By Justin Gillis
As Hurricane Harvey bore down on the Texas coast, few people in that state seemed to understand the nature of the looming danger.
The bulletins warned of rain falling in feet, not inches. Experts pleaded with the public to wake up. J. Marshall Shepherd, head of atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia and a leading voice in American meteorology, wrote ahead of the storm that “the most dangerous aspect of this hurricane may be days of rainfall and associated flooding.”
Now we know how events in Texas turned out.
Dr. Shepherd and his colleagues have spent their careers issuing a larger warning, one that much of the public still chooses to ignore. I speak, of course, about the risks of climate change.
Because of atmospheric emissions from human activity, the ocean waters from which Harvey drew its final burst of strength were much warmer than they ought to have been, most likely contributing to the intensity of the deluge. If the forecasts from our scientists are anywhere close to right, we have seen nothing yet.
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