We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Harvey Redesigns Rainfall Maps

The deluge that swamped Houston changes how we measure downpours.

By Devi Shastri
Dec 29, 2017 6:00 AMNov 14, 2019 9:06 PM
DSC-A0218 32
Water floods a Houston street after Hurricane Harvey landed in late August. | Nick Oza/USA Today Network/Sipa USA


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

As Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath dumped rain on the Houston area in August, the staff at the National Weather Service (NWS) knew they were watching history. And as the rain totals were tallied, the agency added not one, but two new colors to its rainfall map: purple for 20 to 30 inches and light pink for over 30 inches.

“It’s difficult to predict what has never happened,” says Greg Carbin, who leads the NWS Forecast Operations Branch in College Park, Maryland. “I hope we don’t have to use it again.”

The total? Nearly 52 inches in a week in Cedar Bayou, Texas, a record in the continental U.S.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.