The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
Thursday, 26 August 2021 11:24

Climate change brings historic rains and ruin to Southern Appalachians and Middle Tennessee

flooding 210821 NWS map 01

Washington Post: Devastating Middle Tennessee floods latest consequence of climate change

Training thunderstorms dumped 17 inches of rain within 24 hours last week in Middle Tennessee, causing a cascade of runoff that led to localized flash flooding of creeks and rivers that killed at least 20 people and destroyed the small town of Waverly. That amount of rain, which a climatologist said had a 1 in 1,000 chance of occurring, would set a record for the highest amount of daily rainfall recorded in the entire state.

A lesser-noted flood of the Pigeon River just over the state line in Haywood County, North Carolina a week ago killed at least five people and destroyed homes and property as the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred moved over the region. The towns of Canton and Clyde were particularly hard hit. A rain gauge in Cruso recorded nearly 15 inches of rain in less than three days, according to the Smoky Mountain News. Nine inches fell within a 24-hour period.

Deadly floods in Germany and the European lowcountry this summer that killed 200 people were also attributed to climate change.

A warmer atmosphere holds exponentially more moisture, so such intense rainstorms will increase in coming years as climate change reshapes the Earth, scientists told the Washington Post.

"It’s yet another example of how climate change has loaded the dice for disaster, experts say. The floods that people lived through in the past are no match for the events that are happening today. And what in 2021 seems like an unprecedented catastrophe may by 2050 become an annual occurrence," the Post reported.

The flooding threat promised by a warming planet is exacerbated by continuing urbanization and inadequate public stormwater infrastructure. More impermeable surfaces means more runoff.