Energy & Environment

Houston Will Get More Heavy Downpours Because Of Climate Change Say Scientists

This week’s flood was one for the history books. But maybe not for long. Here’s why there may be more heavy downpours in our future.

You might be wondering, what is going on with our weather? This latest big storm comes not even a year after a very similar downpour flooded Houston last Memorial Day weekend. These are big storms dumping as much rain in hours as otherwise might be expected in weeks.

“April 2016 will go down as the wettest April on record for the City of Houston,” says Jake Crouch, a scientist at the government’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Crouch is part of a team tracking weather data from Houston and across the country. He says this week’s storm was, topped only by Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 as the city’s biggest single rain event ever. They are heavy downpours and Crouch says, they are increasing in frequency.

“We are seeing more precipitation fall in single events. So that means we’re seeing more of these flooding events occur. But we’re also seeing longer and more frequent droughts as well,“ says Crouch.

Hold on. Both extremes?

“We’re actually seeing both extremes occur with a change in climate. More heavy, single precipitation events and longer and more frequent droughts.“

So it’s not more rain falling on average, it’s just more coming all at once every so often?

“One of the reasons that it’s happening is we are warming the lower part of the atmosphere. And when that happens the atmosphere can hold more moisture content. So when precipitation does occur we are seeing heavier precipitation in single events,“ Crouch told News 88.7.

Compared to the first half of the last century, these big downpours have increased 16 percent in Texas according to federal data. But it could be worse…in the northeast United States, big downpours are up over 70 percent.

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Dave Fehling

Director of News and Public Affairs

As Director of News and Public Affairs, Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston's NPR station. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well...

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