots around the country’s biggest and most dangerous river. On a modest $250,000 budget, Kusky and his team at St. Louis University’s Center for Environmental Sciences (SLUCES) are employing a powerful open-source system called Geowall to create super-detailed, three-dimensional models of the Upper Mississippi Basin—its mountains, valleys and riverbeds, as well as its parking lots, levees, and office towers.
What we are looking at, with the addition of last night's rainfall, is possibly worse than the flood of 1993 along with the disaster that is Hurricane Katrina.

The effects, by all means, are devastating already. I can't even fathom Iowa being the first caucus in the nation in 2012 if the weather stays the course. Most of the state was under water and had to evacuate as a result. Eighty-three (93) of ninety-nine (99) counties in Iowa were declared state disaster areas.
While announcing welcome news that water levels on the Iowa and Cedar Rivers continued to drop Sunday, Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said he has declared 83 of Iowa's 99 counties to be disaster areas -- a stark reminder of how much damage the Flood of 2008 has caused across this state.

Nearly 36,000 Iowans have been forced to evacuate their homes this past week, with Cedar Rapids residents accounting for about 25,000 of them.
As of 17 hours ago, 55 counties were elgible for federal funding from FEMA.

More people are starting to link this year's flood to the effects caused by global warming.
Is there a possible link between global climate change and increased frequency of local flooding?

"I'm surprised more people aren't asking this question," said Jim Angel, state climatologist with the Illinois State Water Survey. "We had the floods in 1993, and here -- 15 years later -- we have another big flood."

Harry Hillaker, Iowa's state climatologist, said a possible climate change link "is one of those things where if you asked 100 climatologists that question, you would probably get 100 different answers.

"I think with any kind of weather event or seasonal event -- and this is really a seasonal event because it built up over time -- it is always next to impossible to determine a particular cause," Hillaker said. "You can say the weather pattern was like this and the jet stream was like that, but why is it like that? The short answer is 'who knows?'"

Dr. Vaughan Turekian, chief international officer for the American Association for the Advancement of Science that publishes the journal Science, said that although it is difficult to pin the blame for single events -- such as the tri-state area floods -- on climate change, "the flooding and large amounts of rain are consistent with what scientists believe will happen more often with global warming."
Take a look at this cover of the March 12, 2007 issue of Sports Illustrated:

Two articles from the same issue:
The Arena of The Future
The next generation of sports facilities will be powered by alternative energy, incorporate parks into the designs, rely on mass transit, conserve water and be built with reusable materials--but don't ask about ticket prices.
Going, Going Green
As global warming changes the planet, it is changing the sports world. To counter the looming environmental crisis, surprising and in novative ideas are already helping sports adapt.

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