Climate Impact Report – 02/15

Quick Facts


facilities in the carceral system across the U.S. have major to extreme flood risk


f the Southwestern megadrought can be attributed to human-caused climate change

New storm

to bring possible severe weather toward the South and Midwest by midweek

Key Facts Of The Day 2/15

Storms and Flooding

  • New storm to bring possible severe weather toward the South and Midwest by midweek.

    • Damaging winds, hail and a few tornadoes are possible on Wednesday into Thursday from Dallas, Texas to Birmingham, Alabama.

    • To the north, an icy mix of sleet and freezing rain is expected from Oklahoma to Indiana as well.

    • Snow is expected from Colorado to Michigan, which had up to a foot of snow already this week.

    • The Southeast and Mid-Atlantic could see some strong thunderstorms, too.

    • On the storm’s back side, frigid temperatures will flip rain to snow. Hefty accumulations are possible in places such as Kansas City, Kansas, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Lansing, Michigan, with a more uncertain forecast in Chicago, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan.

    • By Friday, subzero temperatures will build into the Upper Midwest and parts of the Great Lakes, with wind chills dipping below -10.

  • The Whatcom County and cities of Everson, Ferndale, and Sumas in Washington are developing a grant application to mitigate damage caused by the flooding.

    • Three months after historic floods washed across northern Whatcom County, homes remain boarded up and belongings sit piled on street corners.

    • The choice of the flood victims could come down to selling their homes to FEMA and leaving all they have behind, or rebuilding and facing the likelihood of more flooding.

    • Many homeowners have expressed concern about selling their homes and passing the flood problem on to new owners.

  • The climate crisis is causing more flooding across the nation and while federal and state institutions are generally lagging when it comes to climate resilience, the carceral system is in particular peril.

    • According to The Intercept’s analysis, 621 facilities across the U.S. have major to extreme flood risk. Not all of the high-risk facilities are in places where one might expect to find them, like the Gulf Coast; many are located instead in landlocked states like Tennessee, Ohio, and West Virginia.

    • Cross City Correctional Institution in Florida is one of 52 jails, prisons, and detention centers in the state that face major to extreme flood risks over the next 30 years.

    • There is a huge maintenance backlog, little evidence of robust disaster planning, and resistance to policy changes that would leave fewer people in prison.

    • Prisoners, as wards of the state, can’t make decisions about leaving flood zones.

    • Several of the most imperiled locations identified in The Intercept’s analysis have already experienced flooding.

      • When a surge from Superstorm Sandy hit the tidal waterways around New York City, nurses at the Hudson County Correctional Facility were forced to wade through hallways of knee-deep water to attend to panicking prisoners.

      • The Franklin County Corrections Center II in Columbus, Ohio, has been forced repeatedly over the past decade to ferry staff to work in boats.


  • As of Friday, 3,120 wildfires have burned 54,170 acres across the country.

  • As of Tuesday, forecasters are warning that Mississippi and Louisiana will be at an increased risk for wildfires due to dry conditions, low humidity and gusty winds.

  • As of Tuesday, all of Southeast Arizona was put under a red flag warning, signaling an increased risk for wildfire ignition and spread.

    • The main causes for such a warning to be issued are strong winds, low humidity and warm temperatures.

  • Tuesday is the first day of the Spring Wildfire Season in Virginia.

    • There is a 4 p.m. burn ban which prohibits burning before 4 p.m. if a fire is within 300 feet of woodlands, brush, or fields with dry grass and other flammable materials.

    • More than 60% of the annual average of wildfires that occur in Virginia take place during the spring.

    • With sunny days and windy conditions, materials such as tree limbs brought down by January’s winter storms can easily dry out and increase the potential for a wildfire.

  • California sets new home and community standards to lower fire risk.

    • Since 2017, nearly 50,000 homes have been destroyed by wildfires in California and taking proactive steps to protect properties before a fire starts is critical.

    • A fire-resistant roof, at least 5 feet of defensible space around a home, a clearly defined evacuation route in a neighborhood and the removal of vegetation overgrowth in a community are some of the new statewide insurance standards to reduce the wildfire risk of older homes.

    • Catastrophic wildfires drive up the cost of insuring homes, the new standards would prompt insurance companies to offer discounts, providing incentives for retrofitting older homes.

Extreme Heat

  • The megadrought in the American Southwest has become so severe that it’s now the driest two decades in the region in at least 1,200 years, scientists said Monday, and climate change is largely responsible.

    • 42% of this megadrought can be attributed to human-caused climate change.

      • Climate change from the burning of fossil fuels is bringing hotter temperatures and increasing evaporation in the air.

      • Without climate change, the megadrought would have ended early on because 2005 and 2006 would have been wet enough to break it.

    • Daniel Swain, a UCLA climate scientist, said climate change is likely to make the megadrought “a permanent feature of the climate of the Colorado River watershed during the 21st century.”

    • Officials in Los Angeles are acutely aware of the water fluctuations and are working to capture every drop possible.

      • Los Angeles County has dug several large, open dirt basins — known as spreading grounds — to absorb rainfall and recharge underground aquifers. The basins also take in water diverted from dams.

      • Ultimately, Los Angeles is working to become less dependent on imported water. Currently, as much as 90% of water used in Los Angeles is imported from Northern California, the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Colorado River Basin.

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded Multnomah County and Portland Public Schools in Oregon a technical assistance grant to convene stakeholders over the coming year to help make Portland schools more resilient to extreme heat and wildfire smoke. Goals include:

    • Improving ventilation and filtration systems in public school facilities to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and other airborne illnesses.

    • Creating healthy learning environments through improved indoor air quality in schools.

    • Keeping schools open in the face of more frequent and severe extreme heat and wildfire smoke events, which increasingly overlap with the school year.

    • Establishing cleaner air shelters and cooling centers in areas known to have more residents susceptible to serious health impacts from extreme heat and wildfire smoke.

  • High fertilizer prices and dry weather have many Texas wheat farmers facing critical decisions regarding the viability and profitability of their crop.

  • Maine farmers look to save water as they confront drier weather and heavier storms.

New Reports And Data

  • A February 2022 study found that as global warming is causing permafrost in the Arctic to thaw and sea ice to melt, coasts are less protected and are being eroded, while carbon stored in the soil and carbon dioxide are being released into the ocean and atmosphere.

  • A February 2022 study found concentrations of pharmaceuticals at potentially toxic levels in more than a quarter of the rivers studied.

  • A February 2022 study found that although seagrass meadows sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it underground, they also emit the potent greenhouse gas methane after dying.


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