Studies found that the amount of rainfall that fell during Harvey was 15 to 38 percent higher due to increased air temperature compared to previous years. The Gulf region's air temperatures were 2-3 degrees hotter than usual—it may not sound like a lot, but 2 degrees allowed the air to hold more moisture.
Sea levels along the Gulf Coast also made flooding more likely for cities on the coast. Twenty years ago, the sea level around Houston was six inches lower, adding to the likelihood of a flood. But that's not even the end of it.
Part of what made Harvey so devastating was that the storm stayedabove Houston, dumping unbelievable amounts of water on a small area. Normal hurricanes might have moved through Houston and gone back out to sea. Instead, Harvey stalled.
Summer weather patterns (which may become more common) caused the storm to stay in place and let loose foot after foot of water. Combined with Houston's outdated infrastructure, Harvey was more than a natural disaster—it was the perfect combination of every weather pattern that our city wasn't prepared for.
That said, we don't believe the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, housing developers, or Houston officials are off the hook. Storms like this may come around eventually, but it was the city's lack of preparation that made it thoroughly devastating. In the future, Houston residents cannot be forced to undergo another storm like Harvey. Our officials have to consider every solution to keep all of Houston safe—not just the parts of it that are unmarked by an outdated floodplain map.
Thousands of lives are still living in the shadow of Hurricane Harvey—and if we want to help them recover, we have to make sure it doesn't happen again.