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Environmental Research Letters






IOP Science

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Hurricane Harvey made landfall in August 2017 as the first land-falling category 4 hurricane to hit the state of Texas since Hurricane Carla in September 1961. While its intensity at landfall was notable, most of the vast devastation in the Houston metropolitan area was due to Harvey stalling near the southeast Texas coast over the next several days. Harvey's long-duration rainfall event was reminiscent of extreme flooding that occurred in the neighboring state of Louisiana: both of which were caused by a stalled tropical low-pressure system producing four days of intense precipitation. A quantitative attribution analysis of Harvey's rainfall was conducted using a mesoscale atmospheric model forced by constrained boundary and initial conditions that had their long-term climate trends removed. The removal of the various trends of the boundary and initial conditions minimizes the effects of warming in the air and the ocean surface on Harvey. The 60 member ensemble simulations suggest that post-1980 climate warming could have contributed to the extreme precipitation that fell on southeast Texas during 26–29 August 2017 by approximately 20%, with an interquartile range of 13%–37%. While the attribution outcome could be model dependent, this downscaling approach affords the closest means possible of a case-to-case comparison for event attribution, complementing other statistics-based attribution studies on Harvey. Further analysis of a global climate model tracking Harvey-like stalling systems indicates an increase in storm frequency and intensity over southeast Texas through the mid-21st century.