Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

'Unprecedented,' Historic Storm Dumps Trillions of Tons of Water on Texas

Popular
'Unprecedented,' Historic Storm Dumps Trillions of Tons of Water on Texas
Hurricane Harvey approaches the Texas Gulf Coast in this satellite image by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Aug. 25. NOAA

Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast this weekend, growing from a regenerated tropical depression into a Category 4 hurricane in less than 60 hours.

The now-tropical storm has stalled inland over Texas, and the entire Houston metropolitan region is now flooding.


With interstates under feet of water, and most of the streams and rivers near the city in flood stage, local authorities have asked boat owners to join rescue efforts. At least five people have died, and the city is prepping for thousands of evacuees this week. Officials predict 50 more inches of rain could be dumped on the area this week.

"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," Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research told The Atlantic.

According to The Atlantic:

"Storms like Harvey are helped by one of the consequences of climate change: As the air warms, some of that heat is absorbed by the ocean, which in turn raises the temperature of the sea's upper layers.

Harvey benefitted from unusually toasty waters in the Gulf of Mexico. As the storm roared toward Houston last week, sea-surface waters near Texas rose to between 2.7 and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit above average. These waters were some of the hottest spots of ocean surface in the world. The tropical storm, feeding off this unusual warmth, was able to progress from a tropical depression to a category-four hurricane in roughly 48 hours."

As reported by ThinkProgress:

"A Propublica/Texas Tribune project from last March detailed Houston's vulnerability to a major storm. The title of the project is 'Hell and High Water,' and it chronicles what could happen. 'A major hurricane here could bring economic and ecological disaster,' they wrote, including flood damage, destruction of entire low-lying neighborhoods, devastation to Galveston, and a massive disruption of our country's oil and shipping industries:

'Such a storm would devastate the Houston Ship Channel, shuttering one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Flanked by 10 major refineries—including the nation's largest—and dozens of chemical manufacturing plants, the Ship Channel is a crucial transportation route for crude oil and other key products, such as plastics and pesticides. A shutdown could lead to a spike in gasoline prices and many consumer goods—everything from car tires to cell phone parts to prescription pills.'

As Texans flee for higher ground, the oil and gas infrastructure that lines the state's coast will remain in the heart of the storm. There is a bitter irony to the idea that a storm, strengthened by human-caused climate change, carries the potential to destroy the very oil infrastructure that has contributed so much warming to our world."

For a deeper dive:

Climate change and Harvey: The Atlantic, New York Times, Washington Post, Time, ThinkProgress. Damage, flooding, rain: New York Times, AP, CNN, Washington Post, Bloomberg, Vox, Mashable, Grist, ThinkProgress, Newsy. Commentary: New York Times, Mimi Swartz column, USA Today, James Lee Witt op-ed, NPR, Dr. Neil Frank interview, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tony Messenger column. Background: Climate Signals

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

A new UK study links eating meat with increased risks for heart disease, diabetes and more. nata_zhekova / Getty Images

The World Health Organization has determined that red meat probably causes colorectal cancer in humans and that processed meat is carcinogenic to humans. But are there other health risks of meat consumption?

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A common cuttlefish like this can pass the "marshmallow test." Hans Hillewaert / CC BY-SA 4.0

Cuttlefish, marine invertebrates related to squids and octopuses, can pass the so-called "marshmallow test," an experiment designed to test whether human children have the self-control to wait for a better reward.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Yogyakarta Bird Market, Central Java, Indonesia. Jorge Franganillo / CC BY 2.0

By John R. Platt

The straw-headed bulbul doesn't look like much.

It's less than a foot in length, with subdued brown-and-gold plumage, a black beak and beady red eyes. If you saw one sitting on a branch in front of you, you might not give it a second glance.

Read More Show Less
Red Knots are among the shorebirds that a scientific study is tracking. BrianEKushner / Getty Images

By Julián García Walther

One morning in January, I found myself 30 feet up a tall metal pole, carrying 66 pounds of aluminum antennas and thick weatherproofed cabling. From this vantage point, I could clearly see the entire Punta Banda Estuary in northwestern Mexico. As I looked through my binoculars, I observed the estuary's sandy bar and extensive mudflats packed with thousands of migratory shorebirds frenetically pecking the mud for food.

Read More Show Less
The Great Barrier Reef at Whitsunday Island, Australia. Daniel Osterkamp / Getty Images

The world's oceans and coastal ecosystems can store remarkable amounts of carbon dioxide. But if they're damaged, they can also release massive amounts of emissions back into the atmosphere.

Read More Show Less