Our understanding of climate and weather is insufficient to blame any individual storm on Climate Change. But (there’s always a but), we can say with very high confidence that the Harvey’s massive amounts of rain are very likely the result of Climate Change.
How can we do this?
During the winter of 2016-2017, the temperature of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico was higher than ever before. Warmer water evaporates faster than cold water. The air that Harvey blew over Texas was packed with water, which is still falling in record amounts.
The temperature of Gulf waters is one thing that validates the science of Climate Change.
Scientists and laypersons can be confident that climate change has threatened the human race through more extreme weather events, including storms like Katrina and Harvey.
We can be confident that climate change includes the droughts and heat that have sparked years of increased wildfires in the western US. We can be confident that heat waves in Europe and Russia that killed thousands are a face of Climate Change.
We can be sure that new diseases with vectors (e.g., mosquitoes) that have spread far beyond their origins are a face of climate change. We can be sure that the spread of Lyme disease and Zika are faces of climate change.
We can be sure that poorer air quality in many locations (e.g., downwind of wildfires, in over-heated cities) is an aspect of climate change.
Harvey is not the ultimate storm. It’s been called a “600-year” storm, meaning it’s as bad as anything that might occur in a 600-year period. That’s a bold statement with no evidence yet produced to back it up. It may have originated in hysteria.
Nevertheless, Harvey is another example of what science has known and measured for a century. Since the 1960s, the number of heavy rain days has increased dramatically and the amount of rain falling on these heavy rain days has also increased… we’re getting more water more often, especially in the Midwest.
To echo Mr. David Leonhardt’s Op-Ed column in the “New York Times,” 29 August 2017 (first reference, below), it’s time to stop whining about Climate Change. It’s time to understand that there is no equivalency between the work of thousands of scientists who agree on the major points of climate change and the few shills of energy companies who deny climate change. (To those shills, I would add Trump, who has said that climate change is a hoax and the hoax was created by the Chinese.)
Now for my advertisement: my dystopian novel, “Holy Fire,” available from Amazon describes a number of effects of climate change. All are plausible. Some are pretty frightening. I hope you’ll read the book. You’ll find links on the home page. Thank you.
For my fellow geeks: heavy rain days are defined as two-day rains that exceed the five-year average. See the next link.
Registered Curmudgeon, scientist, skeptic, humanist, and writer.