#Climate Year in Review: Crumbling Infrastructure, Increasing Extremes, are a Perfect Storm

December 31, 2020

Although I had to cancel a trip to the Arctic due to the Corona virus shutdown, I nevertheless had a front-row seat to dramatic climate change effects, as heavy rains contributed to the cascading failure of two dams in Midland County, Michigan, where I live.
Our house was fortunately, far enough from the flood plain to be safe, but 10,000 had to evacuate, many who had not considered themselves in any kind of jeopardy prior to this event.

Yale Climate Connections:

There are more than 90,000 dams in the United States. Many of those dams are at risk of failure.

“Most of them were built more than 50 years ago. Usually, the design life of a dam is between 50 and 60 years, so a lot of our dams are already past their design age,” says Paulina Concha Larrauri, a researcher at Columbia University. 

She says many of these dams are not only old, but poorly maintained.

“There’s a lot of variation on the safety and oversight of these dams across the country,” she says.

In many areas, climate change is making the situation even more dangerous by causing more frequent and heavier rains. 

In a recent report, Concha Larrauri and her team analyzed the risks and potential impacts of dam failures. She says that if one dam fails, it can cause other breaches downstream. 

The risks can be extensive, and not just to people and homes. Flood waters can disrupt power generation and block roads and railways.

But funds to address the problem are limited, so she says it’s important to assess the risks and potential losses, and prioritize repairs accordingly.

One Response to “#Climate Year in Review: Crumbling Infrastructure, Increasing Extremes, are a Perfect Storm”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I’ll say it again: The New Orleans levees failed below their specifications in 2005 after Katrina passed. (There was also an unrelated breach of the wall of the Industrial Canal due to a loose barge.) Katrina is blamed for it, but the surge along Lake Pontchartrain would have been handled (there was no overtopping), had those levees been well-monitored and maintained.

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