As you contemplate – in some cases, recover from – our recent extraordinary rain downfalls, ponder this … you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
Over on the hurricane (Atlantic Ocean) side of the planet, a new study of the 2020 storm season (30 named storms), as reported here by the NY Times, found that the most extreme three-hour rainfall rates were 10% higher than they would have been without climate change. The most extreme three-day accumulations were 5% higher than they otherwise would have been.
And the effects were even more pronounced when looking only at the fourteen storms that reached hurricane strength (defined as sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour, or 119 km/h).
This is the kind of severe weather that is beginning to come down our pipelines and waterways more frequently … our new ‘normal’.
Here’s how the NIWA report on climate impacts for our region summarises the future:
“A warmer atmosphere in the future is expected to result in increases to rainfall intensity. Increased rainfall intensity is associated with more slips, floods, and erosion, and hence damage to infrastructure (e.g. roads, water supply), the forestry sector, and agricultural land productivity. Loss of infrastructure connectivity is a risk for the tourism sector. Increased rainfall intensity increases the risk of reduced quality of fruit and vegetables, as well as causing soil saturation issues for horticulture and agriculture.”
As for our now ‘abnormal’ rain events, the report notes: “…climate models underpinning this analysis are not able to correctly reproduce ex-tropical cyclone tracks and other large storms, the intensity (rain and wind rates) of which is generally projected to increase with more warming.”
But not to worry, HBRC promises a plan for all this in a couple of years and our territorial councils will no doubt do a smashing job – ‘3 Waters’ be damned – of increasing the capacity and integrity of their stormwater systems over the next 20-30 years. Here’s where Napier is starting …
Until 2050, stay high and dry!
Napier flooding photo: Corena Hodgson