Global warming is increasing the liklihood of flooding in Iowa, according to a new report. A study released by the group Environment Iowa finds heavy precipitation events in the U.S. have increased 24% over the past six decades. Jessica Buchberger is a field associate with Environment Iowa.
“We’ll see more 100-year floods yearly, pretty much, and it’s going to create big problems for Iowa’s economy and public safety,” Buchberger said. Gene Takle, a professor of atmospheric science at Iowa State University, says it’s hard to quantify how much climate change is increasing heavy rains, but there is a trend toward more flooding.
“This is probably the new normal,” Takle said. “It may not be every year and there’s still the liklihood that we could get a drought year as well.” Takle says severe weather patterns have shifted rather dramatically since the early 20th Century. Buchberger says things will only get worse if steps aren’t taken to reduce climate change.
“It’ll just get even worse,” Buchberger predicts. “We’d see way more extreme flooding, rivers flooding, more storms…which has already caused billions of dollars in damage and dozens of deaths.” The report was part of a national study commissioned by the Environment America Research and Policy Center, an environmental think-tank.
Greg Carmichael is co-director of the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research at the University of Iowa. He says current research backs up the study’s basic findings. “It is difficult to translate at very fine scales when you single in to any single event or what’s going to happen explicitly in Iowa,” Carmichael admitted. “But we know, in general, we expect more frequent, severe storms.”
Carmichael says there’s a “strong association,” though, between global warming and an increase in heavy rain events over the past 60 years. In addition to more extreme flooding, he says the state and the nation could see more periods of severe drought.