One expert says record snowpack, followed by record rainfall and record flooding may become a repeating pattern for western Iowa in the future. Steven Hamburg, chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, says as the climate changes, we can expect more extremes and more disasters like this summer’s flooding of the Missouri River basin. Hamburg says, “The key things are going to be changes in temperature and the fact that we’re going to see unpredictable patterns and extremes, heat waves at levels we haven’t historically seen, heavy rainfall that’s going to lead to more flooding and potentially heavier erosion.” Hamburg says climate changes are becoming more apparent in the environment in the Midwest and all across the country.
“That’s already occurring in most places,” Hamburg says. “The work that I do in the forests of New Hampshire, we’re seeing it very clearly and we’re seeing impacts on plants. Crops are going to need to change. We’ll need to plant different varieties. Some of the natural systems will be challenged by those extremes because they’re just physiologically not adapted, nor are we particularly well-adapted to lots of 100-degree days.” Hamburg says the biggest changes could come in the lack of predictability.
“The problem is the variablity is increasing and the predictability,” he says. “We can’t use the past to predict the future which makes it much harder to plan. How do you develop the infrastructure to protect yourselves? It’s going to get harder and harder and what you’re going to have is more disasters. That’s going to have an enormous impact on us economically and socially. Nobody wants to see their house and their life washed away in a flood.” The summer-long flooding of the Missouri River wiped out dozens of homes and businesses and caused some 50-millon dollars damage just to Iowa’s roads and bridges.