Hurricane image

Mitigate and adapt. Mitigate or adapt.

“Right now, we’re kind of doing neither,” says George Mason University scientist Peter Jacobs.

Which, as this year’s hurricane season is getting under way, leaves us still facing the “suffer the consequences” outcome, according to National Center for Atmospheric Research climate scientist Kevin Trenberth.

Along with Lijing Cheng of China’s Institute of Atmospheric Research, Trenberth and Jacobs analyzed the source of the “fuel” for Hurricane Harvey, which deluged Houston and parts of Texas in August 2017.

Researchers link increased ocean and Gulf Coast heat as the 'fuel' for the 2017 Hurricane Harvey that ravaged parts of Texas. Click To Tweet

“We’ve actually analyzed where the water vapor came from, and it came out of the ocean, and the ocean heat content was at record high levels,” Trenberth says in this month’s Yale Climate Connections “This Is Not Cool” video. “Water vapor is the fuel for all kinds of weather systems, whether it’s an individual thunder storm” or a hurricane or tropical cyclone.

Cheng offers that “Harvey extracted heat from the ocean and released heat by precipitation … so the ocean heat content losses were just exactly consistent with the energy of precipitation by Harvey.”

“We can start to say some kinds of events have become more likely; they would have been much less likely in a climate where we don’t pump out all these greenhouse gases,” says doctoral candidate Jacobs. “We need to adapt to those changes that we can’t prevent, that it’s too late to prevent.”

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