Atmospheric rivers are narrow ribbons of concentrated moisture that originate in the Pacific and can flow thousands of miles before dropping rain and snow on land. Scientists are ramping up their research into the systems this winter fearful that warmer temperatures tied to climate change will boost the moisture they carry, supercharging them moving forward.
Recent research finds that repeated flooding events have a cumulative effect on the structural integrity of earthen levees, suggesting that the increase in extreme weather events associated with climate change could pose significant challenges for the nation’s aging levee system.
According to the United States Geological Survey, “more than 75% of declared Federal disasters are related to floods, and annual flood losses average almost $8 billion with over 90 fatalities per year.” Flooding poses serious risk, and as the climate changes, the number of homes in the United States facing a risk of flooding is increasing.
When Lebron Lackey, his wife, Heather, and his uncle, Russell King, decided to build a posh oceanfront home in Mexico Beach, Florida, they ignored the small community’s building codes and made construction plans based on instinct, hoping the structure would last 100 years even if struck by a hurricane. Barely six months after construction was completed, on Oct. 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 with 155-mph winds and a storm surge of 19 feet, made landfall in Mexico Beach.
With both inland and coastal communities increasingly experiencing flood damage, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working to increase risk and pricing transparency in flood coverage and close the large flood insurance gap in America.
If it rains, it can flood. That stark reality has been driven home in the last few years as hurricane-related rainfalls smashed records and inundated communities from Houston to New York City. Homes and businesses from coast to coast suffered extensive inland flooding, and swollen rivers breached levees and left farmlands and communities across the Midwest immersed in huge amounts of standing water.
Even in risky areas, some homeowners still skip flood coverage. Flooding, is the most common cause of disaster-related damages in the United States. The vast majority of standard home insurance policies do not cover flooding. To ensure coverage, most homeowners must purchase a separate policy backed by the federal government under the National Flood Insurance Program. Managed by FEMA, Congress created the program in 1968 to offer primary flood insurance to properties with significant flood risk as many private insurers stopped offering coverage. It was designed to reduce escalating costs associated with helping flood survivors recover losses.
At a recent hearing hosted by the Financial Services Subcommittee on National Security, International Development and Monetary Policy, environmental experts discussed the risks to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) posed by climate change, saying the situation is likely to worsen in the coming years.