The flooding in Missouri has reached levels rarely ever seen before in the area, but scientists and other experts are starting to make statements that suggest that the excess water in the area is not due to natural causes, but in fact the opposite: that it could all be down to the choices and decisions that we as humans are making.

Robert Criss, PhD, is a professor of Earth and Planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, and he has dedicated a huge amount of time into understanding exactly how we as a species have affected the natural weather patterns around us. He has also stated that “People want to blame the rain, but this is mostly us”, describing the Missouri flooding as ‘a manmade disaster’.

The Meramec and Mississippi rivers are the ones that have flooded giving the most damage to the surrounding areas, especially in late December – and experts have said that the three days of continuous rain that preceded it was not the actual source of the flooding. The Washington University has in fact released their own statement, arguing that the flooding is a direct consequence of the development projects that have sprung up all along the Meramec and its other tributaries, which have pushed the water levels up unnaturally. Their studies have shown them that the riparian borders around the rivers were completely destroyed by the developments, preventing any further rain from being absorbed by the rivers.

Things only got worse when Storm Goliath arrived at the end of December 2015, dropped up to ten inches of rain across the local area, and this was what, at first, seemed to create the flooding issues – but further analysis has proven that the rain in fact only increased the watershed by five percent. It was easy for most people to watch the storm come in, and then immediately blame the flooding that followed it on that storm, but the experts have revealed that the reality is a lot more complex than that.

“I think there was significant magnification of the flood levels on the Meramec by recent developments near the river,” Professor Robert Criss said. “Sure it rained a lot, but what happened here cannot be explained by the rainfall alone.” Visiting scholar Mingming Luo of the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan, China, has been watching the water levels for a while to better understand the way that the natural water systems and being affected by human interactions, and has been considering the last few months in the region as though it were a large experiment.

The developments along the Meramec river that Professor Robert Criss has been examining include a three mile long levee that has been created literally parallel and alongside the river itself, filling up the floodplain that was naturally alongside the river which provided a natural release when the river become too flooded. The development has greatly interfered with the natural way that the river tried to relieve any pressure that it was put under, which now means that it only takes a small amount of water for there to be catastrophic effects.

It’s easy, in a way, for people to try to blame the natural weather systems that encounter our local areas, because it then takes away any of the pressure that could be put on us to change as a species. After all, it is only through the developments and the changes in our natural environments that we enact and force on the world around us that we start to realise just how much damage we can create, almost without realising it.

“The heavy rainfall was probably related to El Niño, and possibly intensified by global warming. But new records were set only in areas that have undergone intense development, which is known to magnify floods and shorten their timescales,” continued Professor Robert Criss. His understanding of exactly what happened has started to change the way that we understand developing the local area for progress, when in actuality it can reduce our ability to progress because we will then be in danger of flooding and other natural disasters.

One terrible and catastrophic example of this was the New Year’s flood which followed that large storm that arrived at the end of December 2015. Over seven thousand buildings in the St. Louis area were damaged, requiring repair, forcing people out of their homes, and forcing businesses to close down for repairs. Not one but two interstate highways were closed for almost a week, preventing essential travel that was required in order to repair much of the damage that the local community had suffered. Valley Park and everyone who lived within and around it were forced to be evacuated them, leaving them homeless at just the sort of time when you want to feel safe and secure – and perhaps most dangerous of all, not one but two Metropolitan Sewer District plants were so flooded that they were forced to dump the sewage straight into the water.

More than twenty people lost their lives during this time of flooding and natural disaster, and it created several hundred million dollars worth of repairs. The debris that it left has been estimated at millions of tons, and will require a huge cleanup process in order to return the local area back to normal – and it all can be followed back to a simple development beside a river.

Flooding in Missouri may not be natural disaster
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