In The Discovery of Global Warming, Spencer Weart tracks how the public opinion and science regarding the discovery of global climate change developed hand-in-hand. People started noticing changes in climate at the same time that scientists were discovering it. Living on the Delaware River in Lambertville, NJ, flooding is a part of our annual weather. There are of course bigger flood years than others and some years where there is only minimal flooding. My family and I belong to a traditional haul-seining fishery in town, where we became involved through my mom’s research. Even though my family lives on a hill, making us lucky compared to those downtown, being connected to the fishery, which lies on an island in the river, means we are constantly aware of flooding. Growing up here included flood days, hurricane flooding, municipal sewage failure, and free ice cream when water ruined the ice cream shop’s electricity. Being involved in a 150+ year old fishery, I hear about record flooding past my measly 19 years. The “flood of ‘55” is especially legendary but lately we’ve gotten more and more that I can remember. Notice even the flood of 1955 occurred over fifty years after industrialization, meaning not even it is free from climate change speculation. We’ve also had dry years where there is barely enough water to make a worthwhile haul and my friend in 5th grade could walk to the middle of the river with the water level below his chest. Although single-time events like floods and droughts cannot be attributed to global warming in particular, it seems as though they have been occurring more frequently. The increased frequency could be a result of changed precipitation patterns due to the global climate changing.
Sometimes it may seem as though events occur more frequently when one experiences them in their own life time so I decided to research the frequency of flooding in my area. Although clear records could only be found starting at 1955, a history of the Washington Crossing Bridge near my home was taken down by floods in 1841 and 1903. Although the bridge was newly made of steel, to strengthen it, the 1955 flood damaged the bridge enough to warrant a 3-month closure, indicating comparable levels to the 1841 and 1903 floods (Samuel, 2008). This gives a time period of about 50 years, give-or-take, between major floods. Compare this to my lifetime (1995-present) where notable floods occurred in 1996, 2004, 2005, and 2006. It should be noted that in researched history, no other floods are deemed notable between the 1955 and 1996 floods (Erminio 2006 and U.S. Army Corps). Although it is still possible that the three floods in a row could be an anomaly, they still raised hoopla in my hometown, along with Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, that climate can be threatening and global climate change must be taken seriously.