How can we implement solutions to reduce the effects of extreme weather events resulting from climate change?

Awards

goa-citation

Other Key Questions to be Addressed:

WHY?
Why does Climate Change cause extreme weather events?

HOW?     
How do these weather events (heavy rainstorms, thunderstorms, etc.) affect the environment and ecosystems of my community in central Connecticut, USA?

WHAT?   
What solutions can be implemented to reduce the impact of these extreme weather events on our environments?

Hello! I’m Eli. Thank you for visiting my webpage!

Climate Change and Weather Patterns:

The focus of my research for this project is on extreme storms like rainstorms and thunderstorms because they are the specific events that cause the most disruption to the lake ecosystem in my community. How these extreme weather events affect a lake ecosystem will be discussed later, but first: how does climate change influence extreme weather?

Three Weather-types Amplified by Climate Change (Climate Signals)
Three Weather-types Amplified by Climate Change (Climate Signals)

Overview of Extreme Weather:

Over the years in central Connecticut, people in my neighborhood and I have noticed that weather events, especially rainstorms, have become less frequent but more powerful. This observation is consistent with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) definition of heavy precipitation, stating, “Heavy precipitation does not necessarily mean the total amount of precipitation at a location has increased—just that precipitation is occurring in more intense events. However, changes in the intensity of precipitation, when combined with changes in the interval between precipitation events, can also lead to changes in overall precipitation totals” (Climate Change Indicators: Heavy Precipitation). As seen in the graph below, US precipitation totals have constantly increased since the mid-1970s. This time period lines up with when Greenhouse Gasses began to have a major effect on climate change.

"Extreme One-Day Precipitation Events in the Contiguous 48 States, 1910–2015" (Climate Change Indicators: Heavy Precipitation)
“Extreme One-Day Precipitation Events in the Contiguous 48 States, 1910–2015” (Climate Change Indicators: Heavy Precipitation)

The Science of Climate Change and Extreme Weather:

Climate Change is caused by the over-accumulation of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), ozone (O3), nitrous oxides (NOx), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and even water (H2O). These greenhouse gasses trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere (similar to how a greenhouse regulates temperature). Greenhouse gasses are crucial to the survival of life on Earth because they provide a stable temperature; however, humans have caused the over-accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, leading to excessive warming. It is this excessive warming of both the oceans and atmosphere that causes the extreme weather events that we are concerned about.

  1. Warmer Air:
    Warmer air can hold more moisture. This is why there are more humid days in the summer when the weather is warmer- there is more water vapor stored in the air. Because warmer air can hold more moisture, more water accumulates in the air before a storm occurs, making the storms more intense are powerful but less frequent.
  2. Warming Oceans:
    Warmer oceans allow water to evaporate more easily, forming more intense rainstorms and larger hurricanes. Coupled with the warmed atmosphere which holds this increased evaporated water, less frequent but more intense storms are now the norm in most areas of the world.

Affect on my Community’s Environment:

Now seen around the world, these extreme weather events amplified by Climate Change impact everybody’s way of life. More intense hurricanes in the South-east USA and Caribbean islands have devastated people’s livelihoods and destroyed homes; monsoons in Southeast Asia have caused extreme flooding and displacement (Yasir). Both of these examples are extreme versions of the ways these extreme weather events affect people’s lives, but more minor impacts of events (on local and regional levels) are also relevant to our responses to Climate Change. 

Over the years, rainfall in my community of central Connecticut has become less frequent, yet more powerful due to the warming oceans and atmosphere (Climate Change Indicators: Heavy Precipitation). The powerful rainstorms have two major effects on the lake ecosystem in my neighborhood: algal blooms, and a shallower lake. Both of these broad impacts of extreme rain then go on to affect other aspects of the ecosystem and community.

Algal Bloom
Algal Bloom

Algal Blooms and Depleted Oxygen:

Extreme rainstorms have the ability to wash loose soil, construction material, and other particles into the storm drain and lake at a higher rate than rainstorms of regular intensities and frequencies. These particles of soil, rock, concrete and other materials add extra nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients to the soil that are essential to algal growth. Therefore, due to more extreme weather events, more nutrients are washed into the lake, causing more intense algal blooms.

These algal blooms do two major things: block sunlight from reaching the bottom of the lake preventing plant growth, and deplete oxygen levels. In my neighborhood’s lake, the only issue is the depleted oxygen levels because there are minimal aquatic plants. 

Dead fish in algal bloom
Dead fish in algal bloom

The algae only live for a short period of time, and when they die, they sink to the bottom of the lake and decompose. This decomposition occurs aerobically (using oxygen), which depletes the dissolved oxygen levels in the lake overall. Because there is less dissolved oxygen in the lake, aquatic life like fish die. The fish begin to rot and smell, which is not appealing to the residents and visitors to the neighborhood.

The dead algae at the bottom of the lake also gradually layer and make the lake shallower, which is another issue caused by these extreme weather events.

Silt Making the Lake Shallower:

Woodridge lake
My neighborhood lake

Besides the algal blooms and impacts that come with them, the runoff from these extreme storms (and decomposing algae) constantly adds layers of sediment to the bottom of the lake, slowly making it shallower. In my neighborhood’s lake specifically, this is an issue because our lake is quite shallow, to begin with. The addition of sediment to the lake creates an issue where recreation like kayaking, swimming, and other activities might not be possible in the future due to the lake’s depth. The lake is a special calm haven or secluded oasis in my town, so it would be sad to see it turn into a swamp as it becomes shallower.  

A Widespread Issue:

This issue, that extreme weather events caused by climate change cause algal blooms and harm the local environment, is not specific to my community. I use my community as an example because it is a place that I know well, and where I see the effects of the issue I explained above daily. I am sure that you have noticed increasingly extreme weather events in your community– try to think of the effects of these weather events on your community’s ecosystem.

My Response and Solutions:

My solutions to the issue of the effects of extreme weather on my community’s ecosystem are to educate and to organize.

Educate:
To educate the members of my community, I created an informational pamphlet and video (which I will send to the members of my community) explaining why our ecosystem is negatively impacted by climate change’s extreme weather events and steps that they can take to reduce their own impact on our ecosystem and climate change.

Informational pamphlet: page 1
Informational pamphlet: page 2
“Love your Lake, Preserve your Pond” informational video: 2:34 min

Organize:

One of the main problems associated with these extreme weather events is that they wash excess silt and soil into the storm drains in my neighborhood. Not only does this excess silt wash into the lake through the storm drains, making the lake gradually shallower, but the excess silt also causes the storm drains to clog. 

My plan is to create an “adopt-a-drain.” In this system, the residents of a group of homes that surround a storm drain would be in charge of checking if the storm drain near their houses is clogged. When people go on walks, runs, or do other activities outside, it would be simple to check on the storm drains. If the drain is clogged, they will notify the community association so that the town can be contacted to clean out the drain. Through this program, less silt will be washed into the lake due to extreme weather events reducing the algal blooms and reducing the rate at which the lake becomes shallower.

Conclusion:

Climate change is changing our planet in many ways, and extreme weather is only one of them. I chose to use extreme weather as the basis for this presentation because it is an effect of climate change that I can see in my neighborhood today. It is admittedly very difficult to have a connection to something that feels so distant, and that is often the case for Climate Change. So, I think that for society to begin and make changes to help with Climate Change people need to find connections to this issue in their community. Extreme weather events affect my community, but in your community, another effect of Climate Change like fires or flooding might be doing more damage. If people have a connection to an issue in their own life, they will probably be more likely to act to solve the issue. 

How Does All of This Apply to You and Your Community?

In the comments below, please think about and reply using the following prompts:

  1. What is an effect of Climate Change that you see in your community?
  2. What changes can you make to have a better impact on your local environment, keeping in mind the effect of Climate Change you see in your area?
  3. In my pamphlet and video, I gave some examples of things you can do to reduce your impact on Climate Change. Do you do any of these already? Which new one(s) could you implement? What others can you think of that I did not include?

Bibliography:

Click here for the bibliography of this webpage

3 Comments

3 comments

  1. Hi Eli! I am so proud of you for completing this project! One of the things that makes this project so relatable is that it is based on your neighborhood, where you currently live. I believe that working on something that has a direct impact makes it more tangible and sparks a fire to make a change sooner rather than later. Congratulations on this beginning and I hope that it becmos something larger with time. I also want to congratulate you on receiving the Citation Award!

  2. Thank you, Mrs. Cantu! I agree that basing a project or idea on a personal experience makes it much more relatable. Thank you for your insight!

  3. Hi Elias! I found your project very interesting. In my community the effects of climate change are seen through the changing of lake ecosystems. A common solution (not to climate change but in general for protecting the lakes) is limiting the usage of salt to melt ice and instead using sand or even downtown there is a person that uses pickle brine. My family already doesn’t use fertilizers on our lawn but I like your idea of shifting from a monoculture to a diverse native plant ecosystem.

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