Flash floods: How climate change has affected Tennessee

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November 11, 2021
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Flash floods: How climate change has affected Tennessee

The latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is yet another reminder of the dire effects of climate change. While climate projections often look to the future when discussing the worst impacts of climate change, we are in fact already experiencing its effects across the United States. To better understand how climate change is impacting the country, Stacker compiled a list of the impacts of climate change in every state, using local and national news stories, government reports, and scientific journal articles.

While these impacts are weather-related—for example, heat waves, droughts, or storms—individual weather events cannot be attributed to climate change on their own. Rather, it is when these events are seen within larger trends that they can be understood as part of a pattern that has come out of the changing climate.

Keep reading to learn about how your state has been impacted by climate change, or read the national story here.

Tennessee: Flash floods

In August 2021, parts of Tennessee were hit by record-breaking amounts of rainfall that caused unexpected flash flooding, killing at least 21 people. In less than 24 hours, 17 inches of rain fell in Humphreys County. While a single weather event alone can't be definitively attributed to climate change, a federal study found that climate change doubles the chances of these types of heavy downpours taking place.

Across the country, there are trends of rising temperatures, storms of increasing frequency and severity, and more erratic precipitation patterns, causing disruptions to the food systems and sometimes even resulting in death. While the U.S. government has set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030, it is clear that the climate emergency is already taking place, and along with emissions reductions, mitigation of the impacts of climate change must be prioritized as well.

Read below to see how other states in your region have been affected by climate change.

North Carolina: Billions in storm damage

North Carolina saw two 500-year storms—storms so severe that they historically only took place once every 500 years—within 23 months of one another in 2016 and 2018. Hurricane Matthew, which hit North Carolina in October 2016, cost the state roughly $1.5 billion, and Hurricane Florence, which hit in September 2018, cost around $2 billion. In response to climate change, which contributes to the frequency and severity of these storms, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued Executive Order No. 80, which calls for a 40% drop in greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 2025, establishes the North Carolina Climate Change Interagency Council, and directs state agencies to take actions to reduce emissions.

Virginia: An island being washed away

Tangier Island is a 5-mile-long island located in the Chesapeake Bay between Maryland and Virginia, but part of Virginia, and is home to 600 people. Unfortunately, the island is slowly shrinking, as it is washed away due to rising sea levels from climate change, along with erosion. Since 1850, the island has shrunk by two-thirds. However, the population is conservative, so many residents don't believe that what is happening is due to the changing climate or human activity.

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