Climate Change: Part 1

A historic five inches of snow dropped onto Charleston within the first few days of the 2018, the first snowfall to hit the city since 1989. The snow, although an entertaining spectacle for locals, raises legitimate concerns surrounding South Carolina’s changing climate and its long term effects of Charleston and the College of Charleston. Here are some key facts about climate change: 

What is climate change?

  • Climate includes the usual weather patterns of a region, including very broad trends that differ from weather, and the specific conditions of one specific time and place
  • Changes in this climate can have a major impact on the environment of that region, even if its a slight decrease in rainfall.
  • Globally, climate change can cause droughts in previously wet environments, flooding in dry climates, longer and more intensive hurricane seasons.
  • The climate is constantly changing in natural ways as the earth moves closer to the sun or a volcano erupts, but human action also impacts these changes, most significantly since the Industrial Revolution.
  • The Earth has a natural layer of Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that trap heat from the sun and warm the planet to hospitable levels, much like a plant greenhouse.
  • The use of coal, oil and natural gas fill the atmosphere with carbon dioxide emissions that pronounce this effect, slowly warming the planet as heat is trapped in the atmosphere for longer periods of time.
  • This warming can have effects on ocean size, the ice caps, hurricanes, wildfires and floods altering the climate in irreversible ways.

Why is climate change important for Charleston?

  • Proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and development on marsh land already causes Charleston streets to flood with mildly heavy rain and king tides.
  • This area of the coast is lowlaying and riddled with creeks and rivers that exacerbates the problem. Flooding has been a major issue in Charleston since its founding, but increasing rainfall and development only make the situation more risky.
  • As the warming globe expands seawater volume and melts ice caps, water levels rise every year, posing a serious risk to and already endangered Charleston.
  • The Nattu (NOAA) uses Charleston as a test case for predicting the effects of rising sea levels and climate change.
  • Their risk zone map details the parts of Charleston that are predicted to be underwater, allowing users to toggle through a variety of scenarios and factors.
  • NOAA predicts the entire peninsula to be submerged by 2200 with a five meter rise in sea level, even with the implementation of extensive carbon cuts.

What other threats does climate change pose?

  • Changes in climate alter weather patterns over time, including increased heat waves, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and flooding.
  • The global temperature increases by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit every year since 1880, and in South Carolina, where the summers are already exceedingly warm, rising temperature pose the threat of heat-related illness.
  • The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) track the number of heat-related deaths and illnesses in South Carolina every year and project that increasing temperatures can lead to increased heat stroke, dehydration, and respiratory problems including asthma.
  • As the sea waters change, beach erosion is a problem local lowcountry beach towns are struggling to combat.
  • Warmer sea water feeds the energy of tropical storms in the Atlantic, allowing for hurricanes to grow in size and intensity each year
  • This intensified hurricane season endangers all citizens along the east coast, but the effects on South Carolina can be seen in the hurricane evacuations the College underwent every fall the past few years.
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