This past week has seen much of the United States battered by broiling temperatures and “once-in-a-millennium rainfall.” The double whammy of excess heat and excess rainfall that have immiserated millions across the nation are consequences of the climate crisis that grips our planet. In a post on the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health website, Michelle Ritchie, an assistant professor at the college’s Institute for Disaster Management noted that climate change has accelerated the hydrologic cycle – the process through which water circulates on Earth. “A warmer atmosphere means that the atmosphere can hold more water, and that’s what’s helping to speed up that cycle. So, more evaporation is occurring, which is why there’s also more droughts at the same time as more flooding. It seems very counterintuitive, but it’s because that cycle has sped up, so the atmosphere is able to dump that much more rain down.”
The accelerated hydrologic cycle ratchets up the chances of flash floods in areas that historically haven't experienced them. Furthermore, once a flash flood hits, it can disrupt access to essential services – e.g. electricity and emergency assistance – until the water recedes.
Recent events, such as the devastating floods in Vermont, demonstrate the need for communities to prioritize preparedness and resilience in the face of increasing flooding risks. A New York Times article titled "Vermont Floods Show Limits of America's Efforts to Adapt to Climate Change" asserts that catastrophic flooding can increasingly happen anywhere, with almost no warning. Rising temperatures exacerbate the problem by allowing the air to hold more moisture, resulting in more intense and sudden rainfall. The implications of this shift are enormous, as it becomes harder to adapt to changing conditions caused by climate change.
The federal government's efforts to prepare American communities for severe flooding are falling short. Funding for infrastructure improvements, better storm drains, and other resilience measures are not sufficient to address the scale of the problem. Federal flood maps, intended to guide development and infrastructure planning, often fail to capture the full risk, leaving communities vulnerable to unexpected flooding.
Moreover, the lack of a comprehensive national precipitation database hinders the ability to accurately assess the rising risks from heavy rains. Hidden flood risks, far exceeding those indicated on federal flood maps, are widespread across the country. This means that communities, including those in seemingly low-risk areas, face a higher likelihood of flooding and its devastating consequences.
To stave off catastrophic flood damage, several steps can be taken. First, floodplain management is crucial to minimize exposure to flooding hazards. Strict regulations and zoning practices can help prevent development in flood-prone areas. Second, developing robust early warning systems that incorporate advanced weather monitoring technologies and efficient communication channels is essential for timely evacuation measures. Third, enhancing infrastructure resilience, such as constructing or retrofitting buildings to withstand flooding and improving stormwater management systems, can significantly reduce flood damage. Lastly, community education is key to raising awareness about flood risks and promoting preparedness efforts– such as conducting widespread climate assessments.
As communities face the increasing risks of extreme heat and heavy rainfall, Arbol Insurance Services offers parametric products that provide financial protection when predefined conditions are met. To learn more about how Arbol Insurance Services can help businesses safeguard their revenues from these climate-related challenges, contact our climate solutions experts here.
Disclaimer: Arbol Insurance Services is a d/b/a of Climate Risk Insurance Solutions LLC. CA License #6006415. Some products may only be available in certain states. Arbol Insurance Services does not solicit from the public.