The U.S is not facing its deadliest hurricane yet, perhaps, but the impact is far much higher and greater especially when it comes to economic losses. Everyone can easily recall the Hurricane Katrina which wreaked havoc along the Mississippi coastlines and Louisiana. In that tragedy, 1,836 causalities were confirmed and nearly $110 billion in property damage. While Katrina still rings in our ears, we cannot downplay the impact that is unraveling as the Houston starts to heal from hurricane Harvey.
Hurricane Harvey, since Wilma in 2005, is the first one major hurricane to cause a landfall in the U.S. Its occurrence marked an end to a 12-year-record of no major hurricanes on the coastlines of U.S. Within a four-day period, many areas received more than 40 inches, which is equal to 1,000 mm, of rain. The system slithered over the eastern Texas and adjacent waters causing catastrophic flooding that reached a peak accumulation of nearly 1,300 mm. Harvey is recorded as the wettest tropical cyclone in the U.S. which resulted to large-scale destruction and displacement of people. Hundreds of thousands of homes were inundated and more than 30,000 people were forced out of their homes; this prompted more than 17,000 rescues.
So far, Harvey has caused at least 50 confirmed causalities. Till today, inland flooding is ongoing especially in the Greater Houston Metropolitan area. The U.S authorities including FEMA are referring to Harvey as the worst disaster in Texas history and they are projecting the recovery to take even longer. The economic losses are estimated at around $70 to $190 billion, with the larger portion of these losses sustained by those who are uninsured. The remnants of the hurricane are continuing to pour attenuated rain on several southern states nearly a week after making a landfall in Texas. In a quick analysis, more than 20 trillion gallons of rain were poured across Texas and Louisiana; this is a staggering deluge because this amount represents the amount of water that is enough to supply New York City’s water needs for the next five decades. However, as we grapple with the realities represented by this catastrophe, should we continue believing that global warming and climate change have nothing to do with these kinds of events, given their increased occurrence in the present century? The answer to this question, probably, lies in the scientific merits but also in the nature which we are treated to by the natural occurrences.
To date, Scientists are still cautious in relating the global warming with the increase of hurricane numbers or their strength. Princeton University Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) in its March 17, 2017 Global Warming and Hurricanes Overview stated that, “it is premature to conclude that human activities–and particularly greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming–have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity, [because] the historical Atlantic hurricane record does not provide compelling evidence for a substantial greenhouse warming-induced long-term increase.” Nonetheless, GFDL argues that, “human activities may have already caused changes that are not yet detectable due to the small magnitude of the changes or observational limitations, or are not yet confidently modeled (e.g., aerosol effects on regional climate).”
From the empirical evidences provided, although cautious, we can deduce that anthropogenic activities cannot be excluded from this equation. In fact, flooding and unpredictable weather events are some of the well-known effects of global warming and climate change. Therefore, as prudent humans we should live under the maxim “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
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GALLAGHER, J. (2017). Hurricane Harvey wreaks historic devastation: By the numbers. [online] ABC News. Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/US/hurricane-harvey-wreaks-historic-devastation-numbers/story?id=49529063
NY Daily News. (2017). Retail U.S. gasoline prices surge after Harvey, global impact felt. [online] Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/newswires/news/business/retail-u-s-gasoline-prices-surge-harvey-global-impact-felt-article-1.3460987
Trend.Az. (2017). Harvey’s global effects. [online] Available at: https://en.trend.az/world/other/2791075.html
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