Is Louisiana experiencing climate change? - FOX29 Lake Charles

Is Louisiana experiencing climate change?

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Source: Max McGee Source: Max McGee

To understand weather patterns today, take a look back at March and August 2016 – when flooding ravaged areas along the Sabine River and Baton Rouge area.

A storm carrying large amounts of moisture from the Gulf hovered over Southern Louisiana bringing days of devastating rain in August - up to 2- feet in two days that caused record flooding in many communities. Thirteen people died and 55,000 homes damaged.

Just last month, there were seven tornadoes in one day in Louisiana. The biggest - an EF3 near downtown New Orleans - was called "unusual" by meteorologist Roger Erickson from the National Weather Service in Lake Charles.

"Normally down in Louisiana, we have tornadoes that are wrapped in rain," said Erickson. "In other words, they're real hard to see visibly from any distance. You're in the middle of rain, and all of a sudden, BAM! You get hit by a tornado."

It's this kind of weather that calls for scientists to investigate the signs of climate change. For years, scientists have said global warming is a prime suspect. Warming atmosphere, increased evaporation and warmer air holds more moisture. That doesn't mean global warming is the final answer. But it does beg the question- is Louisiana in the midst of a climate change?

"Year 2016 was the warmest year on record, said Dr. Barry Keim, state climatologist, "2016 just barely edged out the year 2015, which was the previous record holder. 2015 broke the record for 2014. It's rare that you break the record three consecutive years in a row. In fact, I don't know if we've ever done that before, so this is certainly uncharted territory as far as I'm concerned,"

In recent years, scientists have said it was impossible to link a single event to climate change, but there is no doubt it is, in fact, changing.

"The climate is having a huge impact within this particular region. In addition to that, we also have the big tornado outbreak which took place back in February last year. We had 13 tornadoes that touched down in Louisiana. That's the biggest outbreak we've ever had on record in the state," Keim said.

And climate change has been contributing to the melting of Antarctic glaciers - something that directly impacts Louisiana.

"As we warm temperatures and that ice starts to melt and runs off into the ocean, it's going to raise sea level. Over the last 100 years, the sea level has increased anywhere from 6-8 inches, and in Louisiana, to compound that, while the sea level is rising, the land is sinking," he said.

Keim said the possibility of Louisianans being forced to relocate farther north because of that is greater now than ever.

"Moving north of the I-10 corridor seems like that could certainly happen in our future, if we continue the path that we're on right now. It's going to get very interesting to try to continue to protect land across south Louisiana and maintain the wetlands ecosystem that we currently have," he said.

To learn more about the vital signs of the planet and climate change, click here.

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