Scientist Explains Role of Climate in Record-Breaking Floods

July 14, 2022 by

Why is the world seeing more record-breaking floods?

The question was asked and answered on Tuesday in an article on the World Economic Forum by Frances Davenport, a postdoctoral research fellow in atmospheric science Colorado State University.

Davenport studies how climate change affects hydrology and flooding.

“In mountainous regions, three effects of climate change in particular are creating higher flood risks: more intense precipitation, shifting snow and rain patterns and the effects of wildfires on the landscape,” the author writes.

An effect of climate change is a warmer atmosphere, which creates more intense precipitation events.

“This occurs because warmer air can hold more moisture. The amount of water vapor that the atmosphere can contain increases by about 7% for every 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) of increase in atmospheric temperature,” the author writes. “Research has documented that this increase in extreme precipitation is already occurring, not only in regions like Yellowstone, but around the globe. The fact that the world has experienced multiple record flooding events in recent years – including catastrophic flooding in Australia, Western Europe and China – is not a coincidence. Climate change is making record-breaking extreme precipitation more likely.”

Climate change is also exacerbating wildfires, creating another risk: mudslides.

“Burned areas are more susceptible to mudslides and debris flows during extreme rain, both because of the lack of vegetation and changes to the soil caused by the fire,” the author writes.

Heat Index Tool

A new online heat index mapping tool enables visitors to scan California communities and find out which areas and populations will be most affected by heat now and in the years to come due to climate change.

The tool was developed by the Public Health Institute’s Public Health Alliance of Southern California in partnership with the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation.

Tool users can also determine what protections or interventions are most needed to address these heat challenges.

The tool allows users to search by census tract and its rates neighborhoods by how many days they’re predicted to have extreme heat. Extreme heat is defined as above 90 degrees. It also captures demographic data and highlights sensitive population groups more likely to experience disproportionate impacts of extreme heat. This includes communities of color, elderly, those with disabilities, mothers and infants, non-English speakers and youth.

Depending on which area you search, the results may be concerning to varying degrees.

Type in “Fresno,” and you’ll find the city is expected to have 142.1 days above 90 degrees by mid-century (2035-2064). On the less extreme side is Oceanside, with only 7.9 days above that temperature. Los Angeles is expected to have 61.9 days above the extreme heat threshold.

Climate Litigation

New research shows there is a way to calculate how much one country’s carbon emissions have damaged the economy of another country.

The research from Dartmouth College shows a small group of “heavy polluters” is responsible for trillions of dollars of economic losses due to warming caused by their emissions, according to a Reuters article posted this week on Insurance Journal.

The research, which also shows that warmer and poorer Global South countries have been hit hardest, is a potential entry-point for more climate change lawsuits.

According to the research, the world’s two biggest carbon emitters, the U.S. and China, are responsible for global income losses of in excess of $1.8 trillion each in the years between 1990 and 2014. Russia, India, and Brazil reportedly caused losses exceeding $500 billion each during that period.

The researchers sampled 2 million possible values for each country-to-country interaction and crunched 11 trillion values to quantify and address any cause-and-effect uncertainties, the article states.

“This research provides legally valuable estimates of the financial damages individual nations have suffered due to other countries’ climate-changing activities,” Justin Mankin, senior researcher of the study, told Reuters.

Philanthropic Funding

Philanthropic funding to address climate change remains highly limited, according to the Massachusetts-based Center for Effective Philanthropy.

In a new report, MUCH ALARM, LESS ACTION: Foundations & Climate Change, authors write that total philanthropic giving by those focused on climate change mitigation represents less than 2% of total global philanthropic giving.

The authors surveyed CEOs of U.S.-based foundations and nonprofits from January to March, receiving survey responses from 188 foundation leaders and 120 nonprofit leaders.

Their findings show:

  • Among foundation leaders: 61% reported their foundation funds efforts to address climate change. Among these, 22% explicitly fund efforts to address climate change, 45% fund environmental efforts that address climate change, and 33% fund both climate and environmental efforts. Moe than a third (36%) said that their foundation does not fund efforts to address climate change.
  • Among nonprofit leaders: 25% said that climate change is a core focus of their work. Among these, 20% explicitly focus on addressing climate change, 57% focus on environmental efforts that address climate change, and 23% focus on both climate and environmental efforts. Nearly three-quarters (73%) said that climate change is not a core focus of their work.

“Foundation and nonprofit leaders overwhelmingly see climate change as an urgent problem that will negatively impact the lives of the people served by their organizations, especially historically marginalized communities,” the report states. “While they believe the public and

private sectors, in particular, are not doing enough to address climate change, they believe foundations and nonprofits could also be doing more.”

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