Over 50 inches of rain fell on the fourth largest city in the United States, flooding neighborhood after neighborhood. 50 inches of rain is hard to comprehend, for comparison, it translates to nine trillion gallons of water or 15 days of water flowing over Niagara Falls or filling the Houston Astrodome 3,200 times. What factors contributed to the catastrophic Houston Flood?
A 1000 Year Flood!
This is the third 500 year flood to hit the city since 2015 and Hurricane Harvey may well be considered a 1000 year flood. According to the National Weather Service a 500-year flood actually means that there is a 1 in 500 chance of occurring in any given year. (photo – NY Times)
What are the reasons for this string of very heavy storm/flood events that have been inundating Houston?
It’s hard to link any specific storm to climate change, however for over a decade, climate experts have been warning that global warming is creating conditions that allow storms to become more powerful and possibly more frequent.
“Warmer air can contain more water vapor than cooler air,” as stated in the U.S. Government’s 2014 Climate Assessment. “Global analyses show that the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere has in fact increased due to human-caused warming. This extra moisture is available to storm systems, resulting in heavier rainfalls.”
This chart shows prevalence of “heavy precipitation events.” (chart – National Climate Assessment)
Here are the Eye-Popping facts!
Harvey grew from a tropical depression into a Category 4 hurricane in less than 60 hours. Last week the average surface temperatures of the Gulf of Mexico in the path of Hurricane Harvey measured 86 degrees, between 2.7 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Making these waters some of the hottest ocean surface anywhere in the world. (photo – NOAA)
Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research told the Atlantic. “It may have been a strong storm, and it may have caused a lot of problems anyway—but [human-caused climate change] amplifies the damage considerably.”
The World Meteorological Organization concurs, “Climate change means that when we do have an event like Harvey, the rainfall amounts are likely to be higher than they would have been otherwise,” Clare Nullis, told a United Nations briefing in Geneva.
Katrina, Sandy and now Harvey!
It has been just 12 years since Hurricane Katrina the country’s costliest natural disaster, hit the Gulf Coast just a bit further east at New Orleans causing 1800 fatalities.
It has been five years since Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the Northeastern United States, becoming the second-costliest hurricane in Untied States history, causing $75 billion in damage and killing 233 people.
Both, of these historic storms are now being dwarfed by Harvey and the catastrophic Houston flood. It appears that the loss of life will not reach the levels of the previous hurricanes, however damages will surely surpass Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. (photo – Business Insider)
Massive Monsoon Flooding across South Asia
As torrential rains poured down on Houston, historic monsoon rains inundated a broad arc across northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh, causing landslides, destroying roads and the power grid and submerging farmland. Tens of millions have been forced from their homes, over 1200 have been killed and nearly 2 million children have been shut out of school.
The International Red Cross says that this is the fourth significant flood event this year and in Bangladesh, where nearly 1/3 of the country is now under water, more than 7.4 million people have been affected and nearly 700,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed. (photo – punit paranijpe Getty Images)
The Cost of Climate Change Denial!
It seems obvious that something very serious has been happening to our climate and any research and monitoring that can prepare us for similar events in the future is vital. However, the very organizations that are tasked with supplying that vital information are being severely compromised by the actions of the Trump Administration and climate denial politicians. Why has Donald trump disbanded the Climate Advisory Board? (photo – EcoWatch)
Read more about the actions that have been taken that make us less safe and the United States Less Great Again, see: Hurricane Harvey Is a Horrible Reminder of the Cost We Pay for Climate Denial.
By Bob Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
See these Relevant Blue Ocean Articles:
How To Get More Ocean-Hearted Intel Delivered To Your Inbox!
We believe ocean lovers can change the world. If you care about the health of the ocean and want to do something about it, then connect with the Blue Ocean tribe: Our growing community of ocean change-makers is turning ocean lovers into ocean leaders. It starts with you. Join us!