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The climate crisis playing out in real-time via Hurricane Ida in the Philadelphia region.
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The climate crisis playing out in real-time via Hurricane Ida in the Philadelphia region.

Record rainfall, flooding and tornados hit the Delaware Valley Region. Here’s what we can say – and cannot say- was due to climate change.

Less than one month after the critical IPCC climate report was released, essentially declaring a climate emergency, mother nature reminded us how the climate crisis is happening now.

Hurricane Ida hit the Philadelphia region last evening. As phones buzzed with severe weather alerts, several tornadoes struck the region including South Jersey.

Today, city buildings, Free Library, and Parks & Rec buildings are all closed.

Did climate change cause Hurricane Ida?

Climate change has and will continue to make the Philadelphia region hotter, wetter, and snowier.

Although scientists cannot attribute any singular event to climate change the climate is making the conditions for extreme weather more likely and worse. “Because the climate is warming, it plays a role or has an influence in the day-to-day weather,” said Sean Sublette, Meteorologist of Climate Central.

Hurricane Ida occurred at a time when human-caused climate change is making storms like these more intense. For example, Ida jumped from a Category 1 to 4 storm in under 24 hours, with its rapid strength being fueled by climate change.

Why is there more rain during storms like these?

According to Sublette, the fossil fuels we’ve pumped into the atmosphere have supercharged the water cycle. “That means evaporation happening faster, so it’s getting water into the atmosphere faster, and more of it. Not only that has put more water in your storms, then it comes down as heavier precipitation.”

With the Schuylkill River approaching record flood levels and was observed at 15.97 feet at 6 AM. It is approaching a record set on October 5, 1869(Not a typo) and is expected to exceed twenty feet.

Can we expect more of these storms in the future?

According to Sublette, not every tropical storm system will bring flooding and extreme precipitation like Ida. However, they’ll occur more frequently. “The kind of things that used to happen once or twice in a lifetime might happen four or five times in a lifetime now.”

What about tornados?

Tornadoes have been confirmed by meteorologist Cecily Tynan from last night’s storm in Mullica Hill, New Jersey; Fort Washington, PA; Edgewater Park, NJ & Oxford, PA.

Tornados are such a “small” weather event compared to hurricanes, scientists don’t have much data yet.

Sublette does not believe tornados will become more frequent in the Delaware Valley, but if they do occur, there can be a higher quantity. “On any given day, there’s probably less chance of a tornado happening, but on that day, when it does happen, there are probably going to be more dropping out.”

So, what can we do?

“It’s not just one person that has the answer and off we go.”

Sean Sublette, Climate Central

According to Sublette, living more sustainably is one step to limit the effects of climate change. But we also have to burn less carbon, and we need collaboration.

And it’s not just one person. “One person doesn’t fix it by themselves. If everyone does a little thing, and if 4 million people do a little thing, it adds up. But we also need top-down solutions, we need to engineer our way out of this, we need to mitigate, and we need to innovate. All of these things need to happen. It’s multidisciplinary,” explained Sublette.

Scenes from the Climate Crisis, courtesy of Ida

Views of major flooding in the Philadelphia region

The Schuylkill River and the area around it (I.e. the Schuylkill River Trail) are underwater:

Another video of the Schuylkill and Vine Street Expressway:

https://fb.watch/7MHbZO_wxI/

Vine Street Expressway/ I-676 is currently a canal:

I-676 after hurricane ida 2021
Photo: Roberto Mansfield

The Green Building offices are a front-row seat to climate change, located at 2401 Walnut Street.

Cars are underwater at 23rd & Sansom.

Sunflower Philly is under water. They’ve used stormwater managment, so reported that the park is being cleared from the water.

The Schuylkill River flooding Manayunk

Major rain in Phoenixville caused flooding in backyards.

SEPTA interruptions, including the Manayunk/Norristown line currently being suspended.

Lincoln Drive has also transformed into a waterway:

Parks and Recreation urge residents to avoid all trail use while they survey tree damage.

Cover photo: Roberto Mansfield


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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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