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Texas receives hurricane warning due to sea level rise

Hurricanes in Texas could become more powerful as sea levels rise due to climate change, a study suggests.

The study, conducted by John Nielsen-Gammon, a professor at Texas A&M University and state climatologist, found that weather conditions in the state are becoming increasingly dangerous. To arrive at the results, Nielsen-Gammon analyzed data from 1900 to 2023 to estimate how weather patterns would change by 2036.

He noted that there could be a 10 percent increase in rainfall, which will be mostly seen in the eastern regions and urban centers. Some parts of the state have already seen a 15 percent increase in precipitation over the last 100 years due to climate change, the study says.

Sea level rise along the Gulf Coast increases the threat of hurricanes by increasing the severity of storm surges that can damage buildings and cause flooding.

A photo shows the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in the small town of Columbus, Texas. Hurricanes in the state could become stronger as sea levels rise, a study suggests.

RoschetzkyIstockPhoto/Getty

“Historically, droughts and hurricanes have been the costliest natural disasters in Texas,” Nielsen-Gammon said in a statement. “Hurricanes are sudden, catastrophic events, while droughts develop slowly but can affect all sectors of society. Both droughts and hurricanes change in complicated ways, but overall the risk posed by both is growing.”

The study found that extreme weather events are occurring more frequently overall. High temperatures and drought conditions also create ideal conditions for forest fires, meaning they are also increasing. The number of days with ideal conditions for fires to break out has also increased, particularly in the western part of the state, the study said.

As the report notes, the number of days with extremely favorable conditions for fires to spread has already increased, particularly in West Texas.

“We have national climate assessments, but they cannot address the specific climate conditions in Texas,” Nielsen-Gammon said. “In this Texas-specific study, we focused as much as possible on observed trends rather than emphasizing climate model projections. Historical climate trends are part of our lived experience in Texas, and our report puts them in a long-term context.”

Climate change is leading to an increase in extreme weather events worldwide. Because of this, Texans have faced many challenges in recent years, most notably due to the ongoing drought that continues to threaten water supplies and agriculture.

According to Nielsen-Gammon, the last two years have seen two of the hottest summers on record in the state, and the new study reports that will only continue.

“That changed the trend of 100-degree days and made the increase even more dramatic than before. We've also seen new research that suggests surface water supplies may become less reliable as evaporation losses increase and temperature and rainfall become more erratic,” he said.

By 2036, Texans could see the number of days reaching 100 degrees quadruple than in the 1970s and 1980s. Overall, water loss through evaporation could increase by seven percent by 2036, the study says.

The effects of increasing drought and high temperatures are already being felt in the state. In February of this year, a huge forest fire broke out in the Texas Panhandle. The fire lasted about three weeks and burned over 1 million acres.

Texas isn't the only state suffering. California and other states in the West have suffered from prolonged drought in recent years. In fact, the entire region is on the brink of a water crisis as years of drought have meant that water supplies are no longer as good as they used to be.

Although California and other parts of the West have seen a recent increase in rainfall, climate change continues to make weather patterns unpredictable, meaning the future is uncertain.

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