Climate Matters

Hurricane Harvey Resources

Climate Matters Meteorologists,


With Hurricane Harvey bearing down on the Texas coast, we wanted to remind you of some resources to help put this dangerous storm in a broader climate context. Harvey is likely to stall out, raising the specter of catastrophic inland flooding. That’s the meteorological side. But climate change is also likely playing a role in the form of heavier precipitation and higher storm surge.


In a warming world, all storms can produce more rain, as higher temperatures lead to more evaporation and more water available for precipitation. For every degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature, there is a 4 percent increase in the saturation level of the atmosphere. And as the sea level rises, coastal storm surge will move farther inland. In the last century, there have been about 7 inches of global sea level rise, mostly attributable to human-induced warming. That can be the difference between water soaking the floor and getting into its electrical outlets.


The specifics of the storm surge forecast as Harvey nears the shoreline will vary from place to place depending on the local coastal geography, but as a reference point, we have enclosed an animating image of how 6 feet of storm surge would appear at high tide in Corpus Christi. This is on the lower end of the current surge forecast from the National Hurricane Center.


storm surge gif (may take a bit to load)



Below are direct links to graphics from our archive to help with a broader discussion of the hurricane. Just click on the link and use the dropdown menu to find the information specific to your market:


Statewide trends in heavy precipitation

Heavy rain and sewage overflows, which serves as a reminder to stay out of floodwaters

Trends in coastal buoy water temperatures

Rapid increase the frequency of coastal flooding in last two decades

Examine what 10 feet of sea level rise would look like along the Texas coast


Visit our Surging Seas interactive to view how storm surge and sea level rise can affect coastal communities across the country. Enter your city or zip code at the upper right of the interactive.


You can also find sea surface temperature maps for the Gulf of Mexico at NOAA/NESDIS, which indicate Gulf of Mexico water temperatures are generally 1°-3°F degrees above normal.


We also wanted to let those of you in Texas know that we are hoping you and yours remain safe during this storm. Thank you for helping keep people safe.



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