Climate change will cause more heat waves, flooding and worse storm impacts, and change life for people in the Carolinas, according to a report released by the White House the day after Thanksgiving.
Higher sea levels will bring more and worse coastal flooding, a warming ocean will bring stronger storms, and extreme heat waves will become longer and more frequent in the Southeast, the Fourth National Climate Assessment predicts. The report lays out dire warnings for the Carolinas and the nation on the coming impacts from climate change.
“Throughout the southeastern United States, the impacts of sea level rise, increasing temperatures, extreme heat events, heavy precipitation, and decreased water availability continue to have numerous consequences for human health, the built environment, and the natural world,” the report states.
Some areas could see a lot more rain, others could see a lot less, the report notes.
“The decade of the 2010s through 2017 has been warmer than any previous decade,” the report says, and the report’s authors expect that trend to continue. The report, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, includes contributions about the Southeast from academics at the University of South Carolina and North Carolina State University.
The report notes, “In the coming decades and centuries, climate change will continue to transform many ecosystems throughout the Southeast.”
The Congress-mandated report, The New York Times explains, “is notable not only for the precision of its calculations and bluntness of its conclusions, but also because its findings are directly at odds with President Trump’s agenda of environmental deregulation, which he asserts will spur economic growth.”
The report is from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which includes 13 federal agencies, and included help from 1,000 people, according to CNN. About half of the scientists involved in the report are from outside government, CNN reports. Some of the scientists are based in the Carolinas and at Carolina universities such as N.C. State, according to the report.
Expect worse flooding
The flooding from big storms and rising tides will continue to increase, according to the report.
“The number of extreme rainfall events is increasing,” the report explains, with the number of days the region has seen at least three inches of rain per year at historic highs.
The Carolinas have seen historic floods from hurricanes Matthew and Florence, and the report notes that rising ocean temperatures and higher sea levels will make strong storms and flooding more common.
Across the Southeast, the report states, “2017 tied the previous record year of 2011 for the total number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters.” The year’s climate-related damages hit $306.2 billion, breaking the record.
Adjusted for inflation, 2017 blew past the previous record set in 2005 with almost $215 billion in damages, “which included the impacts of Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma” among other natural disasters, the report states.
In additional to the rain, the climate report explains, “Higher sea levels will cause the storm surges from tropical storms to travel farther inland than in the past, impacting more coastal properties. The combined impacts of sea level rise and storm surge in the Southeast have the potential to cost up to $60 billion each year in 2050.”
Coastal flooding from higher tides will become more of a problem too, the report’s authors note. “Flood events in Charleston, South Carolina, have been increasing, and by 2045 the city is projected to face nearly 180 tidal floods (flooding in coastal areas at high tide) per year, as compared to 11 floods per year in 2014,” according to the report.
Just last week Charleston saw one of the highest tides ever recorded, according to the Post and Courier. The tide hit 8.76 feet Saturday, flooding roads and low-lying areas around the city, the newspaper reported.
Sea levels are expected to increase by one half to 1.2 feet by 2050, and from one to 4.3 feet by 2100, the report predicts, with coastal flooding from king tides becoming more widespread and disruptive to cities like Charleston and Wilmington, North Carolina.
Infrastructure is also at risk across the Carolinas as rain and subsequent flooding worsens, and bridges could be in the most danger.
“By 2050, the Southeast is the region expected to have the most vulnerable bridges,” according to the report.
Longer heat waves
The Southeast is seeing worse increases in heat waves than any other region in the country, the report notes.
“Cities across the Southeast are experiencing more and longer summer heat waves,” the report states. There are five large cities in the U.S. with trends above the national average for heat waves, and one of them is Raleigh. Two others are also in the Southeast: Birmingham and New Orleans.
“Sixty-one percent of major Southeast cities are exhibiting some aspects of worsening heat waves, which is a higher percentage than any other region of the country,” the authors note in the report. “Southeastern cities including Memphis and Raleigh have a particularly high future heat risk.”
Heat waves also threatened rural communities, with both heat-related illnesses for people who work outside, and impacts on livestock and crop production, the report notes.