A Dire Situation is Happening at Cemeteries Due to Climate Change

By: Carissa | Last updated: Nov 02, 2023

Climate change is creating problems for both the living and the deceased. The significant shift in weather patterns has been a longtime concern for people all over the world, but a new sense of unease has been unleashed in Alabama.

A cemetery in the town of Brighton has experienced the effects of climate change first hand, resulting in the catastrophic flooding of graves and headstones. While families of those laid to rest in the cemetery just want peace for their late loved ones, unruly weather conditions have been anything but cooperative.

Climate Change Is Causing Trouble at Cemeteries

As scientists across the globe tirelessly study how rising temperatures can have long-term effects on the weather, some believe that climate change is making weather events more severe.


Source: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

This seems to be the case in Brighton, Alabama, where intense rain has wreaked havoc on a local cemetery. The scene is bleak at Brighton Memorial Gardens as grave markers and final resting places of the deceased have been continuously disrupted.


Flooding Have Plagued Gravesites for More Than 3 Decades

Thousands of gravesites have reportedly been affected by flooding, erosion, and storm surges over the last 30 years.


Source: Wikimedia Commons

Large amounts of rain have submerged graves and headstones, creating an unsettling scene at cemeteries. Floods have caused headstones to wash away and slopes to erode in otherwise scenic cemeteries. Graveyards across the world have essentially turned into swamps, leaving families of the fallen in various states of disbelief and dismay.

Graves Have Been Flooded Beyond Repair

Sherene Johnson, who has ten family members buried at Brighton Memorial Gardens in Alabama, has been dealing with the traumatic destruction of her loved one’s graves due to excessive rainfall.


Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The ‘predominantly African American cemetery’ has been flooded in the past but nothing nearly as bad as it has been today. Johnson, a city councilwoman, revealed that the flooding has submerged the graves of her parents, siblings, and children. The unfortunate circumstances are sad, leaving few options to spare the graves from being engulfed by water.

Families of the Deceased Are Left Feeling ‘Traumatized’

As unrelenting weather conditions disturb the tranquility of the cemetery, strong winds and an abundance of rain have forcefully ripped heavy headstones and caskets from their burial spots.


Source: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Laying the deceased to rest is meant to be a point of comfort and closure for living relatives. Now that the gravesites have been disturbed and destroyed, families are left feeling helpless and heartbroken over their inability to intervene.

Conditions Have Become Abysmal

Leslee Keys, a historic preservation consultant in St. Augustine, Florida, is no stranger to turbulent weather and extreme temperature conditions – but she insists that things are worse now than ever before.

Source: Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images

“Wild storms and sea level rise are threatening more so than in the past,” she said. As warming temperatures create the perfect storm for ‘extreme’ weather, the problem of gravesite flooding continues to grow.


Extreme Weather Conditions Are Appearing More Frequently

“Swollen streams, wildfires and a litany of natural disasters” have all been intensified by the changing climate.

Source: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Orrin Pilkey, an author and emeritus geology professor at Duke University, offered his opinion on the increasingly concerning climate change conundrum. “We had erosion before global climate change, but now it’s happening much more rapidly, and shorelines are eroding almost universally because of sea level rise,” said Pilkey. “The magnitude and frequency is a heck of a lot more.”


Family Members Desperately Try to Clear Away Damage Caused by Destruction

Alabama’s cemeteries hold the history and lost lives of people who walked the Earth as far back as hundreds of years ago.

Source: Matty Cardy/Getty Images

Ursel Forbes, whose grandparents have been laid to rest in Oaklawn Memorial Cemetery in Mobile County, recently visited the burial ground to clean up his family plot. “There are beautiful stories under all this,” he said. “What you can see is kept up by families and volunteers. So much of the rest is hidden or probably long gone.”


As Weather Intensifies, Cemeteries Continue to Face Ruin

Alabama’s cemetery flooding may be devastating, but they are not the only location to experience such obliteration. At least 21 states and 15 countries have reported climate-related weather disasters over the past 30 years.

Source: Pool/Getty Images

Coffins have been exhumed from the ground and have been washed away. Skeletal remains have been exposed to create a harrowing scene. Allen Gontz, a professor of applied geology at Clarkson University, spoke about how the weather poses a problem for burial grounds. “Trying to keep things buried that you want to stay buried is often a really big challenge,” he said.


Relocating and Reburying Can Be Expensive

Millions of dollars have already been spent by state and local governments trying to preserve the sanctity of cemeteries across the country. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and cemetery associations have made serious efforts to build seawalls and relocate remains.

Source: Bernd Lauter/Getty Images

Mike Trinkley of the Chicora Foundation, an organization that specializes in ‘archaeological research and cemetery preservation,’ said, “It is absolutely a problem.” He further added that the cost of relocating and reburying the deceased can be costly, with prices ranging from $8,000 to $10,000 per grave.


Caskets Have Been Washing Up Everywhere

Judy Blair Berry of Mississippi posted a troublesome photo to Facebook of a casket sticking out of an embankment above the Pearl River in Copiah County.

Source: Judy Blair Berry/Facebook

As she and her husband were boating along the water, she noticed the casket and several pieces of gravestones scattered on the shore. She hoped that by sharing the upsetting picture she could raise awareness for the concerning conditions that Catching Cemetery has been faced with due to climate change. Mississippi has been experiencing record numbers of rainfall since the 1990s. “No telling how many graves have already been lost to the river,”


Climate Change Continues to Threaten Years of Cultural History

As climate change continues on its quest to obliterate the final resting places of the deceased, many are fearful that the unpredictable weather could wash away centuries of history.

Source: Rob Stothard/Getty Images

Andrea Roberts, associate professor at the University of Virginia, explained that cemeteries are a crucial part of the cultural history of Black communities in particular. “Cemeteries are often the only way we’re able to establish a historic Black settlement ever existed,” she said.