Last updated December 4, 2019

Hurricane Maria 2017

Puerto Rico

The record-breaking rainfall and flooding driven by Hurricane Maria—as well as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma just weeks before—is consistent with the long-term trend driven by climate change.

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Dominica as a Category 5 hurricane on September 18,[1] then hit southeast Puerto Rico on September 20 with 155 mph winds and a central pressure of 917 millibars.[2] It was the third strongest storm to make landfall in the United States.[3] "1,000-year" rains inundated much of eastern and northwestern Puerto Rico.[4] The storm knocked out power to the entire island of Puerto Rico, home to 3.5 million people, leading to a prolonged humanitarian crisis.[5]

Extreme rainfall is increasing worldwide due to climate change. In Puerto Rico, rain falling in very heavy events increased at least 33 percent from 1958-2012. Seas are now higher due to global warming, so storm surge drives much further inland. There has also been a global increase in the observed intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones, correlated with observed trends in sea surface temperatures in recent decades. 

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