But the science is this: Hurricanes thrive over warm water and strengthen in intensity; oceans have warmed on an average 1 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century, and sea levels have risen about 7 inches during that time. Throw in compound flooding — the combination of rising sea levels from global warming, storm surge and extreme rainfall — and you have the perfect mix for record flooding.
We saw this in greater Houston from Harvey and along the 240-mile stretch of the Atlantic coast from Jacksonville, Florida, to Charleston, South Carolina as a result of Irma’s storm surge and heavy rains.
Both storms were massive in scope. Harvey dumped a record 51 inches of rainfall as it sat over Texas and Louisiana, saturating the region with 27 trillion gallons of water in six days. Irma was the strongest Atlantic-basin hurricane ever recorded outside the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, spending three days as a Category 5 hurricane, the longest Category 5 on record. Irma maintained winds of 185 mph or above for a total of 37 hours, the most ever for a storm.
“If this isn’t climate change,” Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said as Irma bore down on Florida, “I don’t know what is.”