The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Study: Climate Change Linked to More Rain in Hurricanes
As Hurricane Barry trudges towards New Orleans, it's not the gale force winds grabbing the public spotlight. It's the rain, a byproduct of man-made climate change, according to a paper published in the journal Nature.
A tremendous amount of rain — 10 to 20 inches — is expected to fall from Thursday night to Saturday. That's on the heels of a tropical rainstorm that dropped seven inches of rain on Wednesday. Usually New Orleans gets six inches of rain in July, according to the New York Times.
Barry's rainfall is no longer an outlier, but a symptom of climate change. The research paper found that climate change intensified the rains of three major hurricanes that made landfall in the U.S. — Katrina, Irma and Maria — by 4 to 9 percent. The scientists also predicted that future warming could increase rainfall totals for the most extreme hurricanes and tropical cyclones by up to 30 percent, as PBS reported.
"Climate change is in general increasing the frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall storms," said Andreas Prein, a project scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research who was not involved with the study, as the New York Times reported.
Another scientific analysis, published in the journal Earth's Future, looked at Hurricane Harvey, which dumped an unprecedented 60 inches of rain on Houston. The authors of that study wrote, "[R]ecord high ocean heat values not only increased the fuel available to sustain and intensify Harvey but also increased its flooding rains on land. Harvey could not have produced so much rain without human‐induced climate change."
"If you look at the records, mostly it's the water that kills most people," Dr. Prein said to the New York Times.
The numbers show that the record rainfalls are producing flooding that is far more lethal than winds. Rain-induced flooding caused nearly 75 percent of the 162 fatalities in hurricanes and other tropical cyclones in the U.S. from 2016 to 2018, as the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale reported. Most victims drowned near their vehicles, according to the National Hurricane Center.
That number excludes Hurricane Maria, which dropped a tremendous amount of rain on Puerto Rico. The death toll there and the causes were too difficult to calculate.
"I think we're at the beginnings of the new normal," said Ben Kirtman, director of the Center for Computational Science Climate and Environmental Hazards Program at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science, as the Sun-Sentinel reported.
"It's pretty simple. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor. And so when it comes time to condense all that water vapor and produce rainfall, there's more water vapor available. The second element is the engine for tropical storms; the energy source for that engine is warm ocean surface temperatures, and those have risen. As the climate system warms, the ocean warms. That means there's more fuel for these hurricanes, which can lead to enhanced rainfall."
Hurricane Barry's rainfall is happening at a particularly perilous time for the region after an extremely wet spring caused the region's rivers to swell. That has experts and residents concerned that the storm will overtop levees in New Orleans.
The flooding of the Mississippi River has left very little room for additional water, raising concern that the storm surge will inhibit river water from flowing out to sea.
"The ingredients are there for a real catastrophe if the flood control infrastructure simply gets overwhelmed," said David Gochis, a hydrometerological scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, as the New York Times reported.
- How to Prepare for a Hurricane - EcoWatch ›
- Climate Change Is Already Making Hurricanes Wetter, Study Confirms ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Mancini
On Aug. 18, Iceland held a funeral for the first glacier lost to climate change. The deceased party was Okjökull, a historic body of ice that covered 14.6 square miles (38 square kilometers) in the Icelandic Highlands at the turn of the 20th century. But its glory days are long gone. In 2014, having dwindled to less than 1/15 its former size, Okjökull lost its status as an official glacier.
By Alex Schwartz
Among the many vendors at the Logan Square Farmers Market on Aug. 18 sat three young people peddling neither organic vegetables, gourmet cheese nor handmade crafts. Instead, they offered liberation from capitalism.
I’m a Psychotherapist – Here’s What I’ve Learned From Listening to Children Talk About Climate Change
By Caroline Hickman
Eco-anxiety is likely to affect more and more people as the climate destabilizes. Already, studies have found that 45 percent of children suffer lasting depression after surviving extreme weather and natural disasters. Some of that emotional turmoil must stem from confusion — why aren't adults doing more to stop climate change?
For the past seven years, the Anishinaabe people have been facing the largest tar sands pipeline project in North America. We still are. In these dying moments of the fossil fuel industry, Water Protectors stand, prepared for yet another battle for the water, wild rice and future of all. We face Enbridge, the largest pipeline company in North America, and the third largest corporation in Canada. We face it unafraid and eyes wide open, for indeed we see the future.
By Mara Dolan
We see the effects of the climate crisis all around us in hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and rising sea levels, but our proximity to these things, and how deeply our lives are changed by them, are not the same for everyone. Frontline groups have been leading the fight for environmental and climate justice for centuries and understand the critical connections between the climate crisis and racial justice, economic justice, migrant justice, and gender justice. Our personal experiences with climate change are shaped by our experiences with race, gender, and class, as the climate crisis often intensifies these systems of oppression.