Global Warming Increases
BOULDER, Colorado, August 6, 2002 (ENS) - Over the
last half of the 20th century, Pennsylvania led the nation
in flood damages, a new review shows, and global warming
could cause damages to rise even more.
Great Lakes Pennsylvania Hardest Hit
Researchers from the University of Colorado's Cooperative
Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)
and the National Center for Atmospheric Research have
compiled state and basin damage information as well as
new and improved national damage estimates to provide
a more accurate look at flood costs in the United States.
The new data set shows that from 1955 to 1999, Pennsylvania
had flood damages approaching $12 billion. California
came in a close second, with flood damages estimated at
almost $11 billion.
"The data indicate that California's large damage is
the sum of many damaging floods, whereas the damages suffered
in Pennsylvania resulted from a few major events," said
Roger Pielke Jr., director of the Center for Science and
Technology Policy Research at CIRES. "But if you consider
population, North Dakotans have suffered most per capita
economic losses due to flooding."
"Despite programs intended to control the growing costs
of such hazards, flooding cost the United States approximately
$50 billion in damages during the 1990s alone," Pielke
There is no consensus on why flood costs continue to
spiral, Pielke said. Potential reasons for the increase
include climate change, increasing population and failed
"Decision makers need to understand the roles that climate,
population growth and development, and policy play in
determining flood damage trends," he said.
Current policies are being crafted without adequate
information, said the report's coauthor, Mary Downton
of the Environmental and Societal Impacts Group at the
National Center for Atmospheric Research.
"Unfortunately, available records are inadequate for
policy evaluation, scientific analysis and disaster mitigation,"
Downton said. "There are no uniform guidelines for estimating
flood losses, no central clearinghouse to collect, evaluate
and report flood damage, and the data that do exist are
rough approximations that have been reported in lots of
"Most damage estimates focus on national totals, but
scientists need data at river basin or community scale
levels to make sense of flood causes and effects," added
Downton. "The National Research Council has stressed the
importance of a comprehensive and consistent database
because sound flood policy making depends on having a
continuous time series of damage estimates. Reliable loss
data are critical for cost effective hazard mitigation
and planning for future disaster response."
The new report is available at: http://www.flooddamagedata.org/
State by state flood damage estimates, and graphs of
each state's damage due to floods, hurricanes and tornadoes,
are available at: http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/sourcebook/index.html
Click on "Floods"