When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in August, the country watched as the storm dumped more than 60 inches of rain throughout South Texas.
Now, experts like Andrew Dessler, atmospheric sciences professor at Texas A&M, are saying that climate change played a role in the size and intensity of Hurricane Harvey.
According to Dessler, climate change doesn’t create storms, but it does strengthen preexisting storms.
“The occurrence of a storm itself is largely [due to] chance and other environmental factors like El Niños and internal variability,” Dessler said. “The way humans have affected it is they have made the impacts of the storms a little bit worse.”
Dessler said as humans continue to warm the ocean and climate, storm conditions intensify.
“Even though we might not be producing more storms, the storms that do occur are going to have higher wind speeds and they’re probably going to have more rainfall,” Dessler said. “You can see examples of that in the incredibly intense storms over the Caribbean and the huge amounts of rainfall from Hurricane Harvey.”
Hailey Mueller Lavigne, civil engineering senior and chair of Texas A&M’s Environmental Issues Committee, said students can combat climate change by bringing awareness to the issue.
“Don’t ignore this problem, because it won’t go away,” Mueller Lavigne said. “Be proactive in letting other people know your concerns, be it your friends, parents, even senators and congressmen. The simplest way to help is to just be a voice.”
Dessler went to say this is the perfect time to talk about climate change, especially since so many people are focused on this hurricane season’s impacts.
“No politician wants to talk about issues that they’re not winning on, and they’re not winning on climate change,” Dessler said. “So they don’t want to talk about it. I think that’s really counterproductive. The right time to talk about it is when people’s attentions are focused on the impacts.”
According to Dessler, environmentally conscientious actions are important but he said voting is a major action all Americans can take to create more stable climate.
“The one thing that everybody should do, if they care about climate, is vote for politicians who have similar views on political issues,” Dessler said. “We really need coordinated government-level action to really address the problem.”
Mueller Lavigne said climate change is a serious issue and its effects must be taken earnestly.
“Hurricanes feed off of warm waters and warm air,” Mueller Lavigne said. “I know that the temperature differences don’t seem like a lot to some people, but when they are taken into the sheer scale of hurricane, very scary things start to happen.”
Gabrielle Amaya, an English freshman from Texas City, which was hit hard by Harvey, said she can attest that Hurricane Harvey was scary for those who live close to the coast.
“Harvey increased in strength overnight,” Amaya said. “A lot of the people had their houses flooded. They had to move to their roofs. These people were stuck at their houses with no way out.”
Dessler said Americans should learn from Hurricane Harvey and begin to combat climate change.
“People have to realize that climate change is not going anywhere,” Dessler said. “We need to stabilize the climate if we want to keep these impacts from getting bigger.”