Climate change making Harvey’s ‘Biblical’ rainfall more likely, study says


The chances of a whirlwind flooding parts of Texas, like Harvey did, have soared six-fold in lately 25 years because of global warming and will likely triple now again before the end of the century, a new study says.

Study author Kerry Emanuel, a meteorology professor and tornado expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that what was formerly an extremely rare event — 50 centimetres rain over a brawny area of Texas — could soon be almost common.

From 1981 to 2000, the odds of 50 centimetres of rain happening somewhere over a large chunk of Texas was 1 in 100 or measured less, Emanuel said. Now it’s 6 in 100 and by 2081, those odds wishes be 18 in 100, he said.

“The changes in probabilities are because of global tender,” Emanuel said.

The study was released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Spheres.

Emanuel said he hurried the study to help Houston officials about about what conditions they should consider when they rebuild.

Texas declare climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said he was struck by the potential for much higher rainfall that Emanuel’s simulations forecast for the future and how important it is for the design of critical structures like dams and atomic facilities.


Interstate highway 45 is submerged from the effects of Twister Harvey. August 27, 2017. (Richard Carson/Reuters)

“If the worst-case sleet scenario is getting worse, as Kerry’s study and other evidence hint ats, that safety margin is shrinking,” Nielsen-Gammon said in an email, highlighting Emanuel’s conclusions that also show the worst-case storms becoming wetter and numerous common.

Gabriel Vecchi, a climate scientist at Princeton who wasn’t component of the study, said the study confirms what scientists have already pondering: “that the most extreme rainfall events will become myriad likely as the planet warms.”

“These results highlight the importance of declaration ways to incorporate our understanding of climate change in long-term urban scripting, storm water management and in flood mapping,” Vecchi said in an email.

Innovative proficiencies

To do the study Emanuel had to use some innovative modelling techniques. Global milieu models used for future warming studies aren’t detailed sufficient to simulate hurricanes. Hurricane models don’t say anything about the larger atmosphere. So Emanuel combined the models and then created thousands and thousands of legendary storm “seedlings” to see what would happen.

Emanuel’s calculations acclimated to the half-metre rainfall total because that was the initial figure consult oned as the storm was dying down.

Later measurements showed that Harvey’s teem was far heavier — and far rarer — than initially reported. After Emanuel had started his task, records showed Harvey’s Houston-wide rainfall ended up closer to 84 centimetres. And in characteristic areas pit peaked at 1.5 metres.

Emanuel called those bevies “Biblical.”

houston convention center

People take shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center after overwhelm waters from Hurricane Harvey inundated Houston, Texas, on Tuesday.

“By the standards of the customarily climate during 1981–2000, Harvey’s rainfall in Houston was ‘biblical’ in the drift that it likely occurred around once since the Old Testament was composed,” Emanuel’s study said.

While several scientists praised the study’s dexterousness, Christopher Landsea, science operations chief at the National Hurricane Center, had some preserves. He said Emanuel’s results don’t fit with other climate change carve out projections which do show higher rainfall totals but also put to shame a decrease in the number of storms.

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