Storm Harvey's rainfall likely linked to climate change: U.N.

Samaritans help push a boat with evacuees to high ground during a rain storm caused by Tropical Storm Harvey along Tidwell Road in east Houston, Texas, U.S. August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

GENEVA (Reuters) - The volume of rainfall from Tropical Storm Harvey is probably linked to climate change associated with global warming that increases the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, the U.N. weather agency said on Tuesday.

The slow-moving storm has brought catastrophic flooding to Texas, killed at least nine people, led to mass evacuations and paralyzed Houston, the fourth most-populous U.S. city.

“Climate change means that when we do have an event like Harvey, the rainfall amounts are likely to be higher than they would have been otherwise,” Clare Nullis, spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organization, told a United Nations briefing in Geneva.

“Climate change does very likely increase the associated rainfall,” she said, adding in some locations Harvey’s rainfall may approach 50 inches, or 1.2 meters, and that the U.S. National Weather Service had to introduce a new color on its graphs to deal with the volume of rain.

“Climate change doesn’t cause tropical cyclones. They’ve always been there. The relationship between climate change and the frequency of hurricanes and tropical cyclones is not clear, there’s still a lot of research going on into that,” Nullis said.

U.S. President Donald Trump plans to visit Texas on Tuesday.

In June, Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate change pact, drawing international condemnation. This month he rolled back environmental regulations on government-funded building projects in flood prone areas as part of his proposal to spend $1 trillion to fix aging U.S. infrastructure.

Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Janet Lawrence