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Title: Hurricane Harvey Links to Ocean Heat Content and Climate Change Adaptation

Abstract

While hurricanes occur naturally, human-caused climate change is supercharging them and exacerbating the risk of major damage. Here using ocean and atmosphere observations, we demonstrate links between increased upper ocean heat content due to global warming with the extreme rainfalls from recent hurricanes. Hurricane Harvey provides an excellent case study as it was isolated in space and time. We show that prior to the beginning of northern summer of 2017, ocean heat content was the highest on record both globally and in the Gulf of Mexico, but the latter sharply decreased with hurricane Harvey via ocean evaporative cooling. The lost ocean heat was realized in the atmosphere as moisture, and then as latent heat in record-breaking heavy rainfalls. Accordingly, record high ocean heat values not only increased the fuel available to sustain and intensify Harvey but also increased its flooding rains on land. Harvey could not have produced so much rain without human-induced climate change. Results have implications for the role of hurricanes in climate. Proactive planning for the consequences of human-caused climate change is not happening in many vulnerable areas, making the disasters much worse. Human-induced climate change continues to warm the oceans which provide the memory of pastmore » accumulated effects. The resulting environment, including higher ocean heat content and sea surface temperatures, invigorates tropical cyclones to make them more intense, bigger, and longer lasting and greatly increases their flooding rains. The main example here is Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, which can be reasonably isolated in terms of influences on and by the environment. Hurricanes keep tropical oceans cooler as a consequence of their strong winds that increase evaporation. Here we show for the first time that the rainfall likely matches the evaporation and the corresponding ocean heat loss. Planning for such supercharged hurricanes (adaptation) by increasing resilience (e.g., better building codes and flood protection) and preparing for contingencies (such as evacuation routes, power cuts, and so forth) is essential but not adequate in many areas, including Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico where Harvey, Irma, and Maria took their toll.« less

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [2]; ORCiD logo [3]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [1]
  1. National Center for Atmospheric Research Boulder CO USA
  2. International Center for Climate and Environment Sciences, Institute of Atmospheric PhysicsChinese Academy of Sciences Beijing China
  3. Department of Environmental Science &, PolicyGeorge Mason University Fairfax VA USA
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. Corp. for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
OSTI Identifier:
1438298
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1438299; OSTI ID: 1508280
Grant/Contract Number:  
DE‐SC0012711; SC0012711
Resource Type:
Published Article
Journal Name:
Earth's Future
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Name: Earth's Future Journal Volume: 6 Journal Issue: 5; Journal ID: ISSN 2328-4277
Publisher:
American Geophysical Union (AGU)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; hurricane; ocean heat content; rainfall; extreme events; climate change; adaptation

Citation Formats

Trenberth, Kevin E., Cheng, Lijing, Jacobs, Peter, Zhang, Yongxin, and Fasullo, John. Hurricane Harvey Links to Ocean Heat Content and Climate Change Adaptation. United States: N. p., 2018. Web. doi:10.1029/2018EF000825.
Trenberth, Kevin E., Cheng, Lijing, Jacobs, Peter, Zhang, Yongxin, & Fasullo, John. Hurricane Harvey Links to Ocean Heat Content and Climate Change Adaptation. United States. doi:10.1029/2018EF000825.
Trenberth, Kevin E., Cheng, Lijing, Jacobs, Peter, Zhang, Yongxin, and Fasullo, John. Tue . "Hurricane Harvey Links to Ocean Heat Content and Climate Change Adaptation". United States. doi:10.1029/2018EF000825.
@article{osti_1438298,
title = {Hurricane Harvey Links to Ocean Heat Content and Climate Change Adaptation},
author = {Trenberth, Kevin E. and Cheng, Lijing and Jacobs, Peter and Zhang, Yongxin and Fasullo, John},
abstractNote = {While hurricanes occur naturally, human-caused climate change is supercharging them and exacerbating the risk of major damage. Here using ocean and atmosphere observations, we demonstrate links between increased upper ocean heat content due to global warming with the extreme rainfalls from recent hurricanes. Hurricane Harvey provides an excellent case study as it was isolated in space and time. We show that prior to the beginning of northern summer of 2017, ocean heat content was the highest on record both globally and in the Gulf of Mexico, but the latter sharply decreased with hurricane Harvey via ocean evaporative cooling. The lost ocean heat was realized in the atmosphere as moisture, and then as latent heat in record-breaking heavy rainfalls. Accordingly, record high ocean heat values not only increased the fuel available to sustain and intensify Harvey but also increased its flooding rains on land. Harvey could not have produced so much rain without human-induced climate change. Results have implications for the role of hurricanes in climate. Proactive planning for the consequences of human-caused climate change is not happening in many vulnerable areas, making the disasters much worse. Human-induced climate change continues to warm the oceans which provide the memory of past accumulated effects. The resulting environment, including higher ocean heat content and sea surface temperatures, invigorates tropical cyclones to make them more intense, bigger, and longer lasting and greatly increases their flooding rains. The main example here is Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, which can be reasonably isolated in terms of influences on and by the environment. Hurricanes keep tropical oceans cooler as a consequence of their strong winds that increase evaporation. Here we show for the first time that the rainfall likely matches the evaporation and the corresponding ocean heat loss. Planning for such supercharged hurricanes (adaptation) by increasing resilience (e.g., better building codes and flood protection) and preparing for contingencies (such as evacuation routes, power cuts, and so forth) is essential but not adequate in many areas, including Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico where Harvey, Irma, and Maria took their toll.},
doi = {10.1029/2018EF000825},
journal = {Earth's Future},
number = 5,
volume = 6,
place = {United States},
year = {2018},
month = {5}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record
DOI: 10.1029/2018EF000825

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Cited by: 16 works
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    Works referencing / citing this record:

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    journal, April 2011

    • Dee, D. P.; Uppala, S. M.; Simmons, A. J.
    • Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, Vol. 137, Issue 656
    • DOI: 10.1002/qj.828

    Trends and variability in column-integrated atmospheric water vapor
    journal, March 2005


    Dealing with hurricane surge flooding in a changing environment: part I. Risk assessment considering storm climatology change, sea level rise, and coastal development
    journal, February 2017

    • Lin, Ning; Shullman, Eric
    • Stochastic Environmental Research and Risk Assessment, Vol. 31, Issue 9
    • DOI: 10.1007/s00477-016-1377-5

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    • Schneider, Udo; Becker, Andreas; Finger, Peter
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    • DOI: 10.1007/s00704-013-0860-x

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    journal, May 2019


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    journal, May 2007


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    journal, December 2007


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    journal, February 2012

    • Peduzzi, P.; Chatenoux, B.; Dao, H.
    • Nature Climate Change, Vol. 2, Issue 4
    • DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1410

    Risk management and climate change
    journal, March 2013

    • Kunreuther, Howard; Heal, Geoffrey; Allen, Myles
    • Nature Climate Change, Vol. 3, Issue 5
    • DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1740

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    journal, January 2016

    • von Schuckmann, K.; Palmer, M. D.; Trenberth, K. E.
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    • DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2876

    Tropical cyclones and climate change
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    • DOI: 10.1038/ngeo779

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    journal, October 2017

    • Garner, Andra J.; Mann, Michael E.; Emanuel, Kerry A.
    • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 114, Issue 45
    • DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1703568114

    Assessing the present and future probability of Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall
    journal, November 2017


    Attribution of extreme rainfall from Hurricane Harvey, August 2017
    journal, December 2017

    • van Oldenborgh, Geert Jan; van der Wiel, Karin; Sebastian, Antonia
    • Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 12, Issue 12
    • DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aa9ef2

    Quantitative attribution of climate effects on Hurricane Harvey’s extreme rainfall in Texas
    journal, April 2018

    • Wang, S-Y Simon; Zhao, Lin; Yoon, Jin-Ho
    • Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 13, Issue 5
    • DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/aabb85

    Improved estimates of ocean heat content from 1960 to 2015
    journal, March 2017

    • Cheng, Lijing; Trenberth, Kevin E.; Fasullo, John
    • Science Advances, Vol. 3, Issue 3
    • DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601545

    CLIMATE: Uncertainty in Hurricanes and Global Warming
    journal, June 2005


    Cuba's 100-year plan for climate change
    journal, January 2018


    Human influence on tropical cyclone intensity
    journal, July 2016


    Improving Societal Outcomes of Extreme Weather in a Changing Climate: An Integrated Perspective
    journal, November 2011


    T ROPICAL C YCLONES
    journal, May 2003


    Disaster Mitigation and Insurance: Learning from Katrina
    journal, March 2006

    • Kunreuther, Howard
    • The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 604, Issue 1
    • DOI: 10.1177/0002716205285685

    Decadal Ocean Heat Redistribution Since the Late 1990s and Its Association with Key Climate Modes
    journal, November 2018

    • Cheng, Lijing; Wang, Gongjie; Abraham, John
    • Climate, Vol. 6, Issue 4
    • DOI: 10.3390/cli6040091

    Global representation of tropical cyclone-induced short-term ocean thermal changes using Argo data
    journal, January 2015


    Argo float data and metadata from Global Data Assembly Centre (Argo GDAC)
    dataset, January 2018

    • Fumihiko, Akazawa; Turki, Alraddadi; Pascual, Ananda
    • DOI: 10.17882/42182

    Ocean Observations in Support of Studies and Forecasts of Tropical and Extratropical Cyclones
    journal, July 2019

    • Domingues, Ricardo; Kuwano-Yoshida, Akira; Chardon-Maldonado, Patricia
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    • DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00446

    Projecting Changes in Expected Annual Damages From Riverine Flooding in the United States
    journal, May 2019


    Ocean Observations in Support of Studies and Forecasts of Tropical and Extratropical Cyclones
    journal, July 2019

    • Domingues, Ricardo; Kuwano-Yoshida, Akira; Chardon-Maldonado, Patricia
    • Frontiers in Marine Science, Vol. 6
    • DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00446

    Decadal Ocean Heat Redistribution Since the Late 1990s and Its Association with Key Climate Modes
    journal, November 2018

    • Cheng, Lijing; Wang, Gongjie; Abraham, John
    • Climate, Vol. 6, Issue 4
    • DOI: 10.3390/cli6040091