Exploring America (4/4) – Nashville, TN

My most recent travel was a road trip to Nashville when I had family come to visit, and probably one of my favourite places I’ve visited this semester.


(Image courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons) 

Nashville, like every other city in the United States, is being directly affected by climate change. One of the biggest problems for Nashville is the risk of flooding, from a warmer climate leading to more precipitation, and more extreme weather events such as flash flooding and heavy downpours.

Warmer temperatures can also mean increased evaporation, less water in the soil and therefore less run off into rivers. Furthermore, the exacerbation of drought and flooding cycles could disrupt water provision in the city as well as surrounding agriculture, forests and aquatic systems.

A severe flood in Nashville in 2010 was a one in 1000 year event, which occurred due to high levels of the Cumberland River, which crested at 51 feet in Downtown, and saw 13 inches of rain fall over a 36-hour period.  More recently, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey earlier this year, one particular neighbourhood in Northern Nashville received 9 inches of rain in one day, forcing some residents to evacuate their homes.

Aerial PDA in Tennessee

(Image courtesy of Wikimedia via Creative Commons)

Since the 2010 flood, Nashville has been working to mitigate or prevent further flooding, and since Harvey affected the city, there is even more call for action and the mayor has now begun a push for a flood wall system to protect downtown and surrounding areas which are adored by tourists and locals alike.

The main concern with flooding in Nashville is the threat to infrastructure, including homes and tourist hotspots, with disruption to tourism becoming perhaps the biggest threat in terms of economic consequences of climate change. Nashville is becoming increasingly more popular with tourists and as a result, infrastructure is growing rapidly.

Most of the people who live in the urban areas of the city weren’t there to witness the extent of the 2010 flooding and so perhaps don’t take the flood threat as seriously as they should. Environmentalist Al Gore lives in Nashville and claims that not enough is known about how climate change is going to affect states like Tennessee, as most attention has been focused on coastal and western states.



(Images courtesy of Wikimedia via Creative Commons)

Increasing flood protection programs and the federal government buying homes in the floodplain, as well as requiring homes to be built at least four feet about the base flood elevation, are some measures which have been taken since the 2010 flood. The city has bought out 261 homes in total, demolishing them and turning the spaces into green spaces.

 The mayors $125 million flood wall system would involve a 2100 foot long wall protecting downtown as well as a pumping station which could release water back into the river, reducing pressure of the city’s stormwater infrastructure. The project has, however, been criticised by the Metro Council, as many council members were opposed to spending so much money to protect the downtown area, mainly to protect the tourist infrastructure, ignoring the homes and businesses of Nashville residents outside of downtown areas.
(Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) 
As well as flooding in downtown, climate change poses a threat to wildlife, birds and their habitat in suburban Nashville, for example in Rednor State Park, which we visited on our trip. Scientists suspect that migration patterns of songbirds and waterfowl may be disrupted by climate change causing temperature increases as well as drier conditions on their breeding grounds. Forest habitat may be altered in terms of its biomass and forest type, with high elevation streams in these systems becoming especially vulnerable.


Rednor State Park, Tennessee 

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