The news coming out of the countries of the former Yugoslavia is truly heart rending. An area of the world so recently torn by civil strife is now coping with flooding from unprecedented rains. From the BBC (video and pictures):
Serbia and Bosnia have called for international help to rescue people from inundated areas after the worst flooding since modern records began.
Waters are now beginning to recede, but officials say dangers remain.
They say that the threat of landslides is an ever-present problem as are the difficulties caused by unexploded landmines in Bosnia and river surges.
Serbia's main power plant is still at risk of flooding. Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes.
Bosnian Refugee Minister Adil Osmanovic described the flooding as "catastrophic".
From Scientific American:
"The consequences ... are terrifying," Bosnian Foreign Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija told a news conference. "The physical destruction is not less than the destruction caused by the war."And it may not be over soon. New Scientist warns more rain may be on the way.
Lagumdzija said more than 100,000 houses and other buildings in Bosnia were no longer fit to use and that over a million people had been cut off from clean water supplies.
"During the war, many people lost everything," he said. "Today, again they have nothing."
The region has suffered its worst deluge since 1894, with more than 10 centimetres falling on 14 and 15 May. The UK Met Office says a slow-moving area of low pressure prolonged the downpour.emphasis added
The bad weather has now moved away east, so the Met Office says the rest of this week should be dry. But the longer range forecast "shows the potential for further heavy rainfall next week".
Unfortunately, this is getting to be a familiar story: historic amounts of rain in a short time, overwhelming infrastructure built for a world that no longer exists. It's the flip side of the coin to areas of the world not getting the rain they used to expect. I wrote up a diary not too long ago, Wet enough for ya? Just wait. Here's a relevant excerpt:
Climate change denialistas, among their arguments, often claim that trying to do anything about it is too expensive. Well, the costs are real and so is the death toll - and it's not getting better.We are moving into a new world. One of the consequences of Global Warming is that warmer air can hold more moisture, so where it rains, it can rain harder. Sometimes a lot harder. The Balkans are just the latest region to experience huge amounts of rain in a short time.Flooding is an often underrated hazard when it comes to severe weather, Bunting noted. [Bill Bunting is operations chief at the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.] It causes more property damage in the United States than any other weather-related event.emphasis added
On average, flooding leads to 89 deaths and $8.3 billion in damage annually, and a large number of those deaths come from people driving into floodwaters. The National Weather Service has a marketing campaign called "Turn Around, Don't Drown" that aims to teach people about the risks of driving into floodwaters.
One of the trends around the planet is more and more people moving into cities, and cities are usually associated with water in some form. More people means more development, more paving that tends to take rain and concentrate it into drainage systems, which are increasingly overwhelmed when a weather event occurs. An increasing urban population means less land to soak up rain, and more people and property at risk when the waters rise.
One of the challenges countries face is to build the infrastructure they need to support economic activity and provide for the needs of their citizens - and the additional challenge is to keep it in good repair and updated as necessary. Planners think in terms of so much storm drainage, expected floodplains for expected precipitation, escape routes, disaster plans, rescue efforts, etc. etc..
One of the things we're realizing now is the assumptions that planning has been done on are increasingly no longer valid. The rate of change is speeding up. Events like the Balkans are going through may be the new normal. We are going to have to rebuild a lot of stuff anyway, just in the normal course of affairs. And even if government doesn't want to act on Climate Change, at least one part of the private sector is going to have something to say about that. (h/t to VL Baker.)
...“When I mentioned climate change to one official,” he said, “she almost hit me.” He characterized some of the wishful thinking he believed he would be dealing with as: “Don’t hire a Dutchman — believe in angels.”The question is no longer IF this is going to happen - it's WHEN. We have answers. We need to put them to work.
Dutch battles against water led his [Dutchman Henk Ovink] country to develop a communal society. To this day, Water Boards, which date to the Middle Ages, are a feature of every region, and they guide long-term infrastructural planning. American individualism, on the other hand, has yielded a system in which each municipality has a great deal of autonomy, making regional cooperation difficult. “The vulnerabilities are regional,” said Judith Rodin, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, which is the main funding organization working with Donovan’s team. “Yet we have individual community rule, and very little incentive to get out of that.”
But the need to apply new thinking in the U.S. couldn’t be greater, Ovink said. Climate scientists predict that by the end of the century, sea levels will rise by between one and a half and four feet. New York City could see storm surges up to 24 feet. Miami Beach could be under water. “Water has not been a policy issue in the U.S.,” Ovink said. “That’s because you’re mostly all above sea level. But what if the sea level changes?”