Last year set a record for extreme weather in the U.S., with disasters costing the nation $306 billion in total damages. But corporate broadcast networks rarely connected extreme weather to climate change despite numerous peer-reviewed studies linking global warming to stronger and deadlier weather events. This year’s hurricane season, which federal forecasters predict has a 75 percent chance of being near or above normal, is off to an early, destructive start with the first named storm of the year causing heavy downpours and flood warnings across the South. Meanwhile, Ellicott City, MD, experienced devastating flooding over the weekend when it was hit by a huge rainstorm.
On NBC’s Today show, host and weatherman Al Roker drew a direct connection between climate change and the increase in heavy downpours that can cause flash flooding. This is the type of coverage we need to see more of as TV networks report on the extreme weather events of 2018.
From the May 29 episode of Today:
AL ROKER (TODAY HOST AND WEATHERMAN): We were all looking in horror at the video that came out of Ellicott City this past weekend. Second time in two years they've had this kind of carnage as far as the weather is concerned. Why is this happening? Well, it's kind of what's going on with this city. They see the showers and thunderstorms come rumbling across and just sit over the city. Seven to 12 inches of rain in six hours, it's hard not to have flooding. However, they also have a problem with their terrain. The problem with this is it sits at the bottom of a valley, and there are five streams that all converge down on Ellicott City and so it all funnels down into there. And in downtown Ellicott, big, big problems. And the problem is we're seeing more and more of these heavy downpours. In the last 50 years, we've seen an increase of 55 percent in the Northeast, 42 percent in the Great Lakes, and 27 percent [in the Southeast] of greater rainfall and stronger storms. And that just continues to grow as we start to continue to see climate change and more warm air making its way with moisture and causing bigger storms. That's what's going on around the country.