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Research suggests that changing climate trends are responsible for increasingly volatile weather patterns – particularly flooding. While sorting out influences from natural cycles and human-induced changes is an area of ongoing study, the reality is federal, local and state governments, along with private enterprise, must be aware of the increased risk of flooding. Integrated, real-time information is invaluable to these agencies when creating emergency preparedness plans.
The earth’s climate can be influenced by both natural and human factors. Natural causes of climate variability, such as the seasonal El Niño/La Niña ocean cycles, can influence the atmospheric circulation patterns, creating wetter/drier and warmer/colder patterns when the prevailing jet stream winds shift. Another seasonal influence is the North Atlantic Oscillation. This upper-level circulation pattern in the polar latitudes can produce abnormally warm or cold periods over large parts of North America. Longer-term influences occur with ocean temperature patterns, volcanoes and the sun.
Humans can also change the climate, through deforestation, agriculture and urbanization. For instance, replacing a forest with a city or bare soil raises the temperature of the land due to increased heat absorption and/or retention. Agriculture tends to cool an area, especially when irrigated. Deforestation removes natural biological storage units of carbon dioxide. Tiling of farm fields adds additional run-off into streams and rivers, especially during more intense rain events.