Our flood-zone maps are becoming obsolete thanks to climate change

As Texas cleans up from Hurricane Harvey, and Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida, MIT’s Technology Review just published a frightening reminder that basically no one is safe from flooding. Reassuring, right?

The gist of the article is that climate change has dramatically altered the floodplain, so guessing what will and will not flood is entirely that–a guess. The article pulls from research by the University of California, Davis, that compared FEMA’s flood-zone maps to Harvey’s actual flooding and found that “two-thirds of the inundation occurred outside the federal agency’s 100-year floodplains, where there should be only a 1% chance of flooding in any given year.” That’s not all: More than half of the deluge happened “outside of any mapped flood zone,” even including those increasingly common so-called 500-year floods, three of which have hit Houston in the last three years alone. Historical data is simply no longer accurate on its own when it comes to predicting storms and their devastating effects.

Back in 2015, President Obama issued an executive order that established new flood standards for federally funded projects that took into account climate change, but as Technology Review notes, President Trump rescinded that order. So we’re pretty much stuck with inaccurate historical data to predict flooding and prepare for it.

The only silver lining is that most insurance companies don’t seem to have updated their maps yet, and those of us who don’t live in those historical flood zones can still buy flood insurance relatively cheaply. Read the full article over at Technology Review while you’re on hold with your insurance company.ML