Texas Tech University

How Climate Change Fueled Hurricane Harvey


August 29, 2017

WIRED - Hurricane Harvey has already dumped 9 trillion gallons of water on Texas and may leave even more before it backs up to the Gulf of Mexico. Starting as a category 4 hurricane as it made landfall on Friday night, Harvey, which has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, is breaking weather records every hour-and is leaving some scientists scratching their heads as to why it stalled over south Texas instead of cruising northward to Oklahoma and then to the Midwest as storms of this nature typically do.

"The hurricane is a naturally occurring hazard that is exacerbated by climate change," says Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and professor of political science at Texas Tech University. "But the actual risk to Houston is a combination of the hazard-rainfall, storm surge and wind, the vulnerability, and the exposure." In Houston's case, vulnerability is particularly high. "It's a rapidly growing city with vast areas of impervious surfaces," Hayhoe says. "Its infrastructure is crumbling. And it's difficult for people to get out of harm's way."

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