Art DeGaetano, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences and expert on climate data at Cornell University, says that although the meteorological elements in hurricane formation are common in late summer weather patterns, climate change has affected those components and the strength and impacts of Harvey.
“It is unfair to ask whether Harvey was caused by climate change. Harvey was caused by a number of meteorological ingredients that are necessary for hurricane formation, strengthening and persistence. These ingredients have always been a part of late summer weather patterns in the Gulf of Mexico and tropical Atlantic.
“However, climate change has affected these ingredients and therefore the strength and impacts of Harvey by warming the atmosphere and oceans and increasing sea levels. Warmer air is capable of holding more water vapor which in turn means more rainfall. Warm water in the Gulf of Mexico provides a necessary ingredient for storm formation and strengthening. Storm surge flooding along the coast worsens as sea level rises.”
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