To Make Storm Predictions More Accurate, Take Air Pollution Into Account

A Texas A&M study found that the heavy rains, flooding and lightning Houston experienced during Hurricane Harvey were intensified by air pollution.

By Michael Marks & Shelly BrisbinJanuary 11, 2021 9:24 am,

A number of meteorological conditions helped turn Hurricane Harvey into one of the costliest disasters in U.S. history. The late summer heat, higher sea levels in the Gulf of Mexico and an untimely high-pressure system conspired to keep the storm seemingly locked in place, dumping dozens of inches of rain on Southeast Texas. 

But new research from Texas A&M University shows that another factor played a part in the storm’s intensity: air pollution. Renyi Zhang is a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M, and a co-author of the study. He told Texas Standard that a large volume aerosols –  or, particles in the atmosphere – increased the intensity of Hurricane Harvey.

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

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– How the presence of more pollution in the Houston area increased the storm’s impact

– How knowledge gained from the study could be applied to predict future storm risks

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