The Carolinas region experiences a wide array of extreme weather and climate events that include heavy rain, flooding, heat waves, droughts and hurricanes. While these events are a natural part of our atmospheric system, they can significantly impact our lives and the environment that we live in. Over the years, society has developed various adaptions to these extremes. There has been a large decrease in fatalities in hurricane deaths, for example, as weather forecasts have improved and coastal evacuations have become very effective. Our climate, however, is changing, and these changes are putting society increasingly at risk.
Our climate is warming, and consequently heat waves are happening more frequently and increasing in duration. Therefore, an increasing number of people are suffering from heat illness, especially those who spend much time outdoors. Because the warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, the incidence of heavy rainfall and flooding is also increasing. The flooding risk is especially increasing in areas that are rapidly urbanizing. The increase in impervious area – e.g. more roads and building structures, cause the rain water to flow more quickly into streams, which in turn flood more rapidly.
The warming climate is also increasing sea surface temperatures, and this provides more energy for hurricanes to strengthen. Consequently, a greater proportion of hurricanes that develop are expected to be stronger, putting the entire Carolinas region at a greater risk for damaging winds, flood-producing rainfall, and higher storm surges. Coastal areas are especially vulnerable as the sea level continues to rise. Finally, the warming temperatures are causing soils to dry out more quickly, and this is increasing the incidence of drought. Drought vulnerability is especially increasing in the urbanizing areas of Carolinas, as the demand for water resources skyrockets.