Enlarge (credit: Texas Military Department)
The story explaining the incredible flooding in Houston during Hurricane Harvey has many chapters, ranging from meteorology to the history of groundwater use and development zoning.
The chapter on climate change has already had a few pages filled in, thanks to a study quickly published by MIT hurricane scientist Kerry Emanuel.
This week, two complementary studies flesh the chapter out a little more.
The first paper comes from a group of scientists who have worked to rapidly analyze a number of extreme weather events over the past few years, including flooding in Europe and Louisiana last year.
The general strategy for this type of undertaking is not entirely dissimilar from tracking the home run hitting of steroid-using baseball players. You can’t really know if an individual home run would have occurred sans steroids, but that’s not the point.
Instead, you work out whether home runs like the one you just witnessed are generally being juiced.
In this case, the researchers were able to build on their analysis of the nearby Louisiana deluge from 2016.
As in that study, they analyzed the history of rainfall measurements in the region to work out just how unusual the incredible rainfall totals from Harvey were—and whether the chances of an event like that have changed over time.
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