Texas flooding from Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey dumped 60 inches of rain on Houston, an unprecedented amount in one of America’s largest cities. Historic flooding caused $125 billion in damages, a price tag exceeded among all hurricanes in US history only by Hurricane Katrina, which did $160 billion in damage. Over 30,000 people were displaced in Houston and nearby communities because of Harvey, and 200,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. Descartes Labs analyzed radar data from the European Sentinel-1 satellite to show the spread of flooding during the storm in late August. In the images below, blue represents water along the coast and in inland areas.

One reason for the high cost of weather-related damages is the growth of cities in vulnerable areas. But climate models predict bigger, more frequent disasters. Scientists warn the atmosphere now has more carbon dioxide than any time in the last 3 million years (and 45% more than in the era prior to the Industrial Revolution). The rate of carbon-emissions growth has slowed in recent years, but it may be too little too late to avert catastrophic climate change.

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