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expert reaction to research on Hurricane Harvey and links to climate change

A new study, published in Environmental Research Letters, reported that human-caused climate change made the record rainfall that fell over Houston during Hurricane Harvey roughly three times more likely and 15% more intense.


Dr Dann Mitchell, Lecturer in Climate Physics at Bristol University, said:

“The recent study suggests that the extreme rainfall component of Hurricane Harvey was made 15% more intense due to climate change, which is broadly in agreement with the atmospheric theory that has been developed in this area. Attribution of hurricane characteristics to climate change is extremely challenging, and the authors have focussed only on the precipitation response, which is perhaps the most well understood, and is particularly important given the nature of the flooding in Texas due to Harvey.

“The purpose of the authors’ work is to provide fast attribution statements on specific events, which they have done. Future extensive research on the validation and understanding of tropical cyclones in their models, rather than only the precipitation statistics, will help to give more confidence in their results. Such research is needed for understanding future changes in cyclones and avoided impacts if we follow the Paris Agreement on climate change, rather than current, high greenhouse gas emission pathways.”


* ‘Attribution of Extreme Rainfall from Hurricane Harvey, August 2017’ by Geert Jan van Oldenborgh et al. published in Environmental Research Letters on Wednesday 13 December 2017.


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