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Expand chart
Data: National Weather Service; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Weather and climate science experts are struggling to determine how their accurate warnings of potentially disastrous urban flooding, instigated by Hurricane Ida’s remnants and supercharged by climate change, still resulted in so many deaths.

Why it matters: As climate change exacerbates extreme precipitation events such as this one, disconnects between forecasters and the public will need to be fixed in order to limit future deaths.

The big picture: A day before the first raindrops started to fall, the NOAA Weather Prediction Center forecast a rare “high” risk of flash flooding in the area that was ultimately affected.

  • Two days before, they issued a "medium" risk outlook.
  • Forecasters made explicit mentions of the potential for extreme rainfall rates, and flood watches were issued two days in advance.
  • They called the potential flash flooding "life-threatening."

Yes, but: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul made it clear Thursday that she was unaware of key forecast details.

  • “We did not know that between 8:50 and 9:50 p.m. last night, that the heavens would literally open up and bring Niagara Falls level water to the streets of New York,” she said Thursday.

What to watch: There have long been tensions between meteorologists and politicians, but as climate change-related extreme events worsen, there’s more urgency behind efforts to lower the temperature in these relationships.

How it works: Flash flooding is one threat that is growing in front of our eyes, as temperatures increase and the air holds more moisture, adding energy to storms.

Context: Gary Szatkowski, who was a top federal forecaster in New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy, told Axios he was surprised governors and mayors did not take more proactive steps.

  • He said based on this case, the onus is on the politicians to improve. "It was a great forecast," he said.
  • “Political leaders — governors, mayors, need to talk less, listen more and make better decisions, that's the solution right now. I’d like to see them do that and do that routinely,” Szatkowski, now retired from government, said.

What they’re saying: Samantha Montano, who teaches emergency management at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, said the onslaught of disasters is taking a mental toll on meteorologists, many of whom live in affected communities.

  • Claims that they failed to provide adequate warning “feel very much like a personal attack,” Montano said.

The bottom line: Studies show climate change is having an increasingly noticeable and dangerous influence on our weather, leading to unprecedented events.

  • Devising effective ways to warn of historic occurrences, especially as the word "unprecedented" loses some of its meaning, is an increasingly urgent task.

Go deeper

Study: More infectious diseases inevitable due to climate change

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Climate change is creating ideal conditions for infectious diseases to spread more quickly, according to The Lancet Countdown's annual climate report out Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's just one of the increasingly urgent threats to human health emerging from global climate change.

The big picture: Climate studies show that extreme weather events — such as more powerful hurricanes, heavier rainstorms, larger wildfires and hotter and longer-lasting heat waves — are worsening worldwide due to the burning of fossil fuels for energy, Axios' Andrew Freeman reports.

  • These events have had serious impacts on the health of entire regions and the vulnerable causing preventable deaths, food and water insecurity and the spread of infectious diseases.

Report: Climate change is an "emerging threat" to U.S. economic stability

A firefighter watches an airplane drop fire retardant ahead of the Alisal fire near Goleta, California, on Oct. 13. Photo: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A top U.S. financial coordinating organization took several steps on Thursday to manage the growing risks that climate change poses to the U.S. financial system.

Why it matters: While the Biden administration has been taking an all-of-government approach to climate change, like factoring climate risk into planning at the Treasury Department, today's moves by the politically independent Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) carry significant weight.

What to know about COP26 in Glasgow

A banner advertising the upcoming COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, U.K., on Oct. 20. Photo: Ian Forsyth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

More than 100 world leaders — as well as thousands of diplomats and business leaders — are set to converge on Glasgow, Scotland, starting Oct. 31 to try to set new emissions reduction goals at the COP26 climate summit.

Why it matters: It's an annual meeting, but this year's assembly is viewed as crucial, since climate scientists warn that time is running out to secure necessary greenhouse gas emissions cuts to avoid potentially devastating climate change impacts during the next several decades.