The Environmental Hazards of Flooding

El Niño is expected to take part of the country by storm this winter. The system — characterized by above-normal sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean — touches down in North America every two to five years during the winter months. The impact varies according to where the warm water temperatures are centered, but this El Niño is expected to be one of the strongest in the past 50 years.

California and the eastern part of the United States will likely be most affected by this system. Abundant rainfall is anticipated for “The Golden State” and above average precipitation — it is unknown whether it will fall in rain or snow form — for the northeast and southeast parts of the country. Drought-stricken California may experience flooding and mudslides from receiving more rain than in can handle.

The Environmental Hazards of Flooding

Want to learn more about the impact floods have on the environment? Find out what could happen if precipitation falls faster than it can safely be absorbed by the land:

  • Existing river channels may be uprooted, causing new channels to form and existing ones to dry out.
  • Flooding can result in massive amounts of erosion that can cause bridges and buildings to collapse.
  • Water speeds are typically higher during floods, meaning streams have the power to carry larger particles, such as bridges, cars and houses. Plus, they may concentrate pollutants such as garbage and toxic chemicals that can lead to health hazards.
  • Farmland flooding typically results in the loss of crops and sediment deposited may devastate farmland. Livestock, other animals and wildlife may also be carried away and drown.
  • Sewage plants may become flooded, which can lead to the contamination of drinking water.

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