Climate change is occurring, whether or not its effects are obvious. If you live in the Midwest, this is certainly evident. A study by the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization details findings of which you may already be well aware, especially for those living in Wisconsin and Minnesota as evidenced by the last week’s weather.
More Intense and Numerous Storms
According to researchers, the Midwest has seen a surge in the number of large storms during the last 50 years, specifically, those which deliver three inches or more of rain in a 24-hour period. The study documented double-digit increases in eight Midwestern states, from 32 to 160 percent. The first years of the 21st have included seven of the top nine years for torrential rains.
Adding to the environmental and economic impacts is that the fact that the lag time between storms has become shorter. This factor can increase the risk for flooding and the ensuing economic costs of these weather events. In 2011 alone, the Midwest experienced agricultural losses of $2 billion. The last 50 years have also seen the worst flooding disasters, with floods in 1993 and 2008 totaling nearly $50 billion in damages.
Natural Disasters on a National Scale
The Midwest is not alone in the experiences it has had with extreme weather events. A study by MIT-Princeton University documented similar findings for hurricane and tropical storms in coastal areas. In addition, researchers also found that 100 and 500-year events are occurring within shorter time spans.
The irony of these findings is the economic twists. Skeptics question the efficacy of changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, often citing the economic costs. However, the warming atmosphere provides the fuel for these storms, which, in turn, carry enormous environmental and economic costs.
If there is a positive note, it is that weather events are a relatively low-risk cause of death. You are more likely to perish from a car accident than a flood. Perhaps because of increasing awareness of climate change, there has been a greater push to alert the general public to impending weather events.
However, the impact of extreme weather events is still unpredictable and unpreventable. For these reasons alone, the forces behind global warming and climate change need to be harnessed. The path of the next hurricane or tornado remains uncertain.