August Brings Hurricane Heat to Houston and Gulf

HOUSTON – (By Dale King, Realty News Report) — The United States enters the second third of the 2021 hurricane season in August – the start of the period considered most likely to deliver the potentially harshest storms in the largest numbers.

Residents of Houston, still weather-wary from the pounding rain, wind, horrific storm surges and extensive property damage caused by Hurricane Harvey just four years ago, still shudder at indications of climatological chaos being inflicted on storm-vulnerable areas in the USA – Houston, New Orleans and the west coast of Florida in particular.

Those locations are all close to the steamy Gulf of Mexico, a simmering body of water that can pump considerable energy into tempests passing above.

Bill Pekny, who has spent a half-century tracking hurricanes and studying the science involved, says hurricane activity in June and July 2021 “lived up to the pre-season prediction of being an active, but not unprecedented, year.”

Interviewed during the waning days of July, Pekny, whose more than 50 years of meteorological awareness include service in the U.S. armed forces and the aerospace industry, offered the following advice to Houston residents as they move deeper into the hurricane season:

“Hurricanes happen along the Texas Gulf coast. They are devastating for sure, if you are hit or flooded by them.  There is nothing ‘normal’ about them.  But they are cyclic weather events.  They are not getting worse or better when you look into the rear-view mirror of climate history.  Just be prepared as best you can and listen carefully to instructions from local government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on what to do, and what not to do.”

“These days, there is a lot of unwarranted fear that these [hurricanes] are getting more frequent and more severe,” said Pekny, author of “A Tale of Two Climates: One Real, One Imaginary.

“Our climate has always changed and is changing. Currently, Earth’s climate is warming slightly, warming naturally and warming beneficially.”

“We continue to build more and more high-dollar homes, hotels and resorts in high-risk coastal areas,” he explained. “When hurricanes do make landfall, they naturally create more property damage with higher price tags. In other words, the real culprit is more development, not more hurricanes. People just conflate these two issues.”

Despite protests from those who anticipate climate disaster, Pekny said, “hurricanes in the North Atlantic basin, which includes the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico areas, are not trending worse in either frequency or intensity over climatological time scales. The same is true on a global scale. Even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded, ‘Hurricanes have not become more numerous in recent years.’”

And the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change data, he noted, “shows there has been no increasing trend in tropical cyclone or hurricane numbers.”

Climatologically speaking, he said, “we are in an interglacial warming period,” he said, “That means we have roughly 15,000-year-long interglacial warm periods sandwiched among roughly 100,000-year-long ice ages.  So, we have 100,000 years of ice age, followed by 15,000 years of interglacial warm period, followed by another 100,000 years of ice age, followed by another 15,000 years of interglacial warm period, and on and on, cyclically.  By the way, today, we are in about the 12,500th year of our current interglacial warm period.”

It’s important, Pekny said, to understand the difference between “climate” and “weather.”

“Weather is event-based. It’s what’s happening locally in your backyard right now, or hour-to-hour, or day-to-day, whereas climate is a long-term, large area average trend of weather patterns (i.e., global warming is a climate term, and by ‘long-term,’ I mean at least 30 years or more).”

“Weather and climate are too often used interchangeably, which causes confusion and wrong analysis or predictions.  They are not the same.  Just because you have a few isolated, bad-tornado years, like in 1953, 1974, or 2011, that does not mean that climate (temperature) is the cause.  In fact, tornado deaths, on average, have trended downward over the long haul.”

As to the hurricane season to date, the USA has had “17 named storms vs. the historical average of 14.1, at one-fourth of the way through the six-month hurricane season.

Only one tropical storm in the North Atlantic basin, “and not even a hurricane-level storm at that, has made a meaningful landfall this season. It was Tropical Storm Elsa, which in July dumped a significant amount of rain as it passed northeasterly over Florida and then up the Atlantic seaboard before dying out.”

“In terms of another cyclone metric – named storm days — there’s been a noticeable increase in the number of short-duration tropical storms (those lasting less than two days). Meanwhile, storms lasting longer than two days have not shown a noticeable increase,” said Pekny.

“The long-lasting storms are the most devastating ones,” he added, like Hurricane Harvey, which stalled as it came ashore and pummeled Houston with days of rain.  Category 4 Harvey hit Texas on Aug. 25, 2017, caused $125 billion in damage. It dumped 1 trillion gallons of rain on Houston in four days, causing extreme flooding.

Aug. 1, 2021 Realty News Report Copyright 2021

For more about Texas real estate, check out the book Houston 2020: America’s Boom Town – An Extreme Close Up  by Ralph Bivins. Available on Amazon  

Houston 2020 Ebook version     

Image: Courtesy  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

August Brings Hurricane Heat to Houston and Gulf

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