It's been a horrible week in New York. The reason? Hurricane Ida. This huge storm moved up along the east coast of the United States and dumped massive amounts of rain on America's biggest city.
The drains and sewers that normally shift rain out of our cities and out of sight couldn't cope. There was so much rain falling so quickly that it broke historic records. There was nowhere for all the water to go. It filled streets and underground railway tunnels. It washed into people's homes. Thousands of people had to be rescued.
Global warming, cities flooding
What's behind all this? Well, of course, it often rains in New York. And at this time of year there are often hurricanes, which cause particularly heavy rain. But scientists say that the hurricane season is getting more and more dangerous because of global warming cause by all the oil and gas we use to power machines. Those same changes in climate also caused big floods in Europe this summer, as well as heatwaves in many countries.
The good news is that, not only can we all do things to hold back global warming, but people are also finding solutions to help cities cope better with heavy rain. Have you heard of "sponge cities"?
Soaking it up
You know how a sponge in your kitchen soaks up water? Well, that's the idea for stopping floods in cities that has been spreading around the world. Think about the countryside. You can get floods in fields. But mostly the rain in the countryside just soaks into the earth. The problem with cities is that water doesn't soak into concrete.
In China, cities have grown incredibly fast and huge areas have been covered in concrete and tarmac for homes and factories and schools and roads. That means that when it rains hard, like in New York, the water can't just sink into the earth. But in 30 "sponge cities", China has created open spaces where rain can collect and drain away safely into the soil. People put soil and plants on rooftops and they've invented road surfaces which let rain pass through and down into the earth.
In France, the capital city Paris is working on a project that will mean 40% of its land is not covered over but can let plants grow and rainwater to soak away. We wrote about that in WoW! News in January. And in Holland, we heard about how Rotterdam is making space for the water. The mayor there says that cities need to stop fighting against Nature. "We need to learn to live with water," he said. Wise man!