Thursday, September 26, 2013

Climate-change analysts keep eye on Colorado flood insurance

Shelby Kinney in Denver I-Journal via the Colorado Independent: About a month before the floodwaters tore through town, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its “State of the Climate” report. The authors highlighted 2012 as the hottest year on record in the United States. Next week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release its colossal report. Consensus is that we’re in for more heat. Whether that will translate to more frequent “biblical” droughts, fires and floods in Colorado is less certain.

“There’s really almost no question that the world will get warmer,” said Scott Denning, professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University. “My expert opinion is that maybe [more extreme rainfall] will come more often and maybe it won’t… I just don’t know.”

Last week’s rainfall was a “conspiracy” of many factors, Denning said, which lead to an extremely hard-to-predict event. He said it’s difficult to tie climate change to specific disasters in the kind of direct way the public would like to see. Notable links can be more general.

Soil over the nearly 2,000 square miles of parched rangeland, forests and mountains affected by the floods, for example, had been wrung of its precipitation by increasingly hot temperatures and charred by one wildfire after another. Water is absorbed less efficiently in such conditions, so the conspiracy of rainfall that bounced over the scarred and parched lands had no place to go except into creeks and roadways and so transformed them into rushing rivers.

...“We’ve had so many tragic wake up calls in Colorado that you do need to be financially prepared for disaster. We do have that window now, where people are thinking about the unthinkable.”...

Arapahoe at 1st Street in Boulder, Colorado, on September 13th, 2013. Flood brought debris onto the road and caused serious damage. Shot by AlmanacManiac, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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