Michigan Flooding Is A Climate Change Problem, Too

Climate change is exacerbating flooding events in Michigan by adding more water to the atmosphere, which rains down during extreme weather events.

Last week’s flooding in mid-Michigan is just one more example of how the earth’s changing climate is having dangerous and costly consequences.

Jonathan Overpeck is dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan. He says climate change can affect weather in ways you wouldn’t expect.

Click on the player above to hear how climate change is worsening Michigan flooding.

“As the atmosphere warms up due to global warming, it can hold more moisture,” Overpeck says. “So when there is a meteorological condition that rings that water out of the atmosphere, it can rain harder — and more rain can come down per minute, per hour.”

“Reduce global warming, and then, hopefully, we’ll have a lot less of these flood events.” — Jonathan Overpeck, University of Michigan

Overpeck pointed to the spring flooding of fields last year that reduced crop yield as a way climate change can impact people in Michigan without realizing it.

“The summers will dry out more,” Overpeck says. “But in the winter and in the spring we’re likely to see more flooding here in Michigan than in many other parts of the country.”

Overpeck says the current storm drain and dam infrastructure is not designed to handle big rain events. He suggests reducing global warming, instead of trying to make changes to the drainage system.

“We have so many systems in Michigan that need to be upgraded,” Overpeck says. “That’s extremely expensive to do everywhere. So why not go after the cause? Reduce global warming, and then, hopefully, we’ll have a lot less of these flood events.”

“It all goes back to fossil fuels – we need to stop using them,” Overpeck says.

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  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.