High Gulf Water Temperatures Caused Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 24, 2017 as captured by the GOES-16 satellite.
(Credit: NOAA/NASA)

Waters in the Gulf of Mexico had record-breaking high temperatures in the weeks before Hurricane Harvey in Aug. 2017. A recent analysis published by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) shows that the high water temperatures caused increased evaporation that directly correlates with the record-breaking rainfall that flooded the Houston area during the storm.

The authors were able to isolate Hurricane Harvey’s characteristics and perform before and after assessments of the local ocean environment. The authors also discuss factors of human resilience and climate change adaptation in the presence of “supercharged” storms.

Their work identifies warmer oceans as a direct effect of climate change that can supercharge storms like Harvey because hurricanes are one of the climate system’s mechanism for cooling the oceans, but with devastating affects for climate change victims like those along the Gulf Coast who were exposed to the storm.

Read the full, open-access report in AGU’s Earth’s Future journal.

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