Scientists say global warming makes storms, like Harvey, wetter

Water from Addicks Reservoir flows into neighborhoods as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in Houston, in the southern US state of Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Updated 30 August 2017
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Scientists say global warming makes storms, like Harvey, wetter

WASHINGTON: By the time the rain stops, Harvey will have dumped about 1 million gallons of water for every man, woman and child in southeastern Texas — a soggy, record-breaking glimpse of the wet and wild future global warming could bring, scientists say.
While scientists are quick to say climate change didn’t cause Harvey and that they haven’t determined yet whether the storm was made worse by global warming, they do note that warmer air and water mean wetter and possibly more intense hurricanes in the future.
“This is the kind of thing we are going to get more of,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer. “This storm should serve as warning.”
There’s a scientifically accepted method for determining if some wild weather event has the fingerprints of man-made climate change, and it involves intricate calculations. Those could take weeks or months to complete, and then even longer to be checked by other scientists.
In general, though, climate scientists agree that future storms will dump much more rain than the same size storms did in the past.
That’s because warmer air holds more water. With every degree Fahrenheit, the atmosphere can hold and then dump an additional 4 percent of water (7 percent for every degree Celsius), several scientists say.
Global warming also means warmer seas, and warm water is what fuels hurricanes.
When Harvey moved toward Texas, water in the Gulf of Mexico was nearly 2 degrees (1 degree Celsius) warmer than normal, said Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters. Hurricanes need at least 79 degrees F (26 C) as fuel, and water at least that warm ran more than 300 feet (100 meters) deep in the Gulf, according to University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy.
Several studies show that the top 1 percent of the strongest downpours are already happening much more frequently. Also, calculations done Monday by MIT meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel show that the drenching received by Rockport, Texas, used to be maybe a once-in-1,800-years event for that city, but with warmer air holding more water and changes in storm steering currents since 2010, it is now a once-every-300-years event.
There’s a lot of debate among climate scientists over what role, if any, global warming may have played in causing Harvey to stall over Texas, which was a huge factor in the catastrophic flooding. If the hurricane had moved on like a normal storm, it wouldn’t have dumped as much rain in any one spot.
Harvey stalled because it is sandwiched between two high-pressure fronts that push it in opposite directions, and those fronts are stuck.
Oppenheimer and some others theorize that there’s a connection between melting sea ice in the Arctic and changes in the jet stream and the weather patterns that make these “blocking fronts” more common. Others, like Masters, contend it’s too early to say.
University of Washington atmospheric scientist Cliff Mass said climate change is simply not powerful enough to create off-the-chart events like Harvey’s rainfall.
“You really can’t pin global warming on something this extreme. It has to be natural variability,” Mass said. “It may juice it up slightly but not create this phenomenal anomaly.”
“We’re breaking one record after another with this thing,” Mass said.
Sometime Tuesday or early Wednesday, parts of the Houston region will have broken the nearly 40-year-old US record for the heaviest rainfall from a tropical system — 48 inches (120 centimeters), set by Tropical Storm Amelia in 1978 in Texas, several meteorologists say.
Already 15 trillion gallons (57 trillion liters) of rain have fallen on a large area, and an additional 5 trillion or 6 trillion gallons are forecast by the end of Wednesday, meteorologist Ryan Maue of WeatherBell Analytics calculates. That’s enough water to fill all the NFL and Division 1 college football stadiums more than 100 times over.


NASA scraps all-women spacewalk for lack of well-fitting suits

In this file photo taken on March 14, 2019 NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch and Nick Hague, members of the International Space Station (ISS) expedition 59/60, react shortly before the launch onboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (AFP)
Updated 26 March 2019
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NASA scraps all-women spacewalk for lack of well-fitting suits

  • The spacesuits aboard the ISS are in fact assemblies of several parts put together as best adapted to each astronaut’s body, explained Brandi Dean, spokeswoman of the Johnson Space Center in Houston

WASHINGTON: The US space agency NASA scrapped Monday a planned historic spacewalk by two women astronauts, citing a lack of available spacesuits that would fit them at the International Space Station.
Christina Koch will now perform tasks in space Friday with fellow American Nick Hague — instead of Anne McClain as originally planned.
Had Koch and McClain done their spacewalk together, it would have been the first ever by two women astronauts.
Until now, male-only or mixed male-female teams had conducted spacewalk since the space station was assembled in 1998 — 214 spacewalks until now.
McClain worked outside the station last week — with Hague — when she realized that a “medium“-sized upper half of her spacesuit fit her better.
“Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it,” NASA explained.
The spacesuits aboard the ISS are in fact assemblies of several parts put together as best adapted to each astronaut’s body, explained Brandi Dean, spokeswoman of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas where American astronauts are based.
She said two upper parts in each of the three available spacesuit sizes are currently held at the ISS: medium, large and extra large.
“We do our best to anticipate the spacesuit sizes that each astronaut will need, based on the spacesuit size they wore in training on the ground, and in some cases astronauts train in multiple sizes,” she said in explaining the problem that hampered Friday’s planned spacewalk.
“However, individuals’ sizing needs may change when they are on orbit, in response to the changes living in microgravity can bring about in a body.
“In addition, no one training environment can fully simulate performing a spacewalk in microgravity, and an individual may find that their sizing preferences change in space.”