More Harvey-Sized Hurricanes Likely to Hit Texas
By Tim Radford
The probability that some city in the U.S. state of Texas will be hit again by Harvey-sized hurricanes, rainstorms that will dump half a meter of water in a short space of time, has increased sixfold in this century and will have increased 18-fold by 2100, thanks to climate change driven by global warming.
In the late summer of 2017, Hurricane Harvey dropped 65 cms of water on the city of Houston in Texas. It was the start of the largest natural disaster in the U.S. since Hurricane Katrina pounded New Orleans in 2005. Harvey claimed an estimated 70 lives, and created more than $150 billion in damage.
Kerry Emanuel, a meteorologist and professor of atmospheric science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, asked a simple question: How likely is it that hurricane-induced flooding of such magnitude could happen again?
He reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that he looked again at the probabilities. Since 1899, only 11 U.S. hurricanes have brought with them rainfalls that measured more than 65 cms. Until Harvey, the most recent had been a hurricane called Patricia which dumped more than 50 cms in some parts of Texas.
For Texas alone, from 1981 to 2000, the chance of an event on the scale of Harvey or Patricia was 1 percent: that is, one chance in a hundred during any one year, with a high likelihood of such an event once every 100 years.
Harvey would once have counted as the storm of the century, and the chance of it hitting Houston made it an even more improbable event. Statistically, such a thing should happen once in 2,000 years.
But the past, Prof. Emanuel argues, is no longer a good guide to the future.
"When you take a very, very rare, extreme rainfall event like Hurricane Harvey, and you shift the distribution of rain toward heavier amounts because of climate change, you get really big changes in the probability of those rare events," he said. "People have to understand that damage is usually caused by extreme events."
He is not the only researcher to have looked at the statistics with alarm. More than one study has found that the Atlantic coast of the U.S. could face harder and more frequent battering as global temperatures creep up in response to ever-increasing use of fossil fuels that leave ever-growing ratios of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
One group has warned that coastal storms and floods could create new millions of U.S. climate refugees. The problem is not uniquely an American one: by the century's end, coastal flooding could be costing the nations of the world $100 trillion a year, as sea levels rise and extreme events such as tropical cyclones and storm surges become more intense, and more frequent.
Odds on Calamity
Some studies have concentrated on conditions for particular coastal cities such as Charleston or Seattle, where the once-in-500-year floods could in the next century happen 273 times more often.
Studies like these may sound alarmist: in fact, they have a simple, practical purpose. City authorities need to know if the odds of calamity are on the increase.
"Suppose you're the mayor of Houston, and you've just had a terrible disaster that cost you an unbelievable fortune, and you're going to try over the next few years to put things back in order in your city. Should you be putting in a more advanced storm-sewer system that may cost billions of dollars, or not.
"The answer to that question depends upon whether you think Harvey was a one-off—very unlikely to happen any time in the next 100 years—or whether it may be more common than you thought," Prof. Emanuel said.
"We are seeing for Texas an event whose annual probability was 1 percent at the end of last century, and it might be 18 percent by the end of this century. That's a huge increase in the probability of that event. So, people had better plan for that."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
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Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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