Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State, has posted a long (for Facebook) article on Facebook about how climate change contributes to events like this. In short, climate determines the probability of a particular weather event occurring, but ultimately any one particular weather event is a roll of the (now slightly loaded) dice. Warmer water and warmer air than in the past have both made events like this more likely, and are making events like this more destructive when they do occur. The article has links to several journal articles which would be worth reading to know something about hydrology and climate change. But right now I can’t do that because I’m late for my job where I have to convince people I know something about, among other topics, hydrology and climate change.
That means that the storm surge was a half foot higher than it would have been just decades ago, meaning far more flooding and destruction.
In addition to that, sea surface temperatures in the region have risen about 0.5C (close to 1F) over the past few decades, from roughly 30C (86F) to 30.5C (87F), which contributed to the very warm sea surface temperatures (30.5-31 C or 87-88F). There is a simple thermodynamic relationship known as the “Clausius-Clapeyron equation (see e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/…/Clausius%E2%80%93Clapeyron_relat…) that tells us there is a roughly 3% increase in average atmospheric moisture content for each 0.5C (~1F) of warming. Sea surface temperatures in the area where Harvey intensified were 0.5-1C warmer than current-day average temperatures, which translates to 1-1.5C warmer than the ‘average’ temperatures a few decades ago. That means 3-5% more moisture in the atmosphere.
Many practical hydrological, meteorological, and agricultural management problems require estimates of soil moisture with an areal footprint equivalent to field scale, integrated over the entire root zone. The cosmic-ray neutron probe is a promising instrument to provide field-scale areal coverage, but these observations are shallow and require depth-scaling in order to be considered representative of the entire root zone. A study to identify appropriate depth-scaling techniques was conducted at a grazing pasture site in central Saskatchewan, Canada over a 2-year period. Area-averaged soil moisture was assessed using a cosmic-ray neutron probe. Root zone soil moisture was measured at 21 locations within the 500 m × 500 m study area, using a down-hole neutron probe. The cosmic-ray neutron probe was found to provide accurate estimates of field-scale surface soil moisture, but measurements represented less than 40 % of the seasonal change in root zone storage due to its shallow measurement depth. The root zone estimation methods evaluated were: (a) the coupling of the cosmic-ray neutron probe with a time-stable neutron probe monitoring location, (b) coupling the cosmic-ray neutron probe with a representative landscape unit monitoring approach, and (c) convolution of the cosmic-ray neutron probe measurements with the exponential filter. The time stability method provided the best estimate of root zone soil moisture (RMSE = 0.005 cm3 cm−3), followed by the exponential filter (RMSE = 0.014 cm3 cm−3). The landscape unit approach, which required no calibration, had a negative bias but estimated the cumulative change in storage reasonably. The feasibility of applying these methods to field sites without existing instrumentation is discussed. Based upon its observed performance and its minimal data requirements, it is concluded that the exponential filter method has the most potential for estimating root zone soil moisture from cosmic-ray neutron probe data.