During a recent visit to Puerto Rico, I hiked in El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the National Forest System. Although the lush foliage, waterfalls and rivers were abundant, one essential element of the ecosystem was either sparse or totally missing: a tree canopy.
In fact, more than 70% of the roof of this beautiful rain forest was destroyed by Hurricane Maria two years ago. Hurricane Maria had winds of 155 miles per hour and was the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico during the past 85 years. Indications are it may take centuries for El Yunque National Forest’s tree canopy to return to its prior state.
Although there may be debate about the causes, global statistics confirm the increasing frequency of more extreme weather: intense tornado outbreaks, record-setting heat, catastrophic wildfires, heavy downpours, longer droughts and more destructive hurricanes. The U.S. experienced $306 billion in damage in 2017 as a result of natural causes, a record amount, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
These record weather events have lasting consequences on the built environment.