THE PART OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE CATASTROPHIC FLOODING OF PARTS OF TEXAS

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29 august 2017

[4C note: Thie article from the Washington Post is one of the few mainstream media discussions to bring in the simultaneous - and more disastrous - floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh (see our posting of August 25). While we are not permitted to quote more than a small part of the Post article, I don't think the publisher would object to our including the following fragment in this note:

"The extent of the calamity also illustrates a more widespread global threat. Experts have warned for some time now about the perils facing Houston. But for every Houston or New Orleans, there are far more acute dangers facing teeming cities like Mumbai and Dhaka.

"As is always the case, it’s the poor who face the greatest brunt of the calamity. In Houston, many of those trapped amid rising floodwaters did not have the means or ability to evacuate. And, again, it’s far worse elsewhere: In South Asia over the weekend, surging flood waters that followed monsoon rains killed more than 1,200 people, many of whom were rural farmers cut off from rescue teams. A recent study by the Asian Development Bank found that some 130 million people in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh could be at risk of being displaced by the end of the century as a result of climate change."
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Hurricane Harvey and the inevitable question of climate change


By Ishaan Tharoor, The Washington Post, August 29, 2017

*****

Climate change may not have “caused” Hurricane Harvey, but it seems likely that warming temperatures — the consequence of man-made greenhouse gases trapping heat in the atmosphere — exacerbated the storm conditions.

My colleague Chris Mooney outlined a number of ways in which this happens: Warmer temperatures in the ocean created an increase in atmospheric moisture, leading to the massive rainfall currently hitting southeastern Texas; rising sea levels contributed to a stronger storm surge that flooded Houston; a warmer climate makes storms more intense before they make landfall.

Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann also pointed to the influence of human-caused climate change on the storm’s unusual movement. Unlike most hurricanes, Harvey stalled near the coast instead of moving inland, meaning Houston was pounded by continuous downpours. Mann blamed that phenomenon on “weak prevailing winds, which are failing to steer the storm off to sea” — a consequence predicted by climate-change models.

According to climate scientists, such extreme weather events — the proverbial “once-in-a-century” hurricane — will become only more common as the planet warms.

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