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Researcher to speak on increased likelihood of Texas hurricanes

January 5, 2013

statesman

Galveston, Texas in the Gulf of Mexico has the highest rate of hurricane activity than anywhere else in the USA. The Gulf area reports more hurricane activity than any other part of the US.

Galveston, Texas in the Gulf of Mexico has the highest rate of hurricane activity than anywhere else in the USA. The Gulf area reports more hurricane activity than any other part of the US.

The chances that a 15-inch rainfall might hit Central Texas in any given year have long been about 1-in-1,000. But with the warming of air that scientists expect over the century, some predict those chances might jump to 1-in-50.Kerry Emanuel, a prominent Massachusetts Institute of Technology meteorology professor, will lecture on the topic in Austin on Tuesday. The talk, titled “Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico: The History and Future of the Texas Coast,” is free and open to the public, part of the University of Texas’ Hot Science-Cool Talks series.

“We expect hurricane-related rainfall is going to get worse over next 100 years,” Emanuel said in an interview.

While that news might seem welcome in drought-stricken Central Texas — especially since moister, hurricane rain-saturated soils are likely to lead to smaller, follow-up rainfalls — such rain bombs could lead to destructive flooding, Emanuel said.

“If the ground is really dry and parched, much of it becomes runoff,” he said.

Emanuel said he examines a combination of factors, including air and ocean surface temperatures and wind intensity, to forecast the broad future of hurricanes in the region.

The vast majority of would-be hurricanes “die a natural death,” said Emanuel, not quite fit to become full-fledged storms.

But in the future, he said, “the environment will be more supportive for hurricanes.”

Reports on the relationship between climate change and Gulf waters haven’t always fared well in Texas. In 2011, a Rice University professor accused the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality of censoring a report on the health of Galveston Bay.

The agency at first refused to publish the report after the Rice University professor and another researcher resisted requests by state environmental officials to remove references to sea level rise and human involvement in climate change.

After public outrage, the agency later reached an agreement with the researchers, and the article was published.

Emanuel will give the talk at the Student Activity Center auditorium at 2201 Speedway on the UT campus at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

His is not the only free public talk on global warming-related issues this month in the greater Austin area.

On Jan. 23, Katharine Hayhoe, a research professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas Tech University, will deliver Texas State University’s Ed Cape Seminar at 12:30 p.m. in the Sac-N-Pac Room at the End Zone Complex of Bobcat Stadium on the university campus.

Hayhoe was the lead author of the federal report “Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States.”

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