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Skyscrapers May Have Made The Impact Of Hurricane Harvey Worse: Study

The scientists projected future warming and found future versions of the same storms would be significantly wetter and stronger.

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Hurricane, climate change, disasters, U.S., economic, storms
Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey overflow from Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas, VOA

Humans helped make recent devastating U.S. hurricanes wetter but in different ways, two new studies find.

Hurricane Harvey snagged on the skyscrapers of Houston, causing it to slow and dump more rain than it normally would, one study found. The city’s massive amounts of paving had an even bigger impact by reducing drainage. Land development in the metro area, on average, increased the chances of extreme flooding by 21 times, study authors said.

A second study looked at last year’s major Hurricanes Maria and Irma and 2005’s deadly Katrina and used computer simulations to see what would have happened if there had been no human-caused global warming. The study found that climate change significantly increased rainfall from those three storms, but did not boost their wind speed.

Both studies are in Wednesday’s journal Nature.

Hurricane, skyscraper
A smoky haze envelopes the skyscrapers and Rocky Mountains that usually can be seen as a backdrop to the city from a high-rise building, Aug. 20, 2018, in Denver. VOA

Houston was a literal drag on Harvey as it sloshed through, with the storm getting tripped up by the skyscrapers, said study co-author Gabriele Villarini, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Iowa.

Co-author Gabe Vecchi, a climate scientist at Princeton University, said that forced the storm to move up higher, causing more concentrated rain over Houston and slowing, which also made more rain.

He compared it to a river running over rocks, creating bubbles.

“That’s sort of what’s going on here,” he said.

This effect is dwarfed, though, by the paving and building that don’t allow water to sink into the ground, Vecchi said.

Harvey’s record rainfall reached 5 feet in one spot near Houston. The scientists used computer simulations to see the effects of urbanization. In parts of the Houston metro area, the effects of development ranged from a 10 percent higher risk of extreme flooding in the less developed northwest to nearly 92 times the risk in the northeast, they reported.

Hurricane Florence, Lawmakers,
A work truck drives on Hwy 24 as the wind from Hurricane Florence blows palm trees in Swansboro N.C. VOA

That’s on top of the unique weather patterns that made Harvey slow down and stall and climate change which brought more water into the storm, Vecchi said.

MIT hurricane and climate expert Kerry Emanuel, who wasn’t part of the study, called the Harvey study “a real advance in our understanding of hurricane impacts on urban areas.”

But Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon wasn’t convinced. He said the team used generic shapes instead of the actual Houston skyline. He said the storm’s wind speeds may have slowed, but that’s different from the storm’s forward movement slowing.

The other study in Nature looked at a variety of historical damaging storms and tried to calculate past and future effects of climate change. In three cases, the scientists simulated the storms without the changes in the climate from greenhouse gases, showing that global warming increased rainfall 8.9 percent in Hurricane Maria , 6.3 percent in Hurricane Irma and 8.7 percent in Hurricane Katrina .

Maria hit Puerto and Rico and other parts of the Caribbean. Irma hit the Caribbean and Florida, while Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Climate Change, Hurricanes
Russ Lewis covers his eyes from a gust of wind and a blast of sand as Hurricane Florence approaches Myrtle Beach, S.C.. VOA

In Maria’s case, a warming climate concentrated heavier rain in the center of the storm and reduced it on the edges, said co-author Michael Wehner, a climate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

For 15 storms, which included the devastating Typhoon Haiyan , the potent Gilbert and 1992’s Hurricane Andrew , the scientists projected future warming and found future versions of the same storms would be significantly wetter and stronger.

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“We are beginning to see a climate change influence emerge on tropical cyclones and that’s coming out as rainfall,” said study lead author Christina Patricola, an atmospheric scientist at the national lab.

Although replicating a storm in a different climate is difficult and can’t account for certain changes, this work bolsters science understanding of how climate change alters hurricanes, Emanuel said. (VOA)

Next Story

Yoga Can Help the World in Fighting Climate Change, Fostering Global Harmony: UN

It teaches us a holistic vision of the world encouraging us to live in harmony with ourselves

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Yoga, Climate Change, Global Harmony
As such, yoga can promote solidarity, social integration, tolerance justice and peace. Pixabay

Deputy UN Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has said that yoga can help the world in these troubled times by inspiring the adoption of a sustainable lifestyle to fight climate change and by promoting tolerance and peace.

Addressing the fifth International Yoga Day celebration here on Thursday, she said: “The essence of yoga is balance not only within us, but also in our relationship with humanity, with the world. As such, yoga can promote solidarity, social integration, tolerance justice and peace.

“It teaches us a holistic vision of the world encouraging us to live in harmony with ourselves, society and nature.”

The theme of the celebration was Yoga and Climate Action, and Mohammed said that yoga “has a valuable contribution in addressing climate change, the defining issue of our time, by inspiring us to shift away from the unsustainable practices towards inclusive green growth, conscious consumption and much more sustainable lifestyles”.

Yoga, Climate Change, Global Harmony
Yoga can help the world in these troubled times by inspiring the adoption of a sustainable lifestyle to fight climate change . Pixabay

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a video message that the global significance of yoga is that like it unites tbe body, mind and soul, it can also unite the world.

The celebration was filled with symbolism relevant to the issues of the day. In a show of the nature’s challenge, week-long rains continuing into the day, turned the UN lawns soggy, forcing the event indoors into the General Assembly chamber.

And the hall that often echoes with words of disharmony and confrontation instead reverberated with chants of “Om, Om Shanti” led by the yoga gurus.

In a sign of human ingenuity meeting nature’s adversities, the yoga masters quickly changed the planned mass outdoor yoga exercises into a performance of “office yoga” for closed in spaces by the diplomats, officials and yoga enthusiasts thronging the Assembly chamber.

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India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin noted that the International Yoga Day was born in that very hall through a resolution adopted by the Assembly in 2014.

“There is growing discourse among theglobal community that yoga can be one of the tools in our collective quest for promoting sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature,” he said.

Yoga drives the quest for balance and this “provides us with a framework for managing our needs and desires” he said.

“When applied to communities and societies, yoga offers a toolkit for embracing lifestyles that are sustainable, lifestyles that appeal to the human yearning for harmony.”

Yoga, Climate Change, Global Harmony
The essence of yoga is balance not only within us, but also in our relationship with humanity. Pixabay

Celebrity yoga instructor and pranic healer Sunaina Rekhi of Mumbai’s Yoga Gallery received loud cheers as she led the audience through a freewheeling session of joyous yoga with feet stomping and jumping in place showing how to relieve stress and relax.

Swami Paramananda of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, and Kevin Tobar from the Bhakti Centre led chants and yoga exercises adapted for practice in confined spaces like offices.

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Since Wednesday, a light show of yoga asanas is being projected on the north face of the iconic, 39-storey UN building at night. (IANS)