New study predicts increased flooding in Texas due to climate change and population growth

A recently published study focuses on projected flood risks for regions and states in the United States, as well as the impacts these events could have on communities in those regions.

Published last week in the journal ‘Nature Climate Change’, the study predicts increased flood risk in Texas over the next 30 years due to climate change and increased development of existing floodplains due to growing of the US population, with impacts on black communities disproportionately. .

The study, led by a team of international flood risk scientists, found that current flood risk mapping, based on past observations, fails to account for the growing threats of climate change.

“Flood risk is managed globally and assumes history is a good predictor of the future,” the US Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources said in a press release. “Whether enforcing regulations in flood zones defined using historical records of water levels, modeling the cost-benefit of mitigation measures based on flood probabilities historical or failing to consider future risks when permitting new developments, ubiquitous flood risk management tools fail to recognize that the nature of flooding is changing.”

Using “advanced modeling techniques” to calculate the financial cost of flooding, the study predicted that average annual flood losses would increase by 26.4%, from the current $32 billion to $40.6 billion. in the United States by 2050, due to climate change alone.

“Financial loss estimates, which include damage to homes, businesses and their contents, were based on 2021 dollar values, so the actual numbers would likely be much higher given inflation,” the study authors said in a press release.

The study also highlighted the disproportionate impacts that the projected increase in flooding could have on American communities in these regions.

“The future increase in [flood] the risk will disproportionately impact black communities while remaining concentrated on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts,” the US Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources said in the study’s press release.

Additionally, the statement said projected demographic changes “could lead to an increase in flood risk that would outweigh four times the impact of climate change.” In the study, the researchers indicate that an average of 3.63 million people are exposed to flooding each year, with climate change expected to increase this figure to 4.31 million.

“Meanwhile, population growth alone in a static climate (i.e. no future change in flood risk) would result in a 72.6% increase for an average annual exposure of 6.27 million by 2050,” according to the study.

“Average annual increases in exposure due to climate change are generally found on the East Coast, with current residents of Texas and Florida seeing an approximately 50% increase in flood exposure by 2050,” they said. continued the researchers. “States with low climate risk may still see a large increase in flood risk unless future development patterns are appropriately managed.”

“These findings clearly demonstrate the need for adaptation to flooding and emerging climate hazards in the United States, with mitigation measures needed to prevent the acceleration of these hazards,” the researchers said in the study.

Actions other than measures focused on decarbonization will be needed to mitigate these risks, according to study co-author Paul Bates, professor of hydrology at the Cabot Institute for the Environment and the School of Science. geography from the University of Bristol.

“Current flood risk in Western society is already unacceptably high, but climate and demographic change threaten to inflate these losses significantly,” Bates said in a university press release. “The relatively short time frames over which this increase will take place means that we cannot rely on decarbonisation to reduce risk, so we need to adapt better, both to the current situation and in the future.”

To read the full study in “Nature Climate Change”, go here.

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