Starts With A Bang

How Hurricane Harvey’s Record-Setting Rainfall Is Happening Right Now (Synopsis)

Stranded vehicles sit where they got stuck in high water from Hurricane Harvey on Dairy Ashford Drive, August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Image credit: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images.

“The hurricane flooded me out of a lot of memorabilia, but it can’t flood out the memories.” -Tom Dempsey

As I write this, the gulf coast is currently being battered by Hurricane Harvey, with a few locations already having accumulated more than three feet of rainfall. This storm shows no signs of letting up anytime soon, as it’s forecast to remain roughly where it is for days to come. This is being billed as a 500-year-storm, but the truth is far scarier and more sobering: this should be exactly what you’d expect for a city located where Houston is.

The new rainfall scale created by the National Weather Service shows how much rain has fallen, as of Monday morning, in the region hit by Hurricane Harvey. The old scale capped out at ‘greater than 15 inches’. Image credit: National Weather Service.

The way hurricanes form, along with other tropical storms, is when fast-moving winds occur over high-temperature ocean waters. As global temperatures have increased, so have the severity of hurricanes. When one of them makes landfall and rises in latitude, the critical transition occurs at 30° north or south of the equator, where the prevailing winds change direction. As Hurricane Harvey sits right on that boundary, it seems poised to remain where it is for up to a week, potentially leading to even more catastrophic flooding than occurred during Hurricane Katrina.

The cloud cells, complete with rising and falling air, which circulates around the ‘eye’. Image credit: NASA’s Space Place, via http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/hurricanes/en/.

The science is sound, robust, and legitimate, but the disaster is real and going on right now. Sadly, the worst may still be yet to come.