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Warming climate means more extreme weather, like Ida, could overwhelm infrastructure

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DENVER (KDVR) — The remnants of Hurricane Ida left a path of destruction along the East Coast on Wednesday, drowning at least 46 people in their homes and cars.

The deadly flash flooding and tornado damage shocked people who weren’t prepared for the magnitude of the storm.

Russ Schumacher, an atmospheric science professor at Colorado State University, said the risk for heavy rain happens in that part of the country following a hurricane. He said the severity of the storms is increasing because of a warming climate.

“What’s changing is as the climate warms, the air can have more moisture. And then when these ingredients come together — it’s going to produce a lot of rain anyway — it’s giving us even more rain than there was before, perhaps making those rain rates higher and the downpours more intense or the storm potentially lasting a little longer,” Schumacher said.

Schumacher said data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows the warming is because of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and other factors associated with human activity.

“Some level of climate change is essentially locked in now based on where we are now,” Schumacher said.

He said the focus moving forward is on reducing emissions and also making sure current infrastructure is prepared to handle more intense weather patterns.

“And then we need to think about what happens if it gets even worse in the future. Those are the kind of adaptation decisions that are quite important,” Schumacher said.

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