Last updated December 4, 2018
Dec 3, 2016
Dec 5, 2016

Texas City Flood December 2016

Texas City, TX

The Houston area experienced record-breaking rainfall late on Friday, December 2, through December 4. Coastal communities were hit especially hard. Texas City recorded 11 inches of rain over the course of several hours Saturday afternoon, with 48-hour rainfall totals reaching 12.66 inches. Galveston set a record for the date, December 3, with 7.6 inches of rain, while the Clear Lake area recorded about five inches of rainfall. Houston has seen a 167 percent increase in heavy downpours since the 1950s. One of the clearest changes in weather globally and across the United States is the increasing frequency of heavy rain.

Texas City record rainfall bears the classic signature of climate change

Record-setting rainfall left portions of Texas City underwater in early December 2016.

Emergency Management Officials reported that a record 11 inches of rain fell over the course of several hours on the afternoon of December 3,[1] with 48-hour rainfall totals reaching 12.66 inches.[2] Texas City hadn't seen this much rainfall in more than two decades.[3]

In Galveston, Texas, record amounts of rain had fallen by mid-morning on December 3.[3] The city recorded 7.68 inches by the end of the day, nearly tripling the previous record of 2.63 inches set in 1965 and setting a new record for the month of December.[4]

The record-breaking rainfall is consistent with the trend toward more extreme rainfall as the world warms.

Extreme rains and floods are consistent with climate change trends

A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor. And like a bigger bucket, a warmer atmosphere dumps more water when it rains.

Over the past century, the US has witnessed a 20 percent increase in the amount of precipitation falling in the heaviest downpours, which has dramatically increased the risk of flooding.[5] 

Since the 1980s, a larger percentage of precipitation has come in the form of intense single-day events, and nine of the top 10 years for extreme one-day precipitation events have occurred since 1990.[6]

Across the Great Plains, extreme precipitation has increased 16 percent from 1958 to 2012.[5] 

Houston has seen a 167 percent increase in heavy downpours since the 1950s.[7]