Principal investigators Thomas Corringham and Alexander Gershunov from the California-Nevada Applications Program (CNAP), a NOAA RISA team, helped author a new publication in the Journal of Scientific Reports titled “Climate change contributions to future atmospheric river flood damages in the western United States”.
Atmospheric rivers generate most of the economic losses associated with flooding in the western United States and are projected to increase in intensity with climate change. This is of concern as flood damages have been shown to increase exponentially with atmospheric river intensity. To assess how atmospheric river related flood damages are likely to respond to climate change, the research team constructed county-level damage models for the western 11 conterminous states using 40 years of flood insurance data linked to characteristics of atmospheric rivers at landfall. The models predict that annual expected atmospheric river-related flood damages in the western United States could increase from $1 billion in the historical period to $2.3 billion – $3.2 billion in the 2090s under the various RCP scenarios. The research team also developed county-level projections to identify counties at greatest risk, allowing policymakers to target efforts to more effectively plan for climate adaptation.
In addition to the support from RISA, this work was funded by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center, and the State of California Department of Water Resources.