Scientists suspect that the storm has lasted longer over land and dumped more rain than it otherwise would have, thanks to the ability of a warmer atmosphere to contain more moisture.
Studies published in the past few years have shown that extreme precipitation events are becoming more common and more extreme in many parts of the world as the air and oceans continues to warm, and that this trend is expected to continue.
With tropical storms and hurricanes, computer model simulations show that future storms are likely to be wetter, posing even greater inland flood challenges than we’re used to now.
There are elements of Harvey that stand out, including the 16.07 inches of rain that fell in Houston on August 27, setting a record for the wettest day in that city’s history. The storm has dropped so much rain in southeast Texas that the National Weather Service had to add a new color to its maps.
Scientists are likely to conduct extreme event attribution studies on the heavy rainfall from Hurricane Harvey, Sobel said, and these are likely, though not guaranteed, to show a climate change-related increase in the odds for such extreme rainfall amounts.