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Study Finds Houston’s Pollution Made Hurricane Harvey Worse

Hurricane Harvey was historic in regards to its strength and the destruction it left behind. When Harvey passed through Houston, it inflicted damage that resembled a war-torn land. While the areas hit the hardest by Harvey are still recovering, a new study has found that its pollution levels might have worsened the city's struggles with the storm.

What the New Study Determined

Researchers from Texas A&M University have found evidence that air pollution was a significant factor for the storm's intensity, according to Renyi Zhang, a professor of atmospheric sciences and co-author of the study. Zhang revealed that large-volume aerosols helped Hurricane Harvey reach the destructive strength that it hit the Gulf Coast with.

The study examined how particles in the air influenced the intensity of flooding, lightning, and other aspects of the storm.

“In the study, we [ran] some model simulations, and we see that aerosols actually enhance lightning and precipitation by up to a factor of three,” Zhang said.

Zhang emphasizes that, though Harvey landed in Corpus Christi, most of its destructive rain and flooding occurred in Houston. He attributes this to the city’s industrial sector and the pollution that comes along with it.

This observation is supported by Zhang’s team, which has recorded that Houston has more intense lightning than other nearby areas. The team found that weather systems produce more lightning when they reach Houston, even when they should be stronger over other areas as well.

In other words, the city of Houston has characteristics that seem to make bad storms even worse. Zhang and his team think pollution is to blame. They assert that Hurricane Harvey's strength could have been better prepared for had officials considered Houston's unique relationship with storms.

The team hopes that this research can help people stay safer during hurricanes. Notably, this study's findings mean that pollution needs to be considered as agencies work to predict the severity of a storm. If models can include this information, we’ll understand when the next big storm is approaching.

If you're struggling to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey or any other storm, help is available. Call our hurricane insurance lawyers for a free consultation at (888) 400-2101.