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Climate Change

Published on February 28th, 2018 | by James Ayre

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Hurricane Harvey Rains 15% Higher Owing To Anthropogenic Climate Change, Study Finds

February 28th, 2018 by  


The rains of Hurricane Harvey were 15% higher than they would have otherwise been due to the compounding effects of anthropogenic climate change, a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters has revealed.

To put that another way, storms as destructive as Hurricane Harvey are now 3 times more likely to occur than before recent times due to climate forcing triggered by humans.

Previous work had linked the storm’s intensity to anthropogenic climate change, but the new research adds to those earlier links by quantifying the proportion of rain that can be attributed directly to the changing climate.

As a reminder here, over 50 inches (127 cm) of rain fell in some parts of Texas over just a very short period of time in connection with the hurricane in question.

“This analysis makes clear that extreme rainfall events along the Gulf Coast are on the rise,” the researchers involved in the new work have concluded.

Reuters provides more:

“It said the rainfall was 15% higher than it would have been without climate change, and such historic rains are 3 times more common along the Gulf of Mexico coast than they were a century ago…The strongest hurricane to hit the state in more than 50 years, it was blamed for more than 80 deaths. Damage in Houston, the country’s fourth biggest city, has been estimated at $198 billion.

“The likelihood of another storm on the same scale is about once in 100 years, compared with once in 160 years without global warming, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a senior researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and the study’s lead author, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“To measure the impact of climate change, the researchers used a technique known as event attribution, which has become more effective due to advances in computing power. The process involves a network of computers comparing weather scenarios with and without climate change, using an array of models with historic climate data.”

So what’s the takeaway from the research? To expect more or the same, and also to expect worse and worse as time goes by.

On a related note, of course, extreme rainfall events are the least of Houston’s worries, as sea level rise stands to make much of the region (which was previously wetlands) practically uninhabitable before too many more decades.


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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.



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