Climate Change Could Make Massive Fires, Epic Flooding More Frequent

On June 11, 2013, Colorado’s severe drought season erupted in the most destructive wildfire in state history. Two people died and more than 500 homes were destroyed as flames engulfed 22 square miles of the state’s Black Forest region.

Exactly three months later, Sept. 11, the skies opened along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Rain fell like no one in Colorado had ever seen it fall before…more than a foot of rain in some places. At least eight people died. Nearly 2,000 homes were destroyed and 16,000 more damaged as flooding inundated an area nearly the size of Connecticut.

Matt Kelsch, a climate scientist from Boulder, says Colorado is likely to see more of these kinds of extreme – because of climate change.

“Climate change increases the odds that a flood like this is going to happen, as the world and the oceans warm,” Kelsch said. “There’s more moisture for more rain. People have trouble wrapping their heads around it, but with (Super Storm) Sandy or the Colorado floods, those are very rare events that become just a rare event.”

State climatologist Nolan Doeskin said observers realized the very first night, Sept. 11, that this Colorado storm was going to be different.

“Already by Wednesday night we got problems: Pouring rain throughout all of Boulder and urban flooding. With each passing hour the magnitude of the water reaching the river channels growing … bigger magnitudes of rain than I believe we’ve ever seen, and we have data going back a full century and more.”

Kelsch and Doeskin discussed their thoughts on Colorado’s epic flooding and its implication for the future with Carrie Saldo and Joe Mahoney of I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS. Their full video report can be seen here.


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