Researchers blame climate change in Louisiana floods
Wednesday, September 7, 2016, 4:44 PM - A report released Wednesday aims to be the first to definitively outline the role of climate change in extreme precipitation events, like the one that caused deadly flooding in Louisiana last month.
The three-day rain event, which lasted from August 12 to 14, dumped upwards of 800 mm of rain on parts of the state, including nearly 300 mm of rain that fell in a single day on Baton Rouge. Thirteen people were killed, and more than 60,000 homes were damaged in the event, which scientists are saying was exacerbated by climate change.
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According to the paper, which is the work of a group of researchers from NOAA and other organizations, human-caused climate change has increased the frequency of major events like the storm system that drenched Louisiana by at least 40 per cent since the Industrial Revolution, and has increased the intensity of rainfall in such events by 10 per cent.
Speaking to the New York Times, Heidi Cullen, chief scientist for Climate Central and a participant in the study, said it's likely even worse than that. "[...] it's probably much closer to a doubling of the probability. Climate change played a very clear and quantifiable role."
Watch below: Rainfall accumulates during the August flooding event.
Historically, scientists are reluctant to link any particular weather event to climate change because of the dangers inherent in drawing a scientific conclusion when the 'experiment' in question has no control member - for instance, you cannot 're-run' the flooding event without climate change and see what would have happened, then compare the two.
Earlier this year, research emerged following a decade of work by scientists in different fields saying that, for the first time, we have the ability to make meaningful connections between individual extreme weather events and climate change. Researchers use both the historical observations and model simulations to identify the 'signal' of the changing climate in an event, a technique that works best in analyzing extreme rainfall events - like the one in Louisiana - and droughts.
In their study, the group used statistical analysis of the historical extreme precipitation record along with two high-resolution climate models to conduct a so-called "rapid attribution study", with the aim being to determine the effect of climate change on an event while the event is still in the public eye.
NOAA spokesperson Monica Allen told the New York Times, "Researchers, communities, and business alike see the value in these analyses. They help us grapple with what has happened and strengthen our ability to stay resilient to future events."
The paper was released for discussion before being peer-reviewed, and the methodology is not without its critics.
Louisiana's state climatologist Barry D. Keim told the New York Times, "I'm just not convinced that we can attribute any single event to climate change," but that "there are some general consistencies between this event and climate change."
Watch more: Louisiana Flooding -- Family returns to damaged home (emotional)