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When Hur­ri­cane Har­vey dropped 60 inches of rain on Hous­ton in Au­gust, some de­scribed the storm as “bib­li­cal.” One of Amer­ica’s lead­ing hur­ri­cane sci­en­tists has now sharp­ened that as­sess­ment.

“By the stan­dards of the av­er­age cli­mate dur­ing 1981-2000,” MIT’s Kerry Emanuel writes in Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences, “Har­vey’s rain­fall in Hous­ton was ‘bib­li­cal’ in the sense that it likely oc­curred around once since the Old Tes­ta­ment was writ­ten.”

Emanuel’s anal­y­sis at­tempts to an­swer a series of ques­tions crit­i­cal to re­cov­ery and re­build­ing in Hous­ton and else­where. Cli­mate sci­en­tists con­tinue to project that as the cen­tury goes on, hot­ter seas and more hu­mid air are likely to make trop­i­cal storms more in­tense.

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