By David Jacobson, Temblor
In what has been the worst flooding in two decades, 72 people have been killed by flooding in Peru, prompting state of emergencies to be declared in over 800 towns and cities across the country. Localized El Nino conditions, which have resulted in 10 times the normal amount of rain over the course of the rainy season, have caused flash floods to devastate parts of the capital city of Lima.
El Nino refers to the warming of the ocean surface in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. This increase in temperature leads to more evaporation, and can bring about heavy rain. However, in Peru, the warming is so significant that climatologists are referring to this phenomenon as a “coastal El Nino,” and warn that another, more traditional El Nino may be forming behind the current one. The rainfall from this event has led to water pouring out of the mountains and overwhelming towns. Additionally, for an arid city like Lima, which will often only see two inches for the entire rainy season, the effects have been significant.
Because of the flooding, over 100,000 people have been left homeless, and the government has deployed the armed forces to help maintain law and order. Additionally, there are shortages of both food and water, leading to price increases, compounding the problem. Furthermore, though the rain has stopped for now, because the unstable weather will continue, Peru is unlikely to get relief for long.
Based on data from the World Resources Institute, the probability of flooding around Lima is significant in any given year. In the map shown below, it can be seen that the probability of flooding exceeds 20%. This flood probability appears isolated to the rivers which run through Lima. However, this year’s flooding is more significant and brings back memories to 1998, when flooding hit the country and 374 people died.
World Resources Institute