From the US to India and China, human impact on the climate is likely to have made droughts and storms more severe – and the trend is only set to continue
The 17tn US gallons of rain (roughly 26m Olympic swimming pools) dumped on Texas by Hurricane Harvey has set a new high for a tropical system in the US, but it is unlikely to last long as rising man-made emissions push the global climate deeper into uncharted territory.
Images of flooded streets in Texas are mirrored by scenes of inundated communities in India and Bangladesh, the recent mudslides in Sierra Leone and last month’s deadly overflow of a Yangtze tributary in China. In part, these calamities are seasonal. In part, the impact depends on local factors. But scientists tell us such extremes are likely to become more common and more devastating as a result of rising global temperatures and increasingly intense rainfall.