We get our fair share of grief for living here, but suddenly the frequent cold fronts and occasional tornadoes don't look quite so forbidding. A generous supply of cool, dry Canadian air inoculates us from the worst storms on Earth.
Harvey Marks the Most Extreme Rain Event in U.S. History. The Capital Weather Gang put Harvey into perspective: "The rain from Harvey is in a class of its own. The storm has unloaded over 50 inches of rain east of Houston, the greatest amount ever recorded in the Lower 48 states from a single storm. And it’s still raining. John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas state climatologist, said a rain gauge near Mont Belvieu at Cedar Bayou, about 40 miles east of Houston, had registered 51.9 inches of rain through late Tuesday afternoon. This total exceeds the previous record of 48 inches set during tropical cyclone Amelia in Medina, Texas in 1978..."
Harvey May Be Costliest Disaster in U.S. History. A $160 billion storm? At this point nothing would surprise me. Here's an excerpt from USA TODAY: "Hurricane Harvey could be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history with a potential price tag of $160 billion, according to a preliminary estimate from private weather firm AccuWeather. This is equal to the combined cost of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and represents a 0.8% economic hit to the gross national product, AccuWeather said. “Parts of Houston, the United States' fourth largest city, will be uninhabitable for weeks and possibly months due to water damage, mold, disease-ridden water and all that will follow this 1,000-year flood,” said AccuWeather president Joel Myers..."
Fields and housing subdivisions alike have been turned into lakes, the water creeping up to the roads and sometimes over them. Cars and SUVs lay swallowed in ditches and on roads and in driveways. Their half-visible shapes are less like vehicles than tombstones. The message they offer is clear: Turn back or meet doom. The roads everywhere are filled with other warnings -- people on foot, trudging through knee-high water in sandals and carrying their things in a plastic bag because it's the best and possibly final option they have. And in a region designed for the driver, there is so little meaningful driving to be done. There's another freeway on-ramp pooled in water too deep to ford. There's another side road swallowed by a creek that has become an ocean. You consult GPS or Google Maps for arcane alternate routes like a scholar teasing secrets from an ancient text, which may or may not be true..."
Photo credit: "Jason Hendry drives his daughter, Callie, out of their neighborhood on a flooded road in Lumberton, Texas, on Aug. 27, 2017." (Ryan Pelham / Associated Press)
The first responders are tired. One Harris County sheriff's deputy told me: “There are no days off during something like this. I’ve been working five days straight, sleeping in my truck. I’m wearing the same stuff I was five days ago. My family’s OK. My house is OK. But I haven’t been home. Tonight I’ll go to sleep in my truck at the station then I’ll wake up and do it over again.”Since Sunday, Houston has been effectively cut off from the outside world— with almost every road in and out blocked by flooding. Restaurants are mostly closed, gas pumps taped up. The city feels sealed off, and if floodwaters don’t recede and roads don’t open soon, what provisions it does have could run out..."
Photo credit: "Homes are surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey, in Humble, Texas on August 29, 2017." Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock.
Every time a bad storm hits Houston, Aaron Cohan watches the waters of the Buffalo Bayou rise. He lives on the 25th floor of a high-rise in the Memorial Heights neighborhood just west of downtown, with a prime view of the river snaking through a park below. But nothing beat the flood he woke to Sunday morning after Hurricane Harvey dumped 20 inches of rain in just 48 hours. The entire area transformed into a lake with only the treetops peeking above. “This is completely different,” Cohan says. “I’ve never seen anything like what’s happening right now...”
Photo credit: "Before-and-after view from a high rise in Memorial Heights in west Houston, Texas."
noticed chemical smells over Houston’s East End district, which borders Harris County’s industrial hub. These reports were not altogether surprising. Chemical plants, refineries and natural gas operations are known to release large quantities of chemicals into the atmosphere when they start up or shut down..."..On Sunday, the energy giant shut down operations at its petrochemical facility in Baytown, Texas — the second largest refinery in the U.S. The facility can produce up 560,000 barrels of oil per day, according to the Houston Chronicle. New Republic reported Monday that environmental advocates and residents
Image credit: "An ExxonMobil regulatory filing about an emissions event at its Baytown facility that released 12,000 pounds of hazardous vapors." Screenshot by NewsHour.
Chemical Facilities Face Danger During Harvey Shutdowns. The Houston Chronicle has more detail on the ongoing risk of chemical releases and contamination due to Harvey.
Moving Away From the Coasts Doesn't Mean You're Safe From Flooding. Some of the most intense rains from tropical systems can fall hundreds of miles inland, well away from the coastline. Here's an excerpt from The Washington Post: "...Climate change effects, such as sea level rise and potentially more extreme weather, are increasing the risk of flooding, hurricanes and storm surges in coastal areas. Some communities are considering moving coastal populations inland to protect them. However, our research shows that people should be very careful about moving inland. They can still face flood hazards if their property is in a high-risk flood zone. Flooding can happen wherever large rainstorms stall over an area, as we have seen in Boulder, Colo., in 2013; in Texas and Louisiana in 2016; and over Houston now. However, if communities take steps to reduce flood risk, they can mitigate the danger to people and property..."
Praedictix Briefing: Issued Thursday, August 31st, 2017
* Harvey continues to move to the northeast over the next couple days, spreading heavy rain as far north as parts of the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys through the end of the week. Rainfall amounts of 3-6” are likely, with isolated totals of 10” possible along the west side of the circulation from northern Mississippi to western Kentucky.
* While the rain has mostly ended across southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana, catastrophic flooding is ongoing and will continue through at least the end of the week due to 20-50” of rain from Harvey over the past week. Rivers will be slow to recede over the next several days.
Morning Radar. Harvey is continuing to move further inland, weakening in the process. As of 4 AM CT, the center of Tropical Depression Harvey was sitting 15 miles south of Monroe, LA, with maximum sustained winds of 30 mph. The system was moving north-northeast at 10 mph. It continues to bring heavy rain along with it, with over three inches falling in parts of Louisiana and eastern Texas over the past 24 hours.
Rainfall Totals Of 40-50"+. While the rain has been slowly tapering off across eastern Texas, totals of 40-50”+ over the past seven days continues to bring catastrophic flooding across the region. That threat of life-threatening flooding extends into parts of southern and western Louisiana as well, where some areas have picked up over 20” of rain from Harvey.
Numerous Road Closures/Flooded Roads. While road conditions are improving across the Houston area, there are still numerous roads impacted by flooding across parts of southeastern Texas and into southwestern Louisiana. (Images above: closed and flooded roads in Houston from Houston TranStar (left), closed and flooded roads across southeastern Texas from TXDOT (right).)
Houston TranStar is keeping a list of high water locations: http://traffic.
View the above map of road closures and flooded roads in Houston from Houston TranStar: https://traffic.
View an interactive map for the state of Texas showing road closures from TXDOT: https://drivetexas.org/
View an interactive map for the state of Louisiana showing road closures from the Louisiana DOTD: https://hb.511la.org/#
The city of Houston emergency information website at http://www.
Flood Alerts. Flash Flood Warnings continue to be in effect across parts of eastern Texas and western Louisiana due to the recent heavy rains. A Flash Flood Emergency was in effect through 8:30 AM CT for Jefferson, Tyler, Newton, Hardin, Orange, and Jasper counties in southeastern Texas due to the recent heavy rains the past few days. The good news for those counties is that the rain has tapered off for the most part, but life-threatening flooding continues. Flash Flood Watches now extend as far north as parts of southern Indiana and Ohio with the potential of 2-6”+ of rain as Harvey continues north and east.
Harvey Continues Northeast. Harvey will continue to move off to the northeast over the next couple days. This is expected to bring the center of the system into the western Tennessee Valley tomorrow and into the Ohio Valley Saturday before the system finally starts to dissipate.
Rainfall Forecast. Heavy rain will be the main threat over the next couple days from Harvey as the system moves toward the Ohio Valley. 3-6” of rain will be possible from northern Mississippi into parts of southern Ohio, with isolated 6-10” totals possible. The best chance of higher totals will be from northern Mississippi to southwest Kentucky. This could lead to some flash flooding across the region. Meanwhile, catastrophic flooding will continue across parts of Texas and Louisiana, but the heavy rain has ended for the majority of the region hardest hit by Harvey.
Historic River Flooding Continues. River and bayou flooding will continue to be an issue across Texas and Louisiana. Many areas have already reached major or historic flood stage. The water will be slow to recede as water from upstream waterways continue to flow into the main rivers. Some rivers in parts of southern Alabama and the Florida panhandle have also been reaching flood stage due to heavy rain.
Neches River At Beaumont. Due to over 40” of rain falling in the Beaumont, TX, area, the Neches River has already reached record flood stage. The river is expected to break the previous record by over five feet as we go into the weekend and it is expected to be slow to recede into next week.
Summary: While the rain has ended over most of southeastern Texas and is slowly ending in southwestern Louisiana, catastrophic flooding will continue through at least the end of the week. Harvey continues to move off to the northeast, spreading heavy rain with it into parts of the Ohio Valley through the end of the week before finally dissipating this weekend. Rainfall amounts along the path of Harvey of 3-6” are expected, with isolated totals to 10” possible. Due to the potential of heavy rain, Flash Flood Watches are in effect.
Meteorologist D.J. Kayser, Praedictix
Houston's Flooding Shows What Happens When You Ignore Science and Let Developers Run Rampant. Here's a clip from Quartz: "Since Houston, Texas was founded nearly two centuries ago, Houstonians have been treating its wetlands as stinky, mosquito-infested blots in need of drainage. Even after it became a widely accepted scientific fact that wetlands can soak up large amounts of flood water, the city continued to pave over them. The watershed of the White Oak Bayou river, which includes much of northwest Houston, is a case in point. From 1992 to 2010, this area lost more than 70% of its wetlands, according to research (pdf) by Texas A&M University..."
Image credit: "In the false-color satellite images below, plants and other vegetation appear green, while urbanized and developed areas appear blue and purple. Drag the slider to see how northwest Houston has changed since 1986."
Houston Drainage Grid "So Obsolete It's Just Unbelievable". Here's an excerpt of an analysis from The Associated Press: "...Houston is the most flood-prone city in the United States,” said Rice University environmental engineering professor Phil Bedient. “No one is even a close second — not even New Orleans, because at least they have pumps there.” The entire system is designed to clear out only 12 to 13 inches of rain per 24-hour period, said Jim Blackburn, an environmental law professor at Rice University: “That’s so obsolete it’s just unbelievable.” Also, Houston’s Harris County has the loosest, least-regulated drainage policy and system in the entire country, Bedient said. Here’s how the system is supposed to work: The county that encompasses Houston has 2,500 miles of bayous and channels and more than 300 storm-water holding basins, which are designed to fill up during intense downpours and drain slowly as high waters recede..."
Photo credit: "In this aerial photo, water is released from the Addicks Reservoir as floodwaters rise from Tropical Storm Harvey on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in Houston." (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP).
The Looming Consequences of Breathing Mold. Once the floodwaters recede the clean-up efforts will begin, but chemical contamination and mold could mean health issues that unfold over many years, according to a story posted at The Atlantic.
How Wild West Growth May Have Contributed to Devastating Flooding in Houston. More perspective from The Washington Post: "...But in a city built on a low-lying coastal plain, on “black gumbo,” clay-based soil that is among the least absorbent in the nation, many experts say those approaches no longer suffice. They say that new homes should be elevated and that construction should be prohibited in some flood-prone areas. Since 2010, at least 7,000 residential buildings have been constructed in Harris County on properties that sit mostly on land the federal government has designated as a 100-year flood plain, according to a Washington Post review of areas at the greatest risk of flooding. Some other cities also allow building in flood plains, with varying degrees of regulation..."
As Texas Flooded, Meteorologists Felt Helpless as Dire Forecasts Were Realized. I felt helpless trying to explain a storm that had no real historical precedent on MSNBC Saturday afternoon. By the time the winds had been downgraded to tropical storm force, but the most dangerous (flooding) phase of the storm was just winding up. Check out the entire story from Andrew Freedman at Mashable.
Super Storm. Here's an image from (non-operational) GOES-16 taken early Tuesday morning, showing the cyclonic swirl, the massive comma cloud of tropical moisture associated with Tropical Storm Harvey.
New Data Set Explores 90 Years of Natural Disasters in the U.S. The Conversation posted a story that caught my eye: "...We created a new database that covers disasters in the United States from 1920 to 2010 at the county level, combining data from the American Red Cross as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its predecessors. Our work shows that people move away from areas hit by the largest natural disasters, but smaller disasters have little effect on migration. The data also showed that these trends may worsen inequality in the U.S., as the rich move away from disaster-prone areas, while the poor are left behind..."
Map credit: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND. Source: Provided by authors Get the data
Harvey is Houston's Third 500-Year Flood in 3 Years. I'm no math major, but something doesn't add up here. Details via The Washington Post: "...Hurricane Harvey has brought “500-year” rainfall and flood conditions to the Houston area, according to officials at the Harris County Flood Control District. By the time the storm finally leaves the Houston area the true magnitude may be even greater than that, surpassing 1,000-year thresholds -- potentially even more. But 500-year floods, as it turns out, happen more frequently than you might expect. The Houston area alone has seen no fewer than three such events in the past three years, according to local officials: Memorial Day floods in 2015 and 2016, followed by Hurricane Harvey's torrential rains this year..."
Image credit: "This drone video taken Aug. 27 shows the historic flooding in Houston caused by Hurricane Harvey." (ahmed.gul/Instagram).
25 Separate 500-Year Floods Across the USA Since 2010. Wow. That's from the National Weather Service, by the way, not prone to conspiracy theories. A 1 in 500 year flood risk means a flood of that magnitude has a 1 in 500 chance of happening in that place - that year. The Washington Post has more details.
What 500-Year Flooding Could Look Like Around Five Cities. One flood/hurricane-prone metro area is Tampa - St. Pete. How much of that area would be underwater during a 1 in 500 year flood? The Washington Post reports: "...Analysts say the Tampa Bay area, which includes the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg, is the most vulnerable in the United States to flooding and damage in the event of a major hurricane. A direct hit would likely surpass the cost of Hurricane Katrina, with one Boston firm that analyzes potential catastrophic damage estimating a cost of more than $175 billion to the region. More than 30 percent of residents live in a moderate to high risk flood zone. Unlike the other areas included, the Tampa Bay region hasn’t experienced a direct hit from a Category 3 or higher hurricane in nearly a century..."
Rains from Harvey Obliterate Records, Flood Disaster to Expand. We're going to need new colors on our rainfall maps. The Washington Post highlights the awe-inspiring rainfall amounts with this storm; unlike anything I've seen tracking weather over the USA for 45 years: "...The Weather Service office serving Houston described the rain amounts so far “unfathomable.” The 16.07 inches that fell on Houston’s George Bush Airport on Sunday marks the single wettest day in Houston history, making up nearly a third of the 49.77 inches the city sees in an average year. More than two feet fell over the weekend, a record two-day amount. Over the Houston metro area, so much rain would be expected to happen between just one time every 500 to 1,000 years. The August rainfall in Houston, largely from Harvey, shattered its record for any month by a whopping 13.47 inches..."
Map credit: "
The Agony of Deciding to Evacuate a City. WIRED.com walks us through the nightmare of trying to move millions of people: "...Evacuation decisions begin with the weather forecast. This is, in theory, the simplest part of the equation—the movement of a storm depends on laws of physics. Where and when will the storm hit? How much water will it dump and what kind of wind speeds will it threaten? Historically, cities have been more willing to trigger evacuations in coastal areas directly in the path of a large and windy hurricane and less likely when a storm simply threatens to flood.Evacuation plans also depend on highly detailed population data. How many people live in your city and in how many units? How many people have access to cars? How many speak English? How many have pets? How many need help with transportation because they are senior citizens or because they have a disability that makes it harder to get around? Demographics of a city can change rapidly, so officials need the most recent numbers available..."
Texas Governor Warns of a Long, Slow Recovery. The New York Times has the story; here's an excerpt: "...Across a region that is home to millions of people and includes Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city, no one has a clear idea how many people are missing, how many evacuated, how many hunkered down or were trapped in their waterlogged homes, or how many inundated houses and vehicles are beyond saving. It is "one of the largest disasters America has ever faced," Gov. Greg Abbott said, warning against expecting anything resembling recovery any time soon, or a return to the way things were. "We need to recognize it will be a new normal, a new and different normal for this entire region..."
Photo credit: "An off ramp of Beltway 8 in Houston became a boat launch for rescuers searching for people stranded in floodwaters." Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times.
As Harvey Raged, Meteorologists Grasped for Words to Describe It. Harvey is beyond anything we've ever experienced, which makes it challenging to communicate this new level of risk. The New York Times explains.
Harvey's Toll on Energy Industry Shows a Texas Vulnerability. The New York Times reports.
Trumps Rollback of Flood Protections Risks Further Houston-Style Calamity. Is this the right time to be relaxing building codes in hurricane alley? Here's an excerpt from The Guardian: "...Houston already has some of the laxest building regulations for structures in potential flood zones and the president wants to spread that policy across the US. “It makes no sense,” Steve Ellis, vice-president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said. “Taxpayers deserve to have the assurance that if they provide assistance to a community to build or rebuild, it’s done in a way that isn’t going to cost taxpayers money in the future.” Storms and flooding are generally becoming costlier and more frequent and data suggests climate change is a leading culprit. Many towns are located in coastal areas and riverine floodplains, where the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says “building codes are often insufficient in reducing damage from extreme events”. The number of “billion-dollar events” – natural disasters ranging from flooding to wildfires that incur more than $1bn in damage – has risen over the past few decades, increasing in cost from a roughly $10bn five-year average in 1985 to more than $50bn in 2015..."
Photo credit: "Margie David and her husband David Emswiler are rescued by volunteers on a boat from their flooded house in north-west Houston." Photograph: Jay Janner/AP.
New App Uses Smartphone Selfies to Screen for Pancreatic Cancer. Science Magazine has the details: "Pancreatic cancer has one of the worst prognoses — with a five-year survival rate of 9 percent — in part because there are no telltale symptoms or non-invasive screening tools to catch a tumor before it spreads. Now, University of Washington researchers have developed an app that could allow people to easily screen for pancreatic cancer and other diseases — by snapping a smartphone selfie. BiliScreen uses a smartphone camera, computer vision algorithms and machine learning tools to detect increased bilirubin levels in a person's sclera, or the white part of the eye...One of the earliest symptoms of pancreatic cancer, as well as other diseases, is jaundice, a yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. The ability to detect signs of jaundice when bilirubin levels are minimally elevated — but before they're visible to the naked eye — could enable an entirely new screening program for at-risk individuals..."
Harvey Slowly Weakens. But not before dumping as much as 10" of rain from Memphis and Nashville to Louisville over the next 2 days. Heavy showers and T-storms leftover from Harvey may reach Washington D.C. Friday night or Saturday. 7-Day rainfall prediction: NOAA.
84-Hour Outlook. NOAA's 12 KM NAM guidance shows a swirl of heavy rain pushing across the Mississippi Valley into the Ohio Valley by tomorrow, capable of flash flooding. Meanwhile dry, sunny weather lingers today from the Great Lakes to New England - while much of the west remains dry. Tropical Storm Lidia may buffet Cabo San Lucas, Mexico today with winds up to 50-60 mph. Source: Tropicaltidbits.com.
Autumnal Hiccup. After brushing 80 degrees this weekend temperatures won't climb out of the 60s by the middle of next week (50s up north?) but some recovery is likely by the end of next week. Twin Cities ECMWF data: WeatherBell.
September Warming Trend. In spite of a cool surge next week over the northern USA long-term models (GFS above) suggest a warm ridge of high pressure setting up over the eastern 2/3rds of America by mid-September. Summer warmth will return to much of the nation within a couple weeks.
Late-Night Snacking Increases Your Risk of Sunburn. Face it, everything is bad for you! Here's an excerpt from Quartz: "When it comes to skincare, our bodies are watching the clock, apparently. A new study maligns one of my favorite things to do—eating when I’m supposed to be asleep—and the skin’s ability to protect itself from the sun. In a collaborative study between the O’Donnell Brain Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center and UC Irvine, researchers found that mice that ate at abnormal times during the day and night effectively disrupted their skins’ biological clock, leaving them more susceptible to sunburn and long-term skin damage..."
83 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.
78 F. average high on August 30.
81 F. high on August 31, 2016.
August 31, 1949: The earliest snowfall on record for Minnesota occurs on this date. A trace of snow is recorded at the new Duluth airport.
August 31, 1947: A tornado hits Le Center, killing one person.
Anheuser-Busch Halts Beer Production to Send Drinking Water to Harvey Victims. Syracuse.com has the story: "Budweiser's parent company is switching from beer to water at one factory in the wake of devastating floods in Texas. Anheuser-Busch announced its brewery in Cartersville, Georgia, has halted beer production to help send emergency drinking water to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. More than 100,000 cans of water will be delivered to Arlington, Texas, in addition to a shipment that arrived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Monday...A spokesperson said Anheuser-Busch has worked with the Red Cross for more than 100 years to help in times of need, and has donated more than 76 million cans of clean drinking water since 1988."
Photo credit: "Cases of water donated by Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, Friday, July 21, 2006, amid a heat wave during the worst power outage in St. Louis history." (The Associated Press).
Houston Physician Canoes to Hospital to Perform Surgery. One of many awe-inducing stories coming out of Texas, with thanks to Houston Public Media: "Using a canoe as an emergency medical vehicle, a Clear Lake Regional Medical Center doctor — with the help of two volunteer firemen– made his way through treacherous flood waters in the middle of the night to perform surgery on a 16 -year-old suffering from a painful condition that if not treated within a short window of time causes permanent damage. When pediatric general surgeon Dr. Stephen Kimmel got a call early Saturday morning that young Jacob Terrazas, was suffering from testicular torsion and needed immediate attention, he jumped in his car and headed toward the hospital even though his own home in Dickinson was beginning to flood..."
Photo credit: "(R to L) Brianna Terrazas (Jacob’s sister), Yesenia Terrazas (Jacob’s mother), 16-year-old patient Jacob Terrazas, patient and Dr. Stephen Kimmel, pediatric general surgeon. Terrazas was suffering from a medical condition and Dr. Kimmel canoed to the hospital to perform surgery."
TODAY: Partly sunny, breezy and dry. Winds: SE 7-12. High: 73
THURSDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and cool. Low: 55
FRIDAY: Partly sunny, perfect fair weather! Winds: SE 8-13. High: 74
SATURDAY: Few AM storms, PM clearing. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 59. High: 78
SUNDAY: Warm sunshine, T-storms far northern Minnesota. Winds: S 10-15. Wake-up: 62. High: 83
MONDAY: Mix of clouds and sun, cooler breeze. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 63. High: 73
TUESDAY: More clouds than sun, autumnlike. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 55. High: 68
WEDNESDAY: Sunny and pleasant, less wind. Winds: NW 7-12. Wake-up: 51. High: 69
Climate Change Didn't Cause Hurricane Harvey, But It Made It Worse. Here's a clip from a story at Fortune: "...In the case of Harvey, as with other specific events, scientists now have the capability to perform attribution studies which make more quantitative statements about how greenhouse gas emissions influenced that event. How well such studies can be done differs from one event type to another. Hurricanes are among the more difficult ones, but attribution studies on them can be done well enough to produce useful information. We expect that such studies will be done on Harvey. We should not make detailed statements presupposing their outcomes before they are done.Based on many other studies of precipitation events, however—including a recent one on the Louisiana floods of last year—it is reasonable to speculate that they will find that warming amplified Harvey's rainfall by a modest, but not necessarily insignificant, percentage. Attribution studies—at least good ones—will never say that global warming "caused" an event, full stop. Other factors are always the proximate causes. But the warming changes the background conditions in a way that can make an event more or less likely or change its amplitude..."
Hurricane Harvey and Climate Change: Is There a Connection? Here's a snippet from USA TODAY: "...The theory goes that a warmer atmosphere would make hurricanes more intense than they would otherwise be. "Climate change is making even heavier rainfall possible," noted John W. Nielsen-Gammon, a Texas A&M University meteorologist and the Texas State Climatologist. Another expert, Adam Sobel of Columbia University, said that "based on many previous studies of extreme precipitation events, as well as our overall scientific understanding, it is plausible to expect that they (tropical cyclones) will show some amplification due to increased water vapor in a warmer atmosphere." But Sobel said Harvey would have been a huge disaster in Houston with or without global warming. This is because of the specific meteorological situation of Harvey (the positions of the high-pressure systems and the jet stream), and the presence of a major city in the location it is..."
Will Harvey's Damage Shift How Congress Sees Climate Change and Budget Cuts? InsideClimate News reports: "...But Congress at the same time is grappling with a package of White House spending priorities that seem out of step in a post-Harvey era. Under Trump's budget, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), home of the National Weather Service, would face a 16 percent overall cut, with a heavy ax falling on programs like advanced modeling to make weather and storm forecasts more accurate and reliable, a project to upgrade flood prediction, and a tornado warning program for the Southeast. The White House plan is to have the agency's climate research arm—the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research—bear the largest percentage cut, 32 percent. Trump also proposed to cut $667 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's state and local grant funding, which aids disaster preparedness and emergency response, and to squeeze the budget of the U.S. Coast Guard, which is coordinating water rescues in East Texas from its Houston Command Center..."
Image credit: "Satellite imagery shows Hurricane Harvey as it made landfall on Aug. 25 as a Category 4 hurricane near Corpus Christi, Texas." Image: NOAA/GOES Project.
Why Harvey is Stuck Near Texas. In addition to warmer temperatures and more water vapor available to fuel Harvey's feeder bands, the storm stalled for the better part of 4-5 days. Was it natural variability? Perhaps, but meteorologists and climate scientists are noticing a slow-down in weather systems, especially during the warm season, which may be linked to rapid warming of the Arctic. Eric Roston reports at Bloomberg: "...Harvey is yet another of several recent weather disasters marked by such shocking staying power, punishing whole regions for days or weeks on end—or longer. Others include a massive heatwave over Russia and flooding in Pakistan in 2010, the Texas drought of 2011, the California drought that began around the same time and continued through this year, and the flooding last year in Texas’s neighbor to east, Louisiana. Sluggishness in storms is a big deal, particularly if they’re increasing in frequency. “It turns a garden-variety disaster into a catastrophe,” said Paul Douglas, a broadcast meteorologist and weather entrepreneur. As Harvey stays put, it functions as a firehose that sucks warm water from the Gulf of Mexico and the atmosphere, and dumps it inland. As of this writing, meteorologists predict Harvey will move north-northeast Wednesday, and up into the Mississippi basin Friday..."
Photo credit: NASA ISS.
How Climate Change Could Turn U.S. Real Estate Prices Upside Down. Everyone wants to live next to water, but (increasingly) the joys of coastal living come with a big price tag. In the near future higher ground may command a premium price, not a water view, according to The Guardian: "...Many of the lessons that Florida has learned since 1992 have parallels in the unfolding disaster in Texas, experts say, and what was already a trend toward factoring in environmental threats and climate change to land and property values looks certain to become the standard nationwide as Houston begins to mop up from the misery of Harvey. “The question is whether people are going to be basing their real estate decisions on climate change futures,” said Hugh Gladwin, professor of anthropology at Florida International University, who says his research suggests higher-standing areas of Miami are becoming increasingly gentrified as a result of sea level rise. “In any coastal area there’s extra value in property, [but] climate change, insofar as it increases risks for those properties from any specific set of hazards – like flooding and storm surge – will decrease value...”
Photo credit: "A man removes some possessions from his home in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. ‘With storm surge and heavy rainfall increasing and climate and sea level rise, the system is just not working,’ says a flood risk analyst." Photograph: Darren Abate/EPA
Harvey is What Climate Change Looks Like. Meteorologist Eric Holthaus explains at Politico Magazine: "...Harvey is the third 500-year flood to hit the Houston area in the past three years, but Harvey is in a class by itself. By the time the storm leaves the region on Wednesday, an estimated 40 to 60 inches of rain will have fallen on parts of Houston. So much rain has fallen already that the National Weather Service had to add additional colors to its maps to account for the extreme totals. Harvey is infusing new meaning into meteorologists’ favorite superlatives: There are simply no words to describe what has happened in the past few days. In just the first three days since landfall, Harvey has already doubled Houston’s previous record for the wettest month in city history, set during the previous benchmark flood, Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001. For most of the Houston area, in a stable climate, a rainstorm like Harvey is not expected to happen more than once in a millennium..."
Photo credit: David J. Phillip/AP Photo.
Is Climate Change Making Hurricanes Worse? Here's a clip from an analysis at PRI: "...Still, some climate scientists are doing so-called climate attribution studies on hurricanes using more recent historical data. Following 2013’s devastating Typhoon Haiyan, MIT atmospheric scientist Kerry Emanuel used a wind forecasting model and plugged in the thermodynamic conditions of both 30 years ago and present day. “And when we do that,” Emanuel told The World in 2013, “we find that the wind speeds are about 10 percent larger now.” Emanuel said the destruction wrought by windstorms goes up quickly with wind speed, “so that really corresponds to something like 30 to 40 percent more damage than the same exact event might've done had it occurred in the thermal environment of the 1980s.” More recently, Emanuel has shown that hurricanes that intensify just before landfall, giving local residents less time to prepare, should increase due to global warming..."
Photo credit: "Waves break over the sea wall ahead of Hurricane Franklin in Veracruz, Mexico, Aug. 9, 2017." Credit: Victor Yanez/Reuters.
What You Can and Can't Say About Climate Change and Hurricane Harvey. Here's a snippet from a Washington Post story: "...The storm is a bit more intense, bigger and longer lasting than it otherwise would be,” added Kevin Trenberth, a climate researcher with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. And then there’s sea level — it’s higher along the Texas coast than it was 100 years ago or more. At least part of that is because of climate change and its melting of ice and swelling of ocean water — though there are other factors in the mix, too, such as the subsidence of land. Sea level matters for storm surge, one key destructive aspect of any hurricane. “New York, when Sandy hit, the sea level was already about a foot higher than it was 100 years earlier,” Emanuel said. “So if Sandy had hit in 1912, it probably would not have flooded Lower Manhattan...”
CO2 is Changing the Jet Stream In Ways That Will Create More Harveys. Here's an excerpt from a story at ThinkProgress: "...Earlier this year, Mann co-authored a study explaining how human-caused warming is changing our atmosphere’s circulation, including the jet stream, in a way that leads to “increase in persistent weather extremes” during the summer. “I agree with Mike [Mann] that the weak steering currents over the south-central US coincident with Harvey are consistent with our expectations for a warmer world, which of course includes effects of a very warm Arctic,” Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at Rutgers University, told ThinkProgress. Francis is a leading expert on how global warming and the related Arctic amplification affect the jet stream and extreme weather. A study she co-authored that appeared in the Journal of Climate in June, concludes, “Over the central United States during summer, the weaker and wavier flow” of the jet stream favors “more intense summer weather...”
Storm Harvey: Impacts Likely Worsened Due To Global Warming. Here's an excerpt from the Pottsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research: "...More tentative, yet quite possibly also relevant, is a general slowdown of atmospheric summer circulation in the mid-latitudes (Coumou et al, 2015). This is a consequence of the disproportionally strong warming in the Arctic; it can make weather systems move less and stay longer in a given location – which can significantly enhance the impacts of rainfall extremes, just like we’re sadly witnessing in Houston. We do not expect a change of the overall frequency of tropical storms, and so far we do not observe a significant change in this regard. In contrast, we expect from theory and models a change in intensity – the strongest tropical storms could become even stronger due to increasing sea surface temperatures, because this is where these storms get their energy from. That’s the reason they develop only above water being at least 26 degrees Celsius warm..."
Climate Scientists Connect the Dots. The field of "attribution" tries to tie a warming climate with specific extreme weather events. Vox reports on how much of Harvey is natural variability vs. weather spiked by a warmer, wetter climate: "...In conclusion, while we cannot say climate change ‘caused’ hurricane Harvey (that is an ill-posed question), we can say that it exacerbate several characteristics of the storm in a way that greatly increased the risk of damage and loss of life,” Mann wrote. “Climate change worsened the impact of Hurricane Harvey.” Other climatologists agree with Mann. Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, told the Atlantic, “The human contribution can be up to 30 percent or so up to the total rainfall coming out of the storm. … 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...”
Harvey, The Hurricane That Humans Helped Cause. The hurricane would have probably formed either way, but a warmer, wetter background environment made the storm worse. Here's an excerpt from The New York Times: "...We don't display the same fussiness in other important areas. No individual case of lung cancer can be definitely linked to smoking, as Heidi Cullen, the chief scientist at Climate Central, notes. Few vehicle accidents can be definitly linked to alcohol, and few saved lives can be definitely linked to seatbelts. Yet smoking, drunken driving and seatbeltless riding each created a public health crisis. Once the link became clear and widely understood, people changed their behavior and prevented a whole lot of suffering. Climate change is on its way to becoming a far worse public health crisis than any of those other problems. Already, it has aggravated droughts, famines and deadly heat waves..."
It's a Fact: Climate Change Made Hurricane Harvey More Deadly. Climate scientist Michael Mann reports for The Guardian: "What can we say about the role of climate change in the unprecedented disaster that is unfolding in Houston with Hurricane Harvey? There are certain climate change-related factors that we can, with great confidence, say worsened the flooding. Sea level rise attributable to climate change – some of which is due to coastal subsidence caused by human disturbance such as oil drilling – is more than half a foot (15cm) over the past few decades (see here for a decent discussion). That means the storm surge was half a foot higher than it would have been just decades ago, meaning far more flooding and destruction. In addition to that, sea surface temperatures in the region have risen about 0.5C (close to 1F) over the past few decades from roughly 30C (86F) to 30.5C (87F), which contributed to the very warm sea surface temperatures (30.5-31C, or 87-88F)..."
The Jon Snow of Climate Change is Emerging in Congress. Here's a clip from a story at TheHill: "...So, who emerges as the Jon Snow of Congress, the heroic figure who battles against great odds to forge an alliance against a threat not yet viewed with the urgency it demands? That would have to be Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the Florida Republican and chairman of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus. Like Jon Snow, he has seen firsthand the greater enemy that must be defeated. Instead of White Walkers, however, Curbelo has seen the ankle-deep sea water that floods his district in Miami during certain high tides. For him, it isn’t winter that’s coming — it’s the ocean..."
Tree-Killing Beetles Spread Into Northern U.S. Forests as Temperatures Rise. Because it's just not getting as cold as it did in the past. Here's an excerpt from InsideClimate News: "Southern pine beetles are among the most destructive insects invading North America's pine forests today, and they're spreading farther north as global temperatures rise, putting entire ecosystems at risk and creating fuel for wildfires as they kill the trees they infest. A new study shows the insects' range could reach Nova Scotia by 2020 and cover more than 270,000 square miles of forest from the upper Midwest to Maine and into Canada by 2080. Winter cold snaps that once killed the beetles in their larval stage are becoming less frequent at the northern edge of the beetles' current range, which will allow them to multiply and spread into new territory quickly, the study's authors say..."
Photo credit: "Southern pine beetles lay their eggs under the bark of trees, eventually killing them as they cut off water flow and nutrients." Credit: Erich Vallery/USDA.