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Hurricane Harvey was not caused by climate change

Hurricane Harvey was not caused by climate change, but the situation  has been made much worse because of a changing climate.

The extremely warm Gulf waters have contributed to the intensity of Harvey. The amount of rainfall is off the charts. The images from Houston are surreal.  This is what climate change looks like.

The damage is unimaginable. There are power outages. Over 500,00 have been reported; 120,000 people are still without power.  And this is just the beginning.  More rain is on the way. And then? Receding floodwaters, and West Nile and dengue mosquitoes.

Much of Houston has been built on a flood plain.  The area floods regularly. People there  are not strangers to tropical storms or hurricanes, but this is different.

Weather changes, but the climate has changed. Weather events are more extreme and long-lasting. The "summer pattern" of  heat waves and wildfires in some areas and heavy rains and flooding in others is part of the pattern of a changed climate.  And, people are part of it.

Building on flood plains, reliance on fossil fuels and automobiles and taking for granted that most other people live that way is part of the scenario. It's not surprising that the most vulnerable people are also the most impacted by this kind of a disaster.

People trapped in flooded areas are told to go up to their roofs and await rescue there.  Maybe they  have children and pets, and maybe a phone, a bag of stuff. That's all they have, now.

But what we are also seeing amid the floodwaters are neighbors helping neighbors, strangers coming to the aid of  strangers.  Climate change is a human issue. We are seeing it here and now. And we are all affected.

How can you  help the victims of Hurricane Harvey? Find out more here.

 

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Comments

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  • The popular media have an AP report with this headline, but most of it says it was aggravated by it, so this may be a distinction without a difference. Back in March there were stories that Gulf of Mexico temperatures were the warmest on record. There are more recent reports that where Harvey spun up from Cat 1 to Cat 4, the water was 4 degrees above normal, and warmer water evaporates quicker. Then there was the question whether parked high pressure systems that left Harvey stationary were also normal.

    One right winger said about 15 years ago not to worry about global warning, because it would be blown off in hurricanes. Given Katrina and Harvey, it looks like it has been.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yes, Jack a poor choice of headline on my part. This is what climate change looks like.
    They knew about the flood risks in Houston and New Orleans, but they built on low-lying areas, which being less desirable (and prone to mosquitos) are where poor people moved. I wonder how many people who were displaced by Katrina moved to Houston area.

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    On the last, I don't know, but I suppose some.

    In the case of Katrina, clearly the poor (and Black) lived below sea level, and the only high ground (such as it was) was around Tulane U.In this case, I haven't been able to find any maps of the extent of the flooding, but several counties have been evacuated and downtown Houston is under threat. There are also stories that in the past 25 years most of the wetlands were wiped out.

    I remember there was a stink in Florida when there were rulings that some beachfront properties were not allowed to be rebuilt or rebuilt only on stilts. I wonder how that works for a whole metroplex.

  • In reply to jack:

    Yes, I think there are refugees from Katrina.
    In Houston, they have opened levees to save the downtown area, for now. Yes, the wetlands were built over.
    There are parts of New Orleans that still have damage from Katrina.
    How do we go about rebuilding? Maybe adapting to climate change is not enough.
    Thanks, Jack. Much to think abut.

  • BTW, looking at the NOAA map, and clicking on stations off Texas and comparing current water temperatures to the August average, it looks like Harvey cooled off the Gulf about 8 to 10 degrees (from Corpus Christi to Freeport).

  • Thank you for some of the more intelligent writing I've found on the subject of the storm. (We all seem to know which storm these days.)
    I remember that after Katrina, a European professor said that in Europe, there are many areas where ancient cities were abandoned and/or moved -- but the U.S. was too young to have any such places. He wondered about New Orleans; now I wonder about Houston, too.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    New Orleans still has inhabitants only because of levees and pumps. Whether they can hold out the next time, who knows?
    Part of the Houston story now coming out is that the reservoirs now being breached were dry lakes that were supposed to prevent flooding. Not when they get 40 inches of rain.
    I once watched a "documentary" on Korean TV about S. Korea being wiped out by a Katrina type storm in 2041. My father's reaction was that they would be nuked by then. We may soon find out.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    Thank you for reading. Yes, what will happen to the cities in the future...Miami, New York, Los Angeles...

  • I did not realize that so much of Houston was built on a flood plain. I learned much from your post. I feel for the people in that region and I guess the whole world. Thanks for your post!

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    Kathy, thank you so much for reading! Yes, I feel for the people, too. It's been 12 years since Hurricane Katrina. Maybe we have learned some things since then.

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