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Climate Change May Mean A Bleak Future For Today’s St. Louis Kids

September 23, 2019 Environment, Featured Comments Off on Climate Change May Mean A Bleak Future For Today’s St. Louis Kids

On Friday some in St. Louis took part in the global climate strike:

Hundreds of people took to the streets of downtown St. Louis to protest the failure of politicians and special interests to act despite mounting evidence of climate change’s accelerating and potentially devastating effect on life on the planet.    

The St. Louis demonstration, which started at City Hall, was part of the “Global Climate Strike,” a coordinated effort that drew hundreds of thousands to the streets of major cities worldwide. (Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis Climate Strike demonstrators heading east on Market. Photo by ill Horton Lenhard.

Globally, the day was large.

Millions of young people raised their voices at protests around the world Friday in a massive display meant to demand urgent action on climate change. Scores of students missed school to take part, some joined by teachers and parents.

Some of the first rallies began in Australia, and then spread from Pacific islands to India and Turkey and across Europe, as students kicked off what organizers were calling a Global Climate Strike.

In the U.S., where more than 800 marches were planned, thousands of young people are absent from classrooms so they can carry signs, march and shout slogans calling for a new approach to energy and emissions. (NPR)

This was to call attention to the climate crisis and the UN’s Climate Action Summit, concluding today.

In July I shared my pessimism  — we won’t take action on climate change in time. It’s already happening, but as the 21st century continues conditions will only get worse.

The following is from a recent article looking at how climate change will impact Houston, San Francisco, and St.  Louis over the decades remaining in this century. Below are the paragraphs specific only to St. Louis, Missouri, and Southern Illinois:

2020

This decade, St. Louis is expected to be more than two degrees Fahrenheit warmerthan it was, on average, during the latter half of the 20th century. While locals have endured more sweltering summer days, they have felt the change the most during the cold months. Missouri winters are warming fasterthan summers, springs, and falls.

Warmer air holds more water, which can lead to more severe rainfall. In recent years, rainstorms have pummeled the Midwest and led to widespread flooding across the region. In 2019 in St. Louis, rivers reached near-historic levels, and floodwaters inundated the areaaround the city’s iconic Gateway Arch.

This storm wasn’t a blip on the radar, but rather a sign of what’s to come. As the planet heats up, St. Louis can expect more extreme rainstorms— and more orders to evacuate low-lying neighborhoods.

2030

By 2030, temperatures are expected to have warmed around three degrees Fahrenheit in St. Louis. The kind of rainstorm that currently strikes the Midwest around once every five years will hit around once every three yearsthis decade.

“We’ve seen these record-breaking, devastating floods in the Midwest,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University. “It’s not like they’ve never had floods before, but the floods are just getting a lot worse and a lot more frequent.”

This could mean trouble for local infrastructure. Rivers swell after heavy rains, and the rush of water can weaken bridgesby carrying away sediment from around their foundations. This could be a big problem in Missouri, which is home to hundreds of agingbridges, many of which have been deemed deficient. Climate change could mean even more heavy repair costsfor taxpayers.

2040

In 2040, St. Louis is expected to be four degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was at the end of the last century. While that may sound like a small number, it means big problems for the city. A small uptick in the average temperature could lead to milder winters, stifling summers and changing rainfall.

St. Louis will tend to see wetter springs and drier summers. That means the region will withstand heavier downpours, but it will also endure long stretches without a drop of rain. Despite the growing peril of major flooding, extended dry spells and rising temperatures will dry out the land. Drought will set in in Missouri, endangering farms.

And just remember — it will never be this cool again.

2050

St. Louis is expected to have heated up by more than five degrees Fahrenheit on average by the middle of the century. Hot weather will dry out soil. Past 2050, the Central Plains, including much of Missouri, can look forward to decades-long drought.

This drought will be especially disastrous for Missouri farmers. Growers will have to take more water out of underground aquifers to feed their crops, drawing down a limited supply of groundwater, often at great cost. This, in turn, could drive up the price of food.

2060

St. Louis is expected hit a six-degrees-Fahrenheit increase in its average temperature this decade. While this might be bad news for humans, it’s good for many insects, who love warm weather. Rising temperatures will bring disease-carrying mosquitoesto St. Louis’s doorstep. Missourians will have to be more vigilant about their health as the bugs could spread tropical viruses like Zika, dengue, and yellow feveraround the warming Midwest.

Climate change will also bring more deer ticks to St. Louis. Because warmer air can hold more water, as temperatures rise, so does humidity — and deer ticks thrive in humid weather. While ticks are little seen in Missouri today, later this century they will fan out across the state, potentially spreading Lyme disease. Those afflicted will endure fever, headache, and fatigue. They may see their joints swell or feel their face droop.

2070

In 2070, St. Louis is projected to be more than seven degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it was at the end of the last century. Before the decade is through, the city is expected to see eight degrees Fahrenheit of warming. Rising temperatures will have utterly transformed the weather in Missouri, making it virtually unrecognizable to current residents. The city will see around 20 fewer daysof frost each year than it does today, as well as around 20 extra dayswith temperatures over 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat will be felt most acutely in neighborhoods short on trees and parks.

Outside the city, severe heat will cripple the growth of corn and soybeans at nearby farms. So will drought, which experts say will be worse than at any time in living memory. The state will endure more consecutive days without rain. When it does rain, however, it will pour. Warmer temperatures will produce more extreme rainfall.

2080

St. Louis is expected to be nearly nine degrees Fahrenheit warmer by 2080. The temperature will have changed so drastically that St. Louis no longer feels like the same city.

Around 2080, St. Louis will start to feellike Prosper, Texas, does today. This new St. Louis will be hotter and drier. Summer weather will go from balmy to sweltering, and the city will see much less rain during the warm months.

It’s not just that St. Louis will feel more like Prosper. It might start to look like it too. Animals that currently live around Prosper could head northward as the climate changes, searching for a new home that feels like their old one. At the same time, the shrubs and grasslands that stretch across north Texas could start to edge their way toward Missouri.

2090

St. Louis is expected to have warmed by almost 10 degrees Fahrenheit, a transformational change in the climate of the city. Rising temperatures could provoke a spike in violent crime— when people are hot, research shows, they tend to feel more aggressive.

By the end of the century, St. Louis will endure around 80 days per year where the heat index is above 100 degrees — compared to just 11 days at the end of the 20th century, according to Kristy Dahl, a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“It’s really striking because historically those off-the-charts conditions have only occurred in the Sonoran desert region of the U.S., the California-Arizona border,” Dahl said.

In addition to extreme heat, the city will also endure severe drought, punctuated by the occasional supercharged rainstorm. The kind of downpour that currently strikes the Midwest around once every five years will hit around once every year or two. The most severe storms — the kind that currently show up once every 20 years — now arrive once every six or seven years.

Heavy rainfall will lead to flooding, and floodwaters will mix with raw sewage, helping to spread bacteria. Rains will also swamp homes and businesses, offering a place for mold to grow.

2100

By the end of this century, St. Louis is expected to have warmed by roughly 11 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter will scarcely look like winter. Summers will have gone from hot to unbearable.

During the hottest months, it will be so scorching that it will be dangerous to go outside for much of the day. People will depend more on air conditioners to stay cool, leading to bigger electric bills. Elderly people, particularly those who can’t afford to run an air conditioner, will face the risk of heat stroke and death.

The intense heat will take an immense toll on the local economy. Farms in Missouri and southern Illinois could see yields cut in half, ruining livelihoods.

In St. Louis itself, experts project that heat will stifle productivity by making it too hot to work. This could help cut the city’s economic output by around 8%.

No wonder so many teens are vowing to not have children until action is taken to slow/stop climate change. I’m glad to see them in the streets trying to get the attention of us adults. Sadly, too many of us are worried about profits, 401ks, etc to actually do anything.

I won’t live to see the worst of it, but some of them will.

— Steve Patterson

 

Urban Flooding May Be The New Normal In St. Louis Region

September 9, 2019 Environment, Featured, STL Region Comments Off on Urban Flooding May Be The New Normal In St. Louis Region

The St. Louis region is no stranger to flooding — from the slowly rising Mississippi River (think 1993) and from flash floods overwhelming creeks, rivers, and man-made drainage.

On the afternoon of Aug. 19, 1915, remnants of a hurricane reached St. Louis from Texas. Heavy and steady rainfall fell through the next day, dumping a total of 7.4 inches across the area. (6.85 inches on Aug. 20 remains the one-day record in St. Louis.)

The River Des Peres rushed from its banks, swamping long stretches of Delmar and Lindell boulevards, Manchester Avenue and other streets. People were stranded on the Wabash Railroad platform at Delmar (now a Metrolink station) by a seven-foot-deep current 200 yards wide. Firefighters reached them with ladders and used boats to rescue residents of Maple and Hodiamont avenues. (Post-Dispatch)

South on DeBaliviere Avenue from Wabash Railroad toward the Jefferson Memorial Building. River Des Peres flood of August 1915. [photo page 2, top]. Kinsey Collection. Photograph, 1915. River Des Peres Drainage Problem. [Report by J.W. Horner, 1916]. Kinsey Collection. Missouri Historical Society Photographs and Prints Collections. SS 0740. NS 15188. Scan © 2007, Missouri Historical Society.
Their solution was a massive project to bury much of the River Des Peres and create a wide channel for the rest as it runs out to the Mississippi River.

More than a century later flooding is still a major problem in the region.

First, let’s talk about some definitions:

Flash Floods

These quick-rising floods are most often caused by heavy rains over a short period (usually six hours or less). Flash floods can happen anywhere, although low-lying areas with poor drainage are particularly vulnerable. Also caused by dam or levee breaks or the sudden overflow of water due to a debris or ice jam, flash floods combine the innate hazards of a flood with speed and unpredictability and are responsible for the greatest number of flood-related fatalities.

Urban Flooding

Flash floods, coastal floods, and river floods can occur in urban areas, but the term “urban flooding” refers specifically to flooding that occurs when rainfall—not an overflowing body of water—overwhelms the local stormwater drainage capacity of a densely populated area. This happens when rainfall runoff is channeled from roads, parking lots, buildings, and other impervious surfaces to storm drains and sewers that cannot handle the volume. (Natural Resources Defense Council)

The term “urban flooding” better describes what we’ve recently experienced in the region.

From July 22, 2019:

The ensuing floods inundated streets and businesses in Eureka, displaced residents from a University City apartment complex, caused sewage overflows and prompted a spate of rescues around the area for motorists stranded in high water.

In Eureka — no stranger to flood damage from the adjacent Meramec River in recent years — the intense, early-morning rain flooded streets of the Old Town business district. Police said they had no reports of injuries.

The flooding happened between about 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Monday, police said. The National Weather Service said local reports indicated Eureka received about 5.5 inches of rain overnight. (Post-Dispatch)

From August 14, 2019:

Flash floods that closed roads and delayed the start of the school year in Granite City are being blamed on the perfect storm: torrential rain, an outdated and inadequate storm drainage system, and political finger pointing.

A thunderstorm dropped between 5 and 7 inches of rain on the central and northern areas of Granite City Sunday night and into Monday morning, flooding the city and turning its roads into waterways. The southern part of the city received roughly 4 inches of rain.

“There was a deluge of water in a short time and the area couldn’t drain fast enough,” Madison County Chairman Kurt Prenzler said. “It was storm on top of storm.” (Belleville New Democrat)

From August 21, 2019:

Flash flooding causing water rescues and major problems for drivers. Video shows water covering 141 at Interstate 44 in Valley Park.

Police have blocked off 141 to keep cars from driving through the high water.

Most of the rescues dispatched for first responders were in the Valley Park and Fenton area. (Fox2)

Route 141 in Valley Park has routinely flooded, but one of the objectives of MoDot’s $25 million 141 at I-44 project, completed last year, was to reduce flash flooding — the contractor’s proposal included “Improved drainage to reduce the possibility of flash flooding.”

From August 26, 2019:

Flash flooding left drivers stranded and closed roads and highways across the St. Louis area Monday morning.

A flash flood warning was in effect during the morning commute for most of St. Louis County, the city and areas west. The warning was allowed to expire at 10:15 a.m. Some areas reported getting rain at a rate of 1-3 inches per hour. (KSDK)

Last week KMOV reported on a couple rebuilding their lives/home after the August flooding in Granite City. The couple didn’t have flood insurance — I’ll let them explain why they didn’t.

Michelle and Michael are working hard to put their home back together. They don’t have flood insurance because they said they are not in a flood zone and were told they didn’t need it.

“This has never happened in 25 years. Never,” Michelle explained. (KMOV)

It had never happened in 25 years and their home was not in a flood zone! Unfortunately, this is likely the new normal — non-flood zone areas will become overwhelmed by concentrated rains. Homes that had never flooded before will be flooded.

We’ve simply paved over too much land, our drainage systems can’t keep up when inundated with high volumes of rain. Do we invest in beefed up drains throughout the region? Do we begin to remove impervious materials to allow water to drain naturally?  Somewhere in between?

— Steve Patterson

 

Using St. Louis’ Recycling Dumpsters

September 6, 2019 Environment, Featured Comments Off on Using St. Louis’ Recycling Dumpsters

I lived in a condo in Downtown West for over 11 years, our condo association had private trash & recycling.  It was very convenient.

Two recycling dumpsters sit side by side on what is apparently considered a sidewalk. Most people going to/from ZOOM Gas walk in O’Fallon Street.

When we moved to the Columbus Square neighborhood in late December 2018 we had to begin using city recycling dumpsters. As our apartment complex isn’t served by city alleys, we must take our recycling to a designated spot.

For us, that spot is on O’Fallon Street just west of 10th Street. My first thought was how inconvenient it was going to be. Turns out I was wrong…assuming you have a car.

We knew our apartment doesn’t have room for the big paper leaf bags we’d used to collect recycling in our loft, so we anticipated using some of our reusable shopping bags.

We used yard/leaf bags for recycling at our loft. This was taken out back about once a month.
Our primary recycling bag is one we got free at the opening of the Gtreenleaf grocery store. Click image for the city’s recycling website.

The drop off location is actually quite convenient. My husband often takes 1-2 shopping bags of recycling on his way to work. On the weekends we’ll both stop by. I’ve even dropped off the recycling by myself.

If you live in the city, you likely have recycling dumpsters in your alley. I have no experience with alley recycling. My guess is non-recyclable items end up in them. Some neighborhoods with alleys also have recycling locations like we do, presumably to save money by not having trucks drive down every alley.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Neighborhood Street Lights Back On 24/7

July 15, 2019 Environment, Featured Comments Off on Neighborhood Street Lights Back On 24/7

In April I posted how My Neighborhood’s Street Lights Are Always On, notifying the Citizens Service Bureau (CSB) via Twitter.  It was Service ID 1206799.

I posted a follow up a month later once CSB clued me in on the issue — Neighborhood Streetlights Still On Because Electrical Station Is Blocked.  I figured it shouldn’t the long for Streets to move the barrier so Lighting could activate the dusk to down timer(s).

Looking west on Cole from 7th, the lights all the way down at least to 9th are on

In the meantime I looked back through old Google Streetview images and found the lights were as early as August 2018, but not a year earlier. So all we know is the lights have been on 24/7 since sometime after August 2017.

Finally on the afternoon of June 25 I noticed the street lights were off.  I was so thrilled I shared on Facebook.

?In April I reported to the city how the streetlights in the Columbus Square neighborhood were on 24/7. They’d been on…

Posted by UrbanReview ST LOUIS on Tuesday, June 25, 2019

And yes, they came on at night just like they’re supposed to. I was very glad I’d help correct a highly wasteful situation!

However, my joy only lasted a week and a half. On July 6th the lights were back on 24/7 again.

A street light on our street was back on the afternoon of July 6, 2019

What I still don’t know is the location of the subterranean switches for the entire neighborhood. I also don’t know what kind of timer controls street lights for an entire neighborhood.

I just want the city to replace the burned out lights and then get them working correctly for more than a week and a half.

— Steve Patterson

 

The St. Louis Region Should Begin Prepping for Climate Change

July 8, 2019 Environment, Featured Comments Off on The St. Louis Region Should Begin Prepping for Climate Change

June was Earth’s hottest month on record. Mexico had feet of hail (ice) fall on a 90° day. Europe baked with temperatures well above normal. It’s also very hot…in AlaskaIndia, the second most populist nation, is running out of drinking water.  Some are wondering if parts of India are becoming too hot for humans. Just yesterday Mississippi closed all gulf beaches for swimming due to a toxic blue-green algae bloom.

The worst effects of climate change are still decades away, but we’re starting to get a glimpse. While I hope the US gets on board with the rest of the world to slow/stop it before it’s irreversible I’m not optimistic that’ll happen. 

The St. Louis riverfront the afternoon of May 5, 2019

So my mind has turned to what should cities, specifically St. Louis, do to mitigate the negative effects. First, we have to determine what we might expect in the future. 

The Midwest has gotten warmer, with average annual temperatures increasing over the last several decades. Between 1900 and 2010, the average air temperature increased by more than 1.5°F. The rate of increase in temperature has accelerated in recent decades, particularly nighttime and winter temperatures. Projected change in summer temperatures under different warming scenarios. Summers in Illinois and Michigan might feel like current summers in Texas or Oklahoma by the end of the century.

Precipitation is greatest in the eastern part of the Midwest and less towards the west. Heavy downpours are already common, but climate change is expected to intensify storms and lead to greater precipitation across the entire region during this century. Annual precipitation has already risen by as much as 20% in some areas. Projections of future precipitation indicate that heavy downpours are likely to occur primarily in winter and spring months while summers will become drier, especially in the southern portion of the region. (EPA)

Warmer year around, with wetter & dryer periods. So?  From the same source:

In the Midwest, climate change is expected to negatively affect human health in a variety of ways and exacerbate existing health challenges. Major heat waves have been occurring more frequently across this region for many decades, resulting in increased deaths during these extreme events. Heat stress is likely to increase in the future as a result of continued rises in temperatures and humidity in this region, resulting in more heat-related deaths and illnesses. Air quality is already poor in parts of the Midwest and is projected to worsen with rising temperatures. Increased exposure to allergens caused by the lengthening of the pollen season is also expected to negatively impact human health.

Warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation could increase the risk of exposure to diseases carried by insects and rodents. Drinking water quality may also decline as a result of heavier rainfall events.

More on drinking water:

Precipitation in the Midwest is expected become more intense, leading to increased flood damage, strained drainage systems, and reduced drinking water availability. Midwestern cities with impervious infrastructure may result in surface runoff entering combined storm and sewage drainage systems. When these systems are overloaded during intense rainstorms, raw sewage overflow can result, impacting clean water availability and human health.

More heavy downpours may increase the likelihood of property damage, travel delays, and disruption in services. Sediment runoff and erosion may clog reservoirs and reduce storage capacity. Local governments may invest in new infrastructure to prevent contamination and protect water resources.

Expected rises summer drought frequency and evaporation rates could reduce water levels in lakes and wetlands, as well as in important commercial waterways. Disruptions in barge traffic along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers have already occurred. 

Some reports say “end of the century” while others talk about 2050. But it’s happening faster than we previously thought it would.

Again, today’s post isn’t about what we need to do to stop or even slow climate change. Today’s post is my thinking on how we prepare our region for the inevitable. We’re going to feel more like Tulsa initially then more like Dallas. Hot summers with less rain, more humidity — drought. Increased rain in the winter — more flooding.

This year the flooding approached the historic 1993 levels, but has lasted longer. Levees held back water for longer periods, weakening them. It’ll take millions to help them recover. Future flooding may do the same — not exceed 1993 in terms of total height but in length of time. This negatively impacts the local economy as many businesses are closed, employees out of work. So what do we do? We abandon occupying flood-prone lands. Let nature have it back. Build our economy elsewhere.

This is, of course, easier said than done. People have lives, places have history.  Towns like Alton & Grafton aren’t suddenly going to stop flooding. It’ll become more frequent and each will be  longer. In South St. Louis we’ll see the Mississippi River back up into the River Des Peres again and again. St. Charles County shouldn’t keep building higher and higher levees to try to keep the Missouri River under control.

Increased summer heat & drought means we should be planting massive quantities of shade trees now to lower the urban heat island effect. Fruit trees too so people can harvest the fruit when food production is increasingly hampered by climate change. We need to reduce the amount of impervious surfaces and increase the use of rain gardens to collect runoff.

Rain gardens were included in the Tucker rebuild.

We can collect storm water in large cisterns to use for irrigation.  Uptown Circle in Normal IL is a great example:

The center of Normal’s Uptown Circle uses storm water as a design feature. 2012 photo

Sustainable stormwater management: capturing, storing, cleansing and recycling much of the stormwater in Uptown Normal, is one of the key elements of the project. Run-off is collected from several streets adjoining the Circle and is stored in a 75,000 gallon underground cistern. This cistern, which was recycled from a 60” diameter storm sewer line being abandoned as part of the associated infrastructure improvements, serves as a detention device for water providing relief to the community’s watershed. Water captured and retained in the cistern is then either used for irrigation of turf and plant material in the district or is introduced into the Circle where it begins a journey through a ‘living plaza’ creating a legible demonstration of sustainability in an urban environment. Signage explains the process and value to children and adults.

In the Circle, water collected in the cistern is pumped through a series of terraced filtration bogs where it is cleansed as it flows slowly around the circle through the plant material, passing over several weirs and through a scupper wall before falling into a collection pool. At this point, water is pumped into an underground reservoir, treated by a UV filter and then circulated through a shallow stream-like water feature. Park visitors have access to this highly engaging watercourse as it flows around the circumference of the circle, mirroring the flow of traffic beyond and providing an acoustic buffer to the sound of traffic. This feature also detains and encourages evaporation of water that would have otherwise become runoff as part of a storm event. This process also eases the heat island effect in this urban district. (Architonic)

Commercial properties, apartment complexes, and such will need large cisterns too. Single family homes will need small cisterns for watering shade trees and necessary vegetable gardens.

Older housing needs to be renovated to be far more energy efficient. Large McMansions in the suburbs will not age well, owners will downsize rather than invest the necessary sums to retrofit them. Large amounts of wall area exposed to the hot sun will make them hard to cool. Plant shade trees now. Municipalities will resist the desire to subdivide these excessively large structures into multiple units.  There was a time when stately mansions in the Central West End couldn’t be given away (ok, sold for cheap) — we’ll see that with 30-40 year old suburban McMansions.

New housing built should be multi-family but not like our apartment with 3 exterior walls and one shared wall. No, new housing should be like our former loft with 3 shared walls and one narrow exterior wall — a wall that’s often shaded. Of course, this new multi-family housing must including affordability — not just high-end central corridor units.

Auto window tinting is very common in Oklahoma & Texas, we’ll see more of that here — not for privacy but reducing heat gain cars. We’ve tinted our south-facing bedroom windows that get some sun at times of the day. Our 2nd bedroom’s windows have a well-placed shade tree.

There are probably a millions things more we can do collectively as a city/region over the next decade or so to help us handle the future. For those who think climate change is a hoax, just keep your head buried in the sand while the rest of us try to solve fast-approaching problems.

— Steve Patterson

 

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