Deadly South African Floods? Global Warming might be the culprit.
The increased likelihood of catastrophic rains in the east due to climate change has been confirmed by a team of researchers.
Scientists have found that the heavy rains that caused catastrophic flooding in South Africa in mid-April were made twice as likely to occur by climate change.
The analysis of the flooding, which killed more than 400 people in Durban and surrounding areas in the eastern part of South Africa, found that the intense two-day storm that caused it had a 1-in-20 chance of occurring in any given year. If the world hadn't warmed as a result human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases, the study found, then the chances would have been half that (1 in 40).
A recent study by a group of climate scientists, meteorologists, and disaster experts found that the damaging effects of global warming have already arrived. This finding is consistent with other studies showing that global warming is causing more extreme events to happen. As climate change continues, these events are expected to become more common.
One of the study’s authors, Izidine Pinto, a climate scientist at the University of Cape Town, said in a statement issued by World Weather Attribution that we need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a new reality where floods and heat waves are more intense and damaging.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the time that the flooding and related mudslides caused more than $1.5 billion in damage. Bridges and roads were destroyed, and thousands of homes, many of them in makeshift settlements, were swept away or damaged - “the biggest tragedy that we have ever seen,”.
The heavy rains and flooding that occurred in the country last month prompted sharp criticism of the government from both lawmakers and citizens for its failure to improve infrastructure to handle such events, as well as its longstanding housing crisis.
The World Weather Attribution (WWA) team conducts its analyses on events within days or weeks of their occurrence, in order to better understand how climate change may have contributed. This most recent study looked at the two-day storm that hit eastern South Africa beginning on April 11 and produced rainfall totals of nearly 14 inches in some areas, half or more of the area’s annual total.
Observational data suggests that the world is about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) warmer than it was before widespread emissions began in the late 19th century, and a computer simulation that models the world as it is suggests that a global warming scenario where emissions never occurred would be much more likely.
A recent study has found that the likelihood of extreme rain events has increased due to global warming. This is consistent with other studies that have looked at individual events and broader trends. One major reason for this increase is that as the atmosphere warms, it can hold more moisture.
The study found that statistically speaking, a storm with a 1-in-20 chance of occurring in any given year is not an uncommon event. In fact, it was one of the factors that contributed to the high toll in deaths and damage caused by this particular storm. The policy measures that were taken during the apartheid era have left a legacy of discrimination and inequality in South Africa. These policies, which included forced relocations and segregation, resulted in negative effects on nonwhite communities.
The researchers also cited the rise of makeshift settlements as a result of rapid urban growth and the lack of affordable housing. About 22 percent of Durban’s population, or 800,000 people, live in these settlements which usually lack services and proper infrastructure. In April 2017 flooding, the study noted, about 4,000 houses were damaged or destroyed in these types of settlements along riverbanks. Most deaths occurred in these areas as well.
Source:The New York Times