The remnants of Hurricane Ida, which killed dozens of people and caused flash floods across the three-state region, were the latest extreme weather event of a summer filled with climate-related disasters.
Kim Cobb, from Co-author of a landmark United Nations scientific report on climate change, the intensity of the storm was another reminder of how human activity fundamentally changes Earth’s atmosphere.
“We are moving into uncharted territory with climate change,” said Cobb, director of the Global Change Program at Georgia Tech. “The climate we used to live in, will not be the climate we live in now, nor for the next decades.”
Weather created by the remnants of Hurricane Ida brought record rain across the region. Newark, New Jersey, saw 8.41 inches of rain on Wednesday. Which makes it the rainiest day ever. In New York City, 3.15 inches of rain fell in one hour, more than any point in the city’s records, dating back to the 19th century. Central Park alone, nearly doubled its previous record of precipitation in 1927, According to the National Weather Service.
“This rain was record-breaking by a long shot. It reminds me of the kind of devastating heat waves we saw in the Pacific Northwest, earlier this summer,” Cope said. “It’s just jaw dropping.”
Cobb’s research, which is included in a UN report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, shows the frequency of Ida-like events, and the intensity seen across the Gulf Coast to the northeast will increase this week, regardless of climate action now. With global temperatures likely to rise by about 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next 20 years, scorching heat waves and wildfires, as well as torrential rains and floods, will only intensify with each additional warming, Cobb said.
The fallout from the latest storm has already raised questions about the resilience of the US transportation system and its broader infrastructure and its ability to withstand extreme weather events. Floodwaters overwhelmed New York City’s rail system, stranded passengers, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio had to urge residents to stay off the roads and subways. in a Interview with CNBCJano Lieber, acting president and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City, said the system is in dire need of upgrades.
“We really have to work with our friends in city government to make sure that the drainage at street level is a little more, so we can’t, in new flash floods in the age of climate change, get as much,” Lieber said.
President Joe Biden echoed that sentiment.
“For the country, the past few days of Hurricane Ida, wildfires in the West, and unprecedented flash floods in New York and New Jersey, are a reminder that these extreme storms and the climate crisis are here,” Biden said. “We need to act.”
An infrastructure bill passing through Congress allocates millions of dollars to modernize subway and road systems. Local, state, and federal lawmakers have pledged to collaborate and invest in climate resilience, to build reinforcements in preparation for future climate events. But Cobb said their options may be limited, given the pace of warming and changes.
“There are limits to how much this infrastructure can adapt to a storm like this, and this points to the need to enact the kind of deep, sustainable emissions reductions that will limit future climate risks and losses by mid-century,” she said. “We locked in a few more tenths of a degree Celsius, but our choices in the next 10 or 20 years, will determine how hot it gets by mid-century.”
Akiko Fujita is a broadcaster and reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter Tweet embed