The Wildlife Federation is blaming global warming for this year’s severe flooding in Iowa and other Midwestern states. Amanda Staudt, the National Wildlife Federation’s climate scientist, says global warming makes flooding events more frequent and more intense.
"Although no single weather event can be attributed to global warming, it’s critical to understand that a warming climate is supplying the very conditions that fuel these kind of weather events," Staudt says. "It is a law of physics that warmer air is able to carry more water."
According to Staudt, more heavy precipitation events are occurring in the central U.S. during the summer. She points to a report which found the frequency has increased 20 percent since the 1960s. "In the Upper Midwest, the frequency of the most intense rainfall events has increase by 20 percent since the late 1960s…The number of days each year with precipitation greater than four inches has increased by 50 percent over the last century," Staudt says. "As the climate continues to warm and we have even more moisture in the air, the trend toward increasingly intense precipitation events will continue."
Iowa Wildlife Federation president Joe Wilkinson says it’s time for officials at all levels to reconfigure flood zone maps. "Everywhere I’ve gone in the last couple weeks or the news accounts I hear repeated, it’s people saying over and over, ‘I wasn’t in the flood plain,’ or ‘I didn’t qualify for flood insurance’ or ‘I was told I didn’t need flood insurance — until the floods came,’" Wilkinson says. "Now, thousands of people in Cedar Rapids and Coralville, Iowa City, Palo, Columbus Junction, Waterloo — their lives really changed forever."
Wilkinson, who’s from Solon, says it’s unwise to rebuild in some of the areas that flooded this year. "There are causes for all this high water. A lot of it brought in by, you know, just a very severe spring in moisture. Some of it’s brought on by construction. Some by land use and others increasingly linked now to the severe weather swings brought on, as we’re seeing, by a changing climate," Wilkinson says. "We need to recognize that rivers — especially during two 500-year floods in 15 years — are bigger than us. They don’t always go where we want them to go and it’s time we really start paying attention to 21st century science as a place to start."
The National Wildlife Federation argues current flood zone maps don’t take into account the effects of global warming.