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Like Sandy, arctic warming made Harvey a killer storm

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Tropical Storm Harvey continues to wreak havoc on southeastern Texas, and made a second landfall in Louisiana early Wednesday morning.


Charles Greene

Charles H. Greene

Professor, Dept. of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Charles H. Greene is a professor of Earth and Atmospheric sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, a fellow at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and a leading expert in effects of global climate change on ocean ecosystems and extreme weather. Green explains how Arctic warming contributes to weather conditions that lead to events like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Harvey.

Greene says: 

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. Just like Superstorm Sandy, Arctic warming as likely as not played an important role in making Hurricane Harvey such an extreme killer storm. With sea ice loss and Arctic amplification of greenhouse warming, the Jet Stream slows down, meanders more, and frequently results in stalled weather systems.

“One such stalled weather system, a high-pressure block over the Labrador Sea, prevented Sandy from veering out into the North Atlantic like 90 percent of most late-season hurricanes. Instead, it made a historically unprecedented beeline for New York and New Jersey, and the rest is history.

“This week, we are seeing the effects of another stalled weather system. Houston would have suffered much less damage if category 4 Hurricane Harvey had just crashed through the city and petered out in west Texas. But instead, the storm system is stalled in place and just continues to dump record amounts of rainfall from the Gulf on the city.”


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