Climate Change Might Make Intense Hurricanes Like Harvey More Common

Climate change could make storm surges and rainfall worse in future hurricanes.
Climate Change Might Make Intense Hurricanes Like Harvey More Common

Hurricane Harvey was the most intense hurricane to make landfall on the U.S. mainland in over a decade.

And because of climate change, hurricanes like Harvey are probably going to become more common.

It's hard to pin a single weather event — like Harvey — on climate change. But predictive models show it could make future hurricanes stronger. 

One 2010 study says by the end of the century, the U.S. should expect a 30 percent increase in potential damage from hurricanes in just the Atlantic.

According to the study, two things in particular are likely to get a lot worse in future hurricanes: storm surge and rainfall.

Rising sea levels caused by global warming make coastal areas more likely to flood when a storm begins pushing water inland, a process known as storm surge.

The storm surge coming off a hurricane is usually the deadliest part of the actual storm, and it's often the most destructive.

Between 1986 and 2015, NOAA estimates hurricanes caused a total of $515.4 billion in damage, adjusted for inflation.

The increased intensity of the hurricanes also means the storms will be dumping more rain. And that means flooding farther inland will become a bigger problem, too.

The National Weather Service predicts rainfall totals from Harvey could exceed 40 inches in certain areas, and the storm could cause $40 billion in damage.

There might be a bit of good news, though. While stronger hurricanes are likely to become more common, some analysts predict there will also be fewer hurricanes overall.