Flash Floods Will Be Worse Than Previously Predicted

Image source: U.S. Geological Survey via Flickr

Billions of dollars of federal infrastructure money could be wasted on projects that won’t be resilient enough in the face of the climate crisis. A report released by a climate nonprofit, First Street, details that the models engineers are using to predict future rainfall are outdated.

First Street analyzed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Atlas 14 precipitation model, which predicts how much rainfall is expected in a given location over the course of the year. The problem is, this model is wildly inaccurate. Not only does the model use data going back to the 1960s to predict rainfall today, but it doesn’t incorporate any data on the climate crisis into its predictions.

The result is that the Atlas 14 model underestimates rainfall in certain areas by many orders of magnitude. In Baltimore, for example, Atlas 14 underestimates the risk of a “once in a hundred years” rainstorm by a factor of 6. According to First Street’s model, over half of Americans now live in a place where these so-called once-in-a-hundred-years rainfall events will be more than twice as common.

Most states use NOAA’s Atlas 14 model when designing or repairing infrastructure. But since the NOAA model is out of date, this means that many infrastructure projects are going to be built at a far lower standard than needed to withstand the catastrophes of the climate crisis. Hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent to rebuild the U.S.’s crumbling infrastructure; but this money is going to be used to build roads and bridges that will break down or quickly become unusable because of the climate crisis.

The politicians who are bought and paid for by the rich have no answer to the crises we’re facing today. Their response to the decrepit infrastructure in the U.S. is to spend a small fraction of what’s needed to repair our roads and bridges on infrastructure projects that won’t be able to withstand the climate crisis. And their response to the climate crisis is to not even change engineering models to take into account future climate disasters!