Federal estimates for extreme precipitation events fail to account for increasingly extreme rainstorms fueled by climate change and thus dangerously underestimate Americans’ vulnerability to flooding, a new report from the First Street Foundation warns. The report, which uses a peer-reviewed model to assess how climate change has altered precipitation events in the U.S., reveals more than half of people in the U.S. live in an area that is twice as likely to experience a so-called 1-in-100-year flood event, as NOAA’s Atlas 14 would project. Those projections are based on data from “a climate that just doesn’t exist anymore,” Jeremy Porter, First Street’s head of climate implications research, told the New York Times.
Climate change, mainly caused by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, makes extreme precipitation events more frequent and severe. The implications of the failure of official flood risk estimates to accurately reflect actual flood risks are legion, and include homeowner insurance rates, the number of flood-vulnerable homeowners who do not have flood insurance, increased vulnerability of people of color to flooding due to racist policy decisions, and potential waste of public funds on infrastructure projects that are essentially obsolete they day they are completed. (New York Times $, Axios, Washington Post $, CNBC, Politico, CNBC, The Hill; Climate Signals background: Flooding, Extreme precipitation increase)