The biblical floods in Colorado this week were both extensive and devastating. They were also expected.
“We’d gone over 14 years without a big flood. Based on our climate history, I was very concerned about that,” says Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist at Colorado State University, who is also responsible for tracking the state’s flood history. “We usually get a very big flood every decade.”
While the flooding was far greater than Colorado's once in a decade events, it was in line with a 50-year flood, or less, University of Colorado geography professor John Pitlick told a room full of students and academics last week, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In 2004, the University of Colorado’s Natural Hazards Center listed a flash flood in Boulder as one of six “disasters waiting to happen" in the U.S., reports The Christian Science Monitor, and emergency officials had been preparing for such an event since 1976, when a flash flood killed 144 people.
"The damage was devastating," says Doesken. "... But it was remarkably small considering how much of the city is really close to the river."
This wasn’t the only act of God forewarned by man. Four years before Hurricane Katrina drowned New Orleans, Scientific American declared the following: “A major hurricane could swamp New Orleans under 20 feet of water, killing thousands.” Hurricane researcher Ivor van Heerden also cautioned for years that the levees were ready to blow.
Which begs the question, what natural disasters are researchers predicting right now? And are we heeding their warnings?
A cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami will strike the Northwest
Deep off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, the earth is churning. This region, known as the Cascadia subduction zone, is responsible for the occasional earthquake that ripples through Washington and Oregon, and also blew the lid off Mount St. Helens in 1980. But the last time this fault line really ruptured was the evening of Jan. 26, 1700, when European cartographers left this corner of this earth blank. There are hints of this event in the legends of Native Americans who settled around the area, and the Japanese noted the wreckage left by the tsunami that ripped across the Pacific in its wake.