Houston is underwater after being slammed with rain brought to shore by Hurricane Harvey. Officials say it could be weeks before the roads are traversable. While the mainstream media and other alarmists are eagerly pegging human-caused global warming on the rising waters, others are saying, "Not so fast."
One of them is climatologist and former NASA scientist Roy W. Spencer, Ph.D. At his blog, Spencer said Harvey was nothing more than a “natural weather disaster.” They’ve “always occurred and always will occur,” he added. Spencer explains that global warming alarmists, like Al Gore, favor the dishonest tactic of “making naturally-occurring severe weather seem unnatural,” when all the while, there’s always a logical explanation:
Major floods are difficult to compare throughout history because the ways in which we alter the landscape. For example, as cities like Houston expand over the years, soil is covered up by roads, parking lots, and buildings, with water rapidly draining off rather than soaking into the soil. The population of Houston is now ten times what it was in the 1920s. The Houston metroplex area has expanded greatly and the water drainage is basically in the direction of downtown Houston.
There have been many flood disasters in the Houston area, even dating to the mid-1800s when the population was very low. In December of 1935 a massive flood occurred in the downtown area as the water level height measured at Buffalo Bayou in Houston topped out at 54.4 feet.
By way of comparison, as of 6:30 a.m. this (Monday) morning, the water level in the same location is at 38 feet, which is still 16 feet lower than in 1935. I’m sure that will continue to rise.
So far, according to Spencer, the flooding in Houston isn’t nearly as bad as it was over 80 years ago when the city had two million fewer people. But maybe a man-warmed Harvey brought in an “unprecedented” amount of rain? Not at all, says Spencer:
Harvey stalled after it came ashore and so all of the rain has been concentrated in a relatively small portion of Texas around the Houston area…
There is no aspect of global warming theory that says rain systems are going to be moving slower, as we are seeing in Texas. This is just the luck of the draw. Sometimes weather systems stall, and that sucks if you are caught under one. The same is true of high pressure areas; when they stall, a drought results.
Spencer compares the rainfall totals from Harvey, now around 40 inches over a few days, with the much-weaker 1979 Tropical Storm Claudette, which produced 43 inches of rain in just 24 hours in Houston. Aren't these “unprecedented” weather events worsening because of man-made global warming? Not so, explains Spencer:
In this case, we didn’t have just a tropical storm like Claudette, but a major hurricane, which covered a much larger area with heavy rain. Roger Pielke Jr. has pointed out that the U.S. has had only four Category 4 (or stronger) hurricane strikes since 1970, but in about the same number of years preceding 1970 there were 14 strikes. So we can’t say that we are experiencing more intense hurricanes in recent decades.
Going back even earlier, a Category 4 hurricane struck Galveston in 1900, killing between 6,000 and 12,000 people. That was the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history.
And don’t forget, we just went through an unprecedented length of time – almost 12 years – without a major hurricane (Cat 3 or stronger) making landfall in the U.S.
In fact, Spencer is confused as to why everyone is calling Harvey “unprecedented”:
The National Weather Service has termed the event unfolding in the Houston area as unprecedented. I’m not sure why. I suspect in terms of damage and number of people affected, that will be the case. But the primary reason won’t be because this was an unprecedented meteorological event.
If we are talking about the 100 years or so that we have rainfall records, then it might be that southeast Texas hasn’t seen this much total rain fall over a fairly wide area. At this point it doesn’t look like any rain gage locations will break the record for total 24 hour rainfall in Texas, or possibly even for storm total rainfall, but to have so large an area having over 20 inches is very unusual.
They will break records for their individual gage locations, but that’s the kind of record that is routinely broken somewhere anyway, like record high and low temperatures.
In any case, I’d be surprised if such a meteorological event didn’t happen in centuries past in this area, before we were measuring them.
“‘Unprecedented’ doesn’t necessarily mean it represents a new normal,” Spencer concludes. “Weird stuff happens… Weather disasters happen, with or without the help of humans.”