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December extreme weather is a good reminder of changing climate including in Florida

Posted at 8:39 PM, Dec 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-18 21:01:16-05

America’s heartland has been devastated over the last week, first with tornados across four states and second with Deroche in the northern plains. Both events will likely be added to the already 18-billion-dollar storm events in 2021. Those prior events include wildfires out west, the Texas Winter Storm, and hurricanes across the Gulf coast, including Hurricane Elsa in Southwest Florida. In total, these events have done 100 billion dollars in damage, surpassing 2020, which saw a record number of 22 events.

"It could be a short-term cycle or a longer-term cycle,” said Meteorologist Daniel Noah, NWS Tampa. “What we have noticed is the severe weather occurs further north and lasts longer, like we saw with the bad tornadoes over the weekend, with over 70 people killed. Florida during our rainy season, we have noticed a drop in the number of severe weather reports, as we are more tropical in nature. And severe weather reports are more along the Georgia-Florida border."

In Florida, the National Weather Service is seeing less severe weather events during our rainy season in Southwest Florida. Despite fewer events, those events have been trending wetter.

"In the last couple years, it has felt to me like we have gotten rain in bigger packages, with bigger spaces in-between,” said Dr. Win Everham, Professor of Ecology and Environmental Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University. “Things get really wet and then they dry down, things get really wet and then they dry down."

These heavier rain events during our wet season will likely become more common as our climate changes. This could lead to more flooding events in Southwest Florida.

"The biggest issues are going to be what Miami Beach is experiencing now," said Noah. “For example, to experience flooding during high tide on area roads, especially during heavy rain. So, we are going to have to adapt to how things are changing."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the number and cost of extreme events are increasing over time due to increased exposure, vulnerability, intensity, and climate change. And these types of devastating weather events not only cause immediate damage but also can have long lasting effects on the economy.

"People lose their homes, sometimes they cant go to work because their workplace is destroyed completely," said Dr. Victor Claar, an economist at Florida Gulf Coast University. "In many cases access points, like roads, highways, that they use to us to get to and from the store or to and from work, those things are gone too. So it is really costly not only in a monetary sense but in a really personal sense."

Dr. Claar says as Florida continues to build and grow, we need to consider how climate change affects us and how we can adapt.

"Building for future and growing family housing or multi-family housing, we need to think about what the structure looks like and what evacuation routes will look like,” said Dr. Claar.

Dr. Everham says builing more greenspace into that new development will not only help florida be more substainable, but also help combat climate change.

“As we put more development into the landscape, we need to increase the requirements for embedded green space,” said Dr. Everham. “So, if you have 1000 acres to develop, you put people on 500 of them and you create strong natural systems in other 500 acres

The World Meteorological Organization says the num