Hurricane Irma, Flooding, and Climate Change

Weeks after Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma is ravaging communities across the Southeast. Unfortunately, this is consistent with the impacts expected from climate change and will be the new normal that we must adapt to.

Flooding in Naples, Florida following Hurricane Irma | Photo by David Goldman/AP

Two weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas with record flooding. Now, storm surge and rains from Hurricane Irma are ravaging communities across the Southeast.

We may not know the full impact for days. But we do know the damage will be severe and lives will be forever changed.

Irma makes 2017 the third year in a row that the lives of people in the Carolinas have been turned upside down by hurricanes. More than 75 dams failed in the Carolinas as a result of the 2015 and 2016 storms, and record flood levels were exceeded at many creeks and rivers.

Unfortunately, this is consistent with the impacts expected from climate change and will be the new normal that we must adapt to. With increasing temperatures we get more evaporation adding more moisture to the atmosphere. Catastrophic weather events result when increases in temperature and moisture seek to reach equilibrium.

After recovery from Irma we need to reassess how we can reduce the threats from flooding to keep people safe from future storms. We need to look for opportunities to give rivers more room to accommodate floodwaters, keeping people out of harm’s way. We’ll need to improve the safety of high-hazard dams, and reform the National Flood Insurance Program to reduce flood risks.

There is a lot of work to do. But right now, American Rivers encourages our supporters to help with the relief and recovery efforts. Our neighbors need help. We are grateful to all of the volunteers and first responders. Learn how you can help the victims of Hurricane Irma here.