Roma — According to the scientists, the flooding of towns in north-eastern Italy is a new example of extreme events caused by climate change, which have occurred in all parts of the world.
The coastal region of Emilia-Romagna was hit twice, first by intense rains two weeks ago on drought-scorched land that could not absorb it, causing rivers to overflow overnight, and this week by deluge that caused 13 deaths and damage Billions of dollars worth.
Climate change brings more rain, but concentrated into fewer days, with less useful and more dangerous deluge.
The Emilia-Romagna region is particularly vulnerable. Situated between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea, it caught this week’s weather phenomenon that dropped half of the annual average rainfall in just 36 hours.
Antonello Passini, a climatologist at the Italian National Research Council, said a trend is taking hold: “an increase in mean annual rainfall, for example, but a decrease in the number of rainy days and an increase in the intensity of precipitation on the few days when it is raining.” is,” he said.
Northern Italy has suffered two years of drought due to below-average winter snowfall. Normally, snowmelt from the Alps, Dolomites, and Apennines provides spring and summer runoff water that fills lakes, irrigates agricultural land, and feeds the Po and other important rivers and tributaries.
Absence of normal snowfall in the mountains has dried up the plains and reduced the water in rivers, lakes and dams. Pasini explained that they cannot recover in the rain because the terrain is essentially “impermeable” and water runs over land to the sea.
“For this reason, these extreme rains do not always compensate for the drought,” said the scientist. “Because in northern Italy, drought depends on snow accumulated in the Alps, more than rain. And in the last two years, we’ve had very little snow.”
Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumesi said the new normal of extreme weather events in the Mediterranean forces Italians to adapt and the country to improve its flood protection systems. He recalled the landslide caused by a strong storm last time on the island of Ischia, off Naples, which killed 12 people.
“We cannot pretend that nothing is happening,” he said on Thursday. “Everything must change: the programming of the hydraulic infrastructure must change, the engineering approach must change.”
Those changes are needed to prevent floods like the one in which entire cities were submerged in mud after twenty rivers burst their banks.
The key going forward will be prevention, he acknowledged, adding that it won’t be easy to convince people because of the cost.
“We are not a nation that leans towards prevention,” he told Sky TG24. “We prefer to rebuild rather than stop.”
Italy is not alone in going from drought to deluge. California and the western United States went from a record mega-drought to a dozen atmospheric rivers that dumped so much water on the state that a lake that had disappeared decades ago reappeared.
Flash floods in Germany and Belgium two years ago, which caused more than 220 deaths and billions of euros in damage, will likely worsen as the planet warms, according to scientists.
“The wet events are getting even wetter in many places,” said climatologist Gabe Vecchi of Princeton University.
In 2021, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that it is “proven” that human emissions of greenhouse gases are causing more intense and frequent extreme weather events. The panel said heat waves were most pronounced, but the likelihood of heavy rain had also increased across much of the world.
According to the UN report, there is “strong evidence” that record rainfall and one in five, one in 10 and one in 20 years “have become more common since the 1950s.”