NRDC: Iowa’s flood risk has increased

The Natural Resources Defense Council has found that Iowa and the rest of the Midwest will face future heat waves and increased rainfall due to climate change.

The Des Moines Register reports:

A new analysis by the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council shows that the Midwest, including Iowa, is facing higher risks of flood and more heat in an era of climate change.

The NRDC loaded a new set of maps here that show health threats the environmental group expects to accompany rising global temperatures, based on U.S. Geological Survey data from various watersheds.

The maps show most of Iowa had a higher-than-expected number of days with extreme river flows between 2000 and 2009,  compared with data from 1961 to 1990, considered an average period.  Parts of extreme northwest, north-central and northeast Iowa were particularly flood-prone.

A few counties, including Polk and Clarke, have been running hotter than expected, based on the number of days of extreme heat.

“Climate change can affect health where we live,” said Kim Knowlton, NRDC senior scientist. “In the Midwest states,  climate change can lead to more frequent flooding and associated health risks.”

The nation has suffered more floods that in the past, including a series in the Midwest that includes this year’s record flows on the Missouri River, Knowlton said.  Floods kill people, contaminate water with sewage, cause hazardous pollution and promote insect-borne diseases and mold, she said.

“We need to plan more for climate change’s affects on health,” Knowlton said.

“It’s time we start connecting the dots between climate change our our health” and make protection a priority, she added.

Sandra McLellan, senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said studies in the Great Lakes have shown the heavy rainfall and flooding sends sewage into drinking water supplies and along beaches, threatening swimmers. Inadequate sewers often are to blame.

“There is a persistent input of sewage into our waterways,” McLellan said. “This is beyond the reported bypasses. Older cities have weakening infrastructure. This is a very chronic problem.” 

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