The U.S. National Weather Service has reported that since tropical storm Harvey made landfall the evening of August 25, the state of Texas has received 51.88 inches of rain.
That’s 1,318 millimetres.
To put that in perspective, let’s compare it to everyone’s favourite rainy city, Vancouver.
According to Statistics Canada, the average annual volume of precipitation that Vancouver sees in one year is 1,199 millimetres, or 47.2 inches.
Texas just received more rain in less than four days than Vancouver does in an entire year.
Just over four and a half inches more, to be precise (as measured at Cedar Bayou, a town on the Gulf coast).
The Associated Press has reported that 51.88 inches of rain in such a short timespan is a new record for anywhere in the continental United States.
Harvey was originally classified as a hurricane but was subsequently downgraded to a tropical storm.
On August 27, the National Weather Service described it like this: “This event is unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced. Follow orders from officials to ensure safety.”
While it is impossible to directly relate any single weather event to climate change, scientists are in agreement that climate change increases the intensity and frequency of severe storms like Harvey.
That’s because warmer temperatures increase the rate at which water evaporates, leading more moisture to collect in the air. Climate change is also warming the surface temperatures of large bodies of water like the Gulf of Mexico. And as tropical storms move across those bodies of water, the warmer surface temperatures contribute to greater storm intensity.
Meanwhile, B.C. is experiencing what on August 28 the provincial government declared the "worst wildfire in British Columbia's history”. The unusually dry and hot summer could similarly be related to climate change. In addition to leaving some areas with intense periods of rain, climate change's shift in weather patterns is also understood to result in weather that for some periods is hotter and drier than it was in the past.
So far, 15 people are confirmed killed by tropical storm Harvey and subsequent flooding. Among the dead is a family of a six and a Houston police officer who was working as part of the city’s emergency response.
The same day that the U.S. National Weather Service reported Harvey’s record-breaking amount of rain, another city on the other side of the world is struggling in similar circumstances.
Today (August 29) much of Mumbai is also underwater.
Since late July, Nepal, Bangladesh, much of India, and their neighbours have dealt with flooding far more severe than what's expected from Southeast Asia’s annual rainy season. More than 1,000 people have died in those storms, according to an August 29 report by the New York Times.More