Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Population And Wealth, More Than Climate, Drive Soaring Costs Of U.S. Flood Damage

Date:
October 20, 2000
Source:
National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
Summary:
Societal changes, much more than increased precipitation, spurred a steep rise in the nation's flood-damage costs over the past century, says a new study. "Climate plays an important but by no means determining role in the growth of damaging floods," write researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

BOULDER -- Societal changes, much more than increased precipitation,spurred a steep rise in flood-damage costs in the United States overmuch of the past century, according to a new study published October15 in the Journal of Climate. U.S. annual flood losses, adjusted forinflation, rose from $1 billion in the 1940s to $5 billion in the1990s.

"Climate plays an important but by no means determining role in thegrowth of damaging floods in the United States in recent decades,"write the authors, Roger Pielke Jr. and Mary Downton, both of theNational Center for Atmospheric Research. NCAR's primary sponsor isthe National Science Foundation.

Pielke and Downton examined ten different measures of precipitation.They found a strong relationship between flood damage and the numberof two-day heavy rainfall events and wet days. They also found asomewhat weaker relationship between flood damage and two-inchrainfall events in most regions. However, these relationships couldnot explain the dramatic growth in flood losses, according to theauthors.

In a series of recent articles, including this one in the Journal ofClimate, Pielke, Downton, and colleagues looked at the role ofincreasing precipitation, population, and national wealth. They foundthat population growth alone accounts for 43% of the rise in flooddamages from 1932 to 1997, with a much smaller effect from increasedprecipitation. "Most of the other 57% increase is due to burgeoningnational wealth," says Pielke. Downton's work suggests that moredetailed disaster reporting also contributes to the trend.

Climate scientists have observed a rise in precipitation in someareas of the United States and elsewhere over the past century. TheIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has written that awarmer climate could lead to more heavy-rain events. The Pielke-Downton paper found that flooding increases with precipitation,depending greatly on the time and location of the rain or snowfall.However, "even without an increase in precipitation," they write,"total flood damage will continue to rise with the nation's growingpopulation and wealth unless actions are taken to reducevulnerability."

Pielke, a political scientist, has often stated that his work "isconsistent with the conclusions of the IPCC," whose consensus view isthat the earth's climate is changing at least partly because of humanactivity. "But," he argues, "debate over the science of globalwarming need not stand in the way of effective actions to betteraddress climate impacts."

"We know enough to act now," said Pielke in a recent presentation atNCAR. "We can manage spiraling flood costs without waiting forprecise answers from climate change research. In this sense thedebate over global warming misses the mark." Disaster mitigationpolicies regarding floodplain management are already in place andcan curtail the rising costs, he said.

Globally, between 1970 and 1995 floods killed more than 318,000people and left more than 81 million homeless. During 1991-95 floodrelated damage totaled more than $200 billion worldwide, representingclose to 40% of all economic damage attributed to natural disastersin that period.

NCAR is managed by the University Corporation for AtmosphericResearch, a consortium of more than 60 universities offering Ph.D.sin atmospheric and related sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR). "Population And Wealth, More Than Climate, Drive Soaring Costs Of U.S. Flood Damage." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 October 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/10/001019191830.htm>.
National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR). (2000, October 20). Population And Wealth, More Than Climate, Drive Soaring Costs Of U.S. Flood Damage. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/10/001019191830.htm
National Center For Atmospheric Research (NCAR). "Population And Wealth, More Than Climate, Drive Soaring Costs Of U.S. Flood Damage." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/10/001019191830.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve

AP (July 31, 2014) Seacrest Wolf Preserve on the northern Florida panhandle allows more than 10,000 visitors each year to get up close and personal with Arctic and British Columbian Wolves. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Big Waves In Arctic Ocean Threaten Polar Ice

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Big waves in parts of the Arctic Ocean are unprecedented, mainly because they used to be covered in ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weather Kills 2K A Year, But Storms Aren't The Main Offender

Weather Kills 2K A Year, But Storms Aren't The Main Offender

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Health officials say 2,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. due to weather, but it's excessive heat and cold that claim the most lives. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins