Torrential rains drenched Louisiana in mid-August, with parts of the state receiving nearly 30 inches of rain between August 10 – 17. The state capital, Baton Rouge, suffered through nearly a foot of rain on a single day, August 12. Historic flooding of the state followed, claiming at least 13 lives and damaging more than 60,000 homes. Rescue teams saved some 30,000 people from the floodwaters and relocated displaced residents to drier grounds. Among the evacuees were Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards and his family, who sought shelter when rainwater flooded the governor’s mansion in Baton Rouge. The federal government declared a dozen parishes major disaster areas. And the Red Cross deemed the flooding in Louisiana the worst natural disaster in the United States since Superstorm Sandy slammed into the U.S. East Coast in 2012.
The extreme nature of this event left many asking whether climate change may have played a role.
UPDATE: AUGUST 19
Scientists with World Weather Attribution (WWA), NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) and Princeton University are analyzing the recent heavy rainfall event along the Central Gulf Coast to determine whether a clear climate change signal is detectable. Researchers with Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), an operational team member of WWA, have identified sufficiently high quality observational data for a statistical analysis. GFDL and Princeton University are leading the modeling effort, using two high-resolution climate models (HiFLOR and FLOR) capable of capturing the physical processes underlying this very extreme event.
It remains too early to know if these tools will provide a clear assessment of the contribution of climate change. Updates will appear on this site when available.
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Photo: Rich Whitlow/flickr