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2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #9

Posted on 3 March 2018 by John Hartz

A chronological listing of news articles posted on the Skeptical Science Facebook page during the past week. 

Editor's Pick

We’ve radically underestimated how vulnerable Americans are to flooding

New research claims that official estimates lowballed the risk by, uh, about a factor of three.

A giant nor’easter — incongruously named Winter Storm Riley, like some Brooklyn kid’s play date — is expected slam into New England coast today, bringing snow, rain, high tides, and damaging winds.

The Boston Globe reports that the National Weather Service has “high confidence” that the eastern coast of Massachusetts is going to experience “moderate to major flooding.” It has “moderate confidence” that heavy rains of two to three inches could cause urban and street flooding throughout southeastern Massachusetts, including Boston.

NWS Boston Alert 03-01-18

NWS Boston‏@NWSBoston
[HAZARDS] Updated. Coastal flood warning E MA, advisory S MA & RI; hurricane / storm force wind warnings for the waters; high wind warning & advisory across the interior; flood watch for E MA, RI & CT; winter storm warning for the high terrain ... Mainly Friday through Saturday

So it is somewhat ironic (if that’s the word) that this week also features the publication of a new paper in Environmental Research Letters showing that Americans are at far greater risk from flooding than official estimates reveal — as in, three times the risk.

We’ve radically underestimated how vulnerable Americans are to flooding by David Roberts, Energy & Environment, Vox, Mar 2, 2018

Links posted on Facebook

Sun Feb 25, 2018

Mon Feb 26, 2018

Tue Feb 27, 2018

Wed Feb 28, 2018

Thu Mar 1, 2018

Fri Mar 2, 2018

Sat Mar 3, 2018

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Comments 1 to 4:

  1. The IPCC fifth assessment report finds no evidence that flooding has increased, yet has good confidence that extreme rainfall events have increased. This seems hard to reconcile.

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  2. niglej:

    Without reading the chapter, is it possible that the difference is due to better flood mitigation? Or just poorer (more noisy) flood data?

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  3. nigelj, Section is brief. It appears to evaluate flooding by analysis of river flow rates. The following statement is the majority of the section:

    "AR5 WGII assesses floods in regional detail accounting for the fact that trends in floods are strongly influenced by changes in river management (see also Section 2.5.2). Although the most evident flood trends appear to be in northern high latitudes, where observed warming trends have been largest, in some regions no evidence of a trend in extreme flooding has been found, for example, over Russia based on daily river discharge
    (Shiklomanov et al., 2007). Other studies for Europe (Hannaford and Marsh, 2008; Renard et al., 2008; Petrow and Merz, 2009; Stahl et al., 2010) and Asia (Jiang et al., 2008; Delgado et al., 2010) show evidence for upward, downward or no trend in the magnitude and frequency of floods, so that there is currently no clear and widespread evidence for observed changes in flooding except for the earlier spring flow in snow-dominated regions (Seneviratne et al., 2012)."

    The key seems to be a lack of a statistically significant consistent global change in flooding. Some areas have increased flooding and others have reduced flooding, as stated in the following portion of the much larger section 2.5.2 of the report:

    "Recently, Stahl et al. (2010) and Stahl and Tallaksen (2012) investigated streamflow trends based on a data set of near-natural streamflow records from more than 400 small catchments in 15 countries across
    Europe for 1962–2004. A regional coherent pattern of annual streamflow trends was revealed with negative trends in southern and eastern
    regions, and generally positive trends elsewhere. Subtle regional  differences in the subannual changes in various streamflow metrics
    also can be captured in regional studies such as by Monk et al. (2011) for
    Canadian rivers."

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  4. Bob Loblow, yes flooding data doesn't show an increase overall probably because of flood mitigation effects, dredging etc. I thought they may have tried to allow for all this in the studies, but it would be very hard now I think about it. I did some physical geography at uni, so I'm interested.

    However this much is more certain:

    "Will a warming climate affect river floods? The prevailing sentiment is yes, but a consistent signal in flood magnitudes has not been found. Blöschl et al. analyzed the timing of river floods in Europe over the past 50 years and found clear patterns of changes in flood timing that can be ascribed to climate effects (see the Perspective by Slater and Wilby). These variations include earlier spring snowmelt floods in northeastern Europe, later winter floods around the North Sea and parts of the Mediterranean coast owing to delayed winter storms, and earlier winter floods in western Europe caused by earlier soil moisture maxima.

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