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Study finds recent catastrophic floods to be consequences of concerning global phenomenon: 'They are becoming increasingly strong and widespread'

The region has now endured four environmental disasters in a year.

The region has now endured four environmental disasters in a year.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Brazil has been battered by extreme floods. This spring, parts of the country saw nearly three months of rainfall in just a two-week period. A warming world has made these events now twice as likely to occur.

What's happening?

Flooding in southern Brazil has killed at least 175 people. Doctors Without Borders estimates that over 2 million people have been impacted, and more than 600,000 displaced. The region has now endured four environmental disasters in a year, including floods in July, September, and November of 2023. 

"The situation is catastrophic," said Dr. Rachel Soeiro, a medical coordinator with Doctors Without Borders, per the organization's website. "When we traveled through the region by helicopter, we were able to view the towns from above and noticed that in some cases we couldn't even see the roofs of houses. For kilometers and kilometers, all there is, is water."

Why is the extreme flooding in Brazil concerning?

A new study from World Weather Attribution, an academic collaboration that studies how our warming world influences the intensity of weather events, noted that the flooding event was extremely rare and normally only expected to occur once every 100-250 years. The WWA's researchers concluded that climate change made the extreme event more than twice as likely and around 6% to 9% more intense. Their studies also included flooding events in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.

"While significant floods have occurred in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in the past, they are becoming increasingly strong and widespread," Dr. Regina Rodrigues, a professor of physical oceanography at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, said at a news conference, per the New York Times. "The early warning is very important, but it's not sufficient."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the warming of our planet's atmosphere because of a buildup of heat-trapping gases is supercharging the water cycle. This is producing more intense rainfall, flooding, and droughts in many regions of the world.

What's being done about extreme weather events like this?

Reducing the toxic gases holding too much heat in our atmosphere is key to controlling climate change's influence on extreme flooding events. The development of new technology that can harness renewable energy is helping. A Bill Gates-backed startup is even developing a method to turn an air pollutant and water into clean fuel.

We can all help reduce the emission of heat-trapping gases into the air by changing how we plan our vacations and care for our yards.

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