Will global warming weaken the North American Monsoon?

Arizona gets most of its rain from thunderstorms during the summer, a period called the North American monsoon (see Arizona Monsoon for background and the anatomy of thunderstorms). By government decree, the monsoon season lasts from June 15 through September 30. In actuality, rains usually start in early July following the rain-dance ceremony of the Tohono O’odham people. In 2017, there were unusually heavy rains in July and below normal rain in August and September.

Researchers from Princeton University, using a new precipitation model, claim that global warming will decrease the rain of the monsoon. From the abstract of their paper published in Nature:

Future changes in the North American monsoon, a circulation system that brings abundant summer rains to vast areas of the North American Southwest, could have significant consequences for regional water resources. How this monsoon will change with increasing greenhouse gases, however, remains unclear, not least because coarse horizontal resolution and systematic sea-surface temperature biases limit the reliability of its numerical model simulations. Here we investigate the monsoon response to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations using a 50-km-resolution global climate model which features a realistic representation of the monsoon climatology and its synoptic-scale variability. It is found that the monsoon response to CO2 doubling is sensitive to sea-surface temperature biases. When minimizing these biases, the model projects a robust reduction in monsoonal precipitation over the southwestern United States, contrasting with previous multi-model assessments.

Let’s see how this model premise has worked so far:

The graph below, from NOAA data, shows that year-to-year precipitation varies quit a bit. The overall trend is for increasing precipitation with global warming, not a decrease.


A plot of annual precipitation reflects the high temperatures and drought conditions of the first half of the 20th Century, but there is no apparent trend for more recent warming.

This new model, as all climate models, assumes that carbon dioxide is the major forcing of global temperature, an assumption for which there is no physical evidence.

See:

A Simple Question for Climate Alarmists

An examination of the relationship between temperature and carbon dioxide

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Rocks in the Chiricahua National Monument and Fort Bowie National Historic Site

The Arizona Geological Survey has made available for free download a 48-page booklet which explains geologic features of two areas of southeastern Arizona. This well-illustrated booklet is intended for the layman but is also interesting to experienced geologists.

The Chiricahua mountains are known for their thousands of rock pinnacles formed in volcanic rocks by weathering during the last glacial epoch. In a previous article, I explain “The Explosive Geology Of The Chiricahua Mountains.”

 

 

The new booklet provides photos and descriptions that allow you to find many volcanic features along major roads and trails in the monument. None of these features are designated by markers along the trail.

The geology of Fort Bowie is quite different and consists of sediments and granite intrusive rocks.

As described in the booklet:

“Fort Bowie was built to guard Apache Pass, a natural passage between the Dos Cabezas and Chiricahua Mountains that connects the San Simon and Sulphur Springs Valleys. The

dependable springs, including Apache Spring, that have attracted humans to this narrow passage for thousands of years are also the result of geology, specifically the Apache Pass fault.”

The booklet starts out by describing the past 30 million years of geologic history which includes plate tectonics and volcanism – the processes which gave rise to the features visible today.

The features of the Chiricahua Mountains are put in context as follows:

“The landscape of Chiricahua National Monument, like that of much of the Earth’s surface, is a complex mosaic of large and small geologic features. Some of these features were produced by processes that were more active in past geological time but have now slowed or ceased. Other features are the result of past and currently active processes; only a few owe their origin solely to recently active processes. Welded tuff, fiamme, surge beds, fossil fumaroles, and the dacite caprock, for example, were all produced during the eruption of the Turkey Creek caldera, about 27 million years ago. Some joints and spherulites formed as the ash sheet cooled. Other joints and the region’s mountain ranges and intervening basins are the result of Basin and Range faulting during the period 25 to 5 million years ago. Willcox Playa, talus cones, pinnacles, and slot canyons were produced by processes that were more active during the wetter, cooler climate of the glacial epochs from 1.6 million to 10,000 years ago. Tafoni, rock varnish, lichens, case-hardened surfaces, chicken heads, exfoliation shingles, horizontal ribs, solution ponds and the rounded form of the columns are all forming today. Unraveling the evolution of such complex landscapes makes geology a particularly challenging science.” If you are unfamiliar with some of the names of features, read the booklet.

URL to the booklet: http://repository.azgs.az.gov/sites/default/files/dlio/files/nid1731/dte-11chirichua_mtns.pdf

 

Genetics of Mexican wolves – assessment of possible hybridization with other canids

A new study, commissioned by the Pima Natural Resource Conservation District*, examined the genetics of Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) and assessed the possibility of hybridization with dogs of Native American origin and or/coyotes. You can read the entire study here.

The basic finding from this research and other research cited within the report are that all North American wolves are hybrids with coyotes, and a few are hybrids with dogs. The current captive-bred population of Mexican wolves shows no hybridization with coyotes or dogs, but some previous research did detect some Mexican wolf-coyote hybrids.

Here are some highlights from the report:

The study concluded “living Mexican wolves are not derived from hybridization with Native American dogs. The results also did not indicate recent hybridization between Mexican wolves and coyotes. However, one wolf-dog hybrid was detected in wolves from Idaho. Our study used captive-reared Mexican wolves, therefor future analyses of wild-born wolves and dogs living in the same areas are needed to determine if hybridization is occurring in the wild population of Mexican wolves in Mexico, New Mexico and Arizona.”

The report notes that other studies have found wolf-dog hybrids in northern wolves .

“A second hybridization concern involves wolves and coyotes. Wolves and coyotes share a recent common ancestor during the Pleistocene (Ice Ages) in North America and their subsequent occupation of the same ranges may result in some level of hybridization. Indeed, evidence of historic and recent hybridization comes from mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences, y-chromosome, SNPs and whole genome sequences (WGS).”

“… land use changes following European colonization of North America have favored the spread of coyotes while wolf populations have declined, resulting in substantial levels of hybridization between these two species in some areas (e.g. Eastern North America). This same process also resulted in hybridization with domestic dogs, contributing to three species hybrids in some populations…”

“..all North American wolves …have significant amounts of coyote ancestry. In addition, we detect a strong geographic cline in the proportion of coyote ancestry across North American canids: Alaskan and Yellowstone wolves have 8 to 8.5% coyote ancestry, Great Lakes wolves have 21.7 to 23.9% coyote ancestry, Algonquin wolves have at least 32.5 to 35.5% coyote ancestry, and Quebec sequences have more than 50% coyote ancestry. [A] Mexican wolf… had a coyote ancestry of approximately 11%. The significance of these results, as well as those of previous authors, is that wolf-coyote hybridization occurs naturally, and the process can be accelerated in human-dominated landscapes that favor coyotes.”

“The captive Mexican wolf samples were divergent from other wolves as well as coyotes and dogs of European, East Asian, and North American descent.”

“Additionally, the remnant Mexican wolf population was subject to, and has the genetic signal of, one of the most severe, recent genetic bottlenecks in conservation history. It was founded from just seven remaining individuals separated into three lineages, subsequently inbred in captivity, and then lineages cross-bred to attempt a genetic rescue.”

We see from this study that the science is not settled. There are still several outstanding questions regarding Mexican wolves in the wild.

Question for readers: Should an animal group that is variously hybridized with other animals qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act?

*About the Pima Natural Resource Conservation District (link)

The Pima NRCD is a State-authorized local unit of government that has been given a broad mandate to provide for the restoration and conservation of lands and soil resources, the preservation of water rights and the control and prevention of soil erosion, and thereby to conserve natural resources, conserve wildlife, protect the tax base, protect public lands and protect and restore this state’s rivers and streams and associated riparian habitats, including fish and wildlife resources that are dependent on those habitats, and in such manner to protect and promote the public health, safety and general welfare of the people.

Arizona’s 42 Conservation Districts cover the entire state of Arizona, and parts of New Mexico and Utah on the Navajo Nation. Arizona’s Conservation Districts are in a unique position to lead local conservation partnership efforts that achieve landscape level results across all land ownerships in Arizona. They have authority to enter into agreements with private landowners, state and federal agencies, tribes, and others to implement a local conservation program in their District. The Conservation District model has proven itself over the last 75 years to be the most effective approach to achieving sound management of Arizona’s natural resources.

Pima NRCD believes private lands provide the tax base that supports most county and state services. Additionally, private lands are the underlying lands for historic federal and state grazing leases, as these lands are the basis for economic productivity.

Disclosure: I am a board member of Pima NRCD.

 

See also:

Wolf attacks on humans in North America

Are Mexican wolves in Arizona actually wolf-dog hybrids?

Why Hurricanes Can’t Be Blamed On Global Warming

The leftish press and Hollywood climate experts have been claiming that the recent rash of dangerous hurricanes is due to global warming. Dr. Roy Spencer, U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite, takes exception to these claims in a short blog post and in a new E-bookavailable from Amazon for $2.99. The E-book is about 11,000 words long and contains 17 illustrations. I recommend you read it.

In the book, Spencer explains the origin of hurricanes and gives a history of U.S. hurricanes from colonial times to present time, including comments on hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Spencer notes that geological studies of sediments in coastal lakes in Texas and Florida show that “catastrophic hurricane strikes were more frequent 1,000 to 2,000 years ago than in the most recent 1,000 years.” Hurricanes making landfall in Florida show a downward trend in both number and intensity (that trend includes hurricane Irma). Spencer says that hurricanes in tropical Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico are not limited by sea surface temperatures.

He also notes that “ two major hurricane strikes endured by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in 1635 and in 1675, have yet to be rivaled in more modern times.”

“…Most Atlantic hurricanes can be traced back to African easterly waves [of low wind shear].  These waves draw their energy from the temperature contrast between the hot air over the Sahara Desert and the cooler air over the Sahel, and as they leave the west coast of Africa they ‘kick start’ the organization of rain shower activity over the tropical eastern Atlantic Ocean.”

You will have to read the E-book to delve more deeply into the mechanics of hurricanes. Here is an excerpt:

If you were to go up inside the eye at the altitude where jets fly, you would find the air temperature there is 10 or 20 deg. F warmer than normal for that altitude. This warmth is caused by air being forced to sink in response to rising air in the showers and thunderstorms surrounding the eye. This ‘subsidence warming’ is a universal feature of all precipitation systems, but only in hurricanes is it highly concentrated into one relatively small area. All of the warm rising air in billowing rain clouds must be exactly matched by sinking air elsewhere, and in the case of hurricanes, that sinking air is most concentrated and intense in the eye of the storm.  For more common rain systems, the warming is much weaker as it is spread over huge areas hundreds or even thousands of miles in diameter. Only a few miles away from the eye is the heavily raining eyewall of the hurricane; this is where the strongest surface winds occur.

Spencer also has a chapter on “The Effect of Sea Level Rise on Hurricane Storm Surge” in which he shows that sea level rise has been mostly if not entirely natural, with no convincing evidence that it has accelerated from human-caused global warming.

Separate from Spencer’s data, Dr. Chris Landsea of NOAA Hurricane Research Division presents at table of Atlantic hurricanes beginning from 1851. You will see that there is no sign of influence by global warming. Landsea has this caveat about the data: “The Atlantic hurricane database (or HURDAT) extends back to 1851. However, because tropical storms and hurricanes spend much of their lifetime over the open ocean – some never hitting land – many systems were “missed” during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries (Vecchi and Knutson 2008). Starting in 1944, systematic aircraft reconnaissance was commenced for monitoring both tropical cyclones and disturbances that had the potential to develop into tropical storms and hurricanes. This did provide much improved monitoring, but still about half of the Atlantic basin was not covered (Sheets 1990). Beginning in 1966, daily satellite imagery became available at the National Hurricane Center, and thus statistics from this time forward are most complete (McAdie et al. 2009).” See data

Back in 1999, Landsea et al. published a paper which found “that multidecadal variability is more characteristic of the region. Various environmental factors including Caribbean sea level pressures and 200mb zonal winds, the stratospheric Quasi-Biennial Oscillation, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, African West Sahel rainfall and Atlantic sea surface temperatures … show significant, concurrent relationships to the frequency, intensity and duration of Atlantic hurricanes.” (Source)

Dr. Neil Frank, former Director National Hurricane Center:

“Over the past several weeks numerous articles suggest Harvey and Irma were the result of global warming. The concept is a warmer earth will generate stronger and wetter hurricanes. A number of people have said Irma was the most intense hurricane in the history of the Atlantic while Harvey was the wettest and both were good examples of what we can expect in the future because of global warming. What does a fact check reveal about these two hurricanes?”

Frank shows that neither of the above contentions is true, read more.

See also:

Houston’s long history of flooding

Evidence that CO2 emissions do not intensify the greenhouse effect

An examination of the relationship between temperature and carbon dioxide

A Simple Question for Climate Alarmists

New releases from the Arizona Geological Survey – September 2017

The Arizona Geological Survey is in the process of digitizing both new and older geological reports and releasing them to the public as free downloads.

This month they released a classic work by E.D. Wilson et al.: “Arizona Lead and Zinc Deposits, Part 1″ which was originally published in 1950. (146 p., 19 plates)

Download it here: http://repository.azgs.az.gov/uri_gin/azgs/dlio/1729

They have also released an index of mining properties in Santa Cruz County, Arizona (100 pages). http://repository.azgs.az.gov/uri_gin/azgs/dlio/1730

 

Previous releases available for free down include:

(Note: some of these links take you first to my review of the papers.)

 

A guide to the geology of the Sedona & Oak Creek Canyon area of Arizona

A Guide to the Geology of the Santa Catalina Mountains

A Guide to the Geology of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve

A Guide to the Geology of the Flagstaff Area

A Guide to Geology of Petrified Forest National Park

A Guide to Oak Creek-Mormon Lake Graben

AZGS Guides to Northern Arizona Geology

AZGS field guides to Arizona Geology

Eldred Wilson’s Proterozoic Mazatzal Revolution Arizona

 

History of the Ajo Mining District, Pima County, Arizona

History of the Warren (Bisbee) Mining District

History of the San Manuel-Kalamazoo Mine, Pinal County, Arizona

Recovery of Copper by Solution Mining Techniques

Superior, Arizona – An Old Mining Camp with Many Lives

History of the Copper Mountain (Morenci) Mining District

History of Helvetia-Rosemont Mining District, Pima County, Arizona

History of the Silver bell mining district

 

 

Pima Pineapple Cactus recovery

The Pima Pineapple cactus (Coryphantha scheeri var. robustispina) is a small (pineapple-sized) cactus that inhabits grasslands and desert scrub in Pima County and parts of Santa Cruz County, Arizona, and parts of northern Sonora, Mexico, at elevations below 4,000 feet. About 90 percent of its historic range is in Pima County.

The cactus is sparsely distributed within its range, but does have some high-density clusters. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) this species is incapable of self-fertilization, which means pollen from another individual cactus is required.

The Pima Pineapple cactus is a low-growing hemispherical cactus that may be found as single or multi-stemmed plants. Mature plants measure 4-18 inches tall and 3-7 inches in diameter. The spines are stout and arranged in clusters with one central hooked spine and 6-15 radial straight spines. Spines are originally straw colored, but become black with age. Flowers are yellow and the fruit is a green ellipsoid. See photos here. The flowers are pollinated mainly by bees. Seeds are dispersed by rodents, rabbits, and ants.

Because the cactus is small and inconspicuous, it is subject to danger from grassland fires, livestock grazing, off-road vehicles, and housing development.

The Pima Pineapple cactus was listed as endangered by FWS on September 23, 1993. FWS never got around to establishing “critical habitat” but now is proposing a recovery plan which you can read here (76 pages). If we follow the plan, which will cost $62,910,560, FWS says they can delist the cactus by the year 2046. There have been many studies of the cactus, but FWS still doesn’t know how many there are scattered around its habitat.

The main recommendations of the recovery plan boil down to protecting existing habitat from human intervention, invasive species, and wildfires. In other words, restrict land usage. FWS also recommends acquisition of private lands to increase habitat and limit development.

The plan recommends monitoring the cactus for at least 15 years. It so happens that Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR) established in 1985, comprising 117,464-acres, lies in southern Pima County within the range of the cactus. Has not the FWS been paying attention to the cactus on the Refuge during the past 25 years?

Ironically, management of BANWR may have caused the population of the cactus to plunge. When BANWR was established, they removed all cattle. The result was that the grass grew taller which promoted more damaging wildfires which damaged more cactus. Tall grass also discouraged jackrabbits which are the primary agent of seed dispersal. In tall grass, jackrabbits can’t run fast enough to escape predators.

I have an alternative suggestion. In order to preserve the cactus, delist it and farm it. Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge could be used as an initial farm stock source with many plots dedicated to the cactus. FWS could, if the cactus were delisted, allow commercial nurseries to grow and sell the plants to people who would like them for their yards or gardens, something that is problematical as long as the cactus is listed as “endangered.” This small cactus would make a good potted plant for porches and patios.

See also:

The Flaws in the Endangered Species Act

Thought to be extinct – when science is wrong

Species extinction is a natural phenomenon, but sometimes, as Mark Twain wrote: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” The Endangered Species Act has been used for good to help some species and for political reasons to stop or inhibit mines, logging, farming, and many other activities. Below is a collection of articles which show that some reports of extinction were in error. Sometimes, “settled science” is wrong. (Note, most links have photos.)

Long-lost Tasmanian tiger may have been found

September 6, 2017

Do Tasmanian tigers still exist? A few trackers believe they have found evidence — releasing alleged footage of proof. The grainy and fleeting videotape, according to The Mercury, showed Tasmanian tigers (also known as thylacines) in their natural state: a thylacine walking slowly at a distance, a thylacine nose at the camera lens, and a thylacine with a cub.

Official accounts, according to The Mercury, suggest the thylacine became extinct on the Australian mainland more than 2000 years ago, although unverified “sightings” occur across many states of Australia from time to time. (Read more)

Boy finds ‘extinct’ frog in Ecuador and helps revive species

July 7, 2017

A school-age boy has rediscovered an Ecuadorian frog considered extinct for at least 30 years. The animal has now successfully bred in captivity.

The colourful Jambato harlequin frog (Atelopus ignescens) was once so widespread in Ecuador that it turned up in people’s homes, was something children played with and was used as an ingredient in traditional medicine. Then it was suddenly wiped out, probably by a combination of climate change and fungal disease. (Read more)

Frog not sighted in 30 years and declared extinct reappears in Costa Rica

June 07, 2017

SAN JOSE – Costa Rican scientists reported the reappearance of an endemic frog species that had not been sighted for three decades (Heredia robber frog, Craugastor escoces.) It was declared extinct in 2004 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (UICN). (Read more)

Seychelles snail, believed extinct due to climate change, found ‘alive and well,’ says group

Sep 8, 2014, NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A snail once thought to have been among the first species to go extinct because

of climate change has reappeared in the wild. The Aldabra banded snail, declared extinct seven years ago, was rediscovered on Aug. 23 in the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles. The mollusk, which is endemic to the Aldabra coral atoll — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — had not been seen on the islands since 1997, said the Seychelles Islands Foundation. Read more And here

‘Extinct’ corpse-eating fly back from the dead

July 9, 2013

Behold the bone-skipper, high in the running for the strangest fly on Earth. For the bone-skipper, fresh carcasses just won’t do. No, these flies prefer large, dead bodies in advanced stages of decay. And unlike most flies, they are active in early winter, from November to January, usually after dark. They also disappeared from human notice and were declared extinct for more than a century. That’s why they’ve often been considered almost mythical or legendary, said Pierfilippo Cerretti, a researcher at the Sapienza University of Rome. In the past few years, three species of bone-skipper have been rediscovered in Europe, setting off a buzz among fly aficionados. (Read more)

Biologists find rare snake near Gila River

July 6, 2013

The northern Mexican garter snake was once thought to be extinct in New Mexico. Not so, according to biologists at the Albuquerque BioPark. They found three of the snakes in early June near the Gila River and another three later in the month. Two of the snakes were studied, tagged and released. The remaining four were brought to the Albuquerque Zoo to establish a breeding population.(Read more)

An ‘extinct’ frog make s a comeback in Israel

Jerusalem, June 4, 2013 — The first amphibian to have been officially declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has been rediscovered in the north of Israel after some 60 years and turns out to be a unique “living fossil,” without close relatives among other living frogs.

The Hula painted frog was catalogued within the Discoglossus group when it was first discovered in the Hula Valley of Israel in the early 1940s. The frog was thought to have disappeared following the drying up of the Hula Lake at the end of the 1950s, and was declared extinct by the IUCN in 1996. As a result, the opportunity to discover more about this species’ history, biology and ecology was thought to have disappeared. (Read more)

Cute rodent species surfaces after 113 years

May 19, 2011

Scientists thought a mysterious guinea pig-sized rodent species that hadn’t been seen in 113 years was long extinct. Until one of them ambled up to two volunteer naturalists at a nature reserve in Colombia two weeks ago. The nocturnal animal, the elusive red-crested tree rat, turned up just as the scientists were heading off to bed, at 9:30 p.m. on May 4. It spent two hours watching as the volunteer biologists took photos of it, the n calmly ambled off into the darkness. (Read more)

India team uncovers 12 frog species

Sep 18, 2011, New Delhi – Years of combing tropical mountain forests, shining flashlights under rocks and listening for croaks in the night have paid off for Indian scientists who have discovered 12 new frog species plus three others thought to have been extinct. (Read more)

Pygmy tarsier, a tiny primate, rediscovered in Indonesia

November 19, 2008

The tiny Furby-like pygmy tarsier, presumed to be extinct, was found during a recent expedition to Indonesia. And the cuddly, huge-eyed nocturnal critter is the very definition of cute. Gursky-Doyen of Texas A&M

University traveled into the mountains of Sulawesi Island in Indonesia to confirm that the pygmy tarsier was unequivocally extinct, but ended up becoming the first person in more than 80 years to spot a live one. (Read more)

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Rediscovered in Arkansas

April 28, 2005

A group of wildlife scientists believe the ivory-billed woodpecker is not extinct. They say they have made seven firm sightings of the bird in central Arkansas. The landmark find caps a search that began more than 60 years ago, after biologists said North America’s largest woodpecker had become extinct in the United States. (Read more) Note: this contention is still controversial – see here.

Coelacanths fish

Coelacanths (seel-a-canths) were once known only from fossils and were thought to have gone extinct approximately 65 million years ago (mya), during the great extinction in which the dinosaurs disappeared. Today, there are two known living species.

The first living coelacanth was discovered in 1938. For many years, living coelacanths were known only from the western Indian Ocean, primarily from the Comoros Islands, but in September 1997 and again in July 1998, coelacanths were captured in northern Sulawesi, Indonesia, nearly 6,000 miles to the east of the Comoros. Read more

The moral of this story is that even “settled science” can be wrong. A good scientist should always be skeptical.

 

Related: For the past several years alarmist scientists have claimed that humans are causing “the sixth mass extinction” on Earth. Smithsonian paleontologist Doug Erwin debunks this claim in the article: “Earth Is Not in the Midst of a Sixth Mass Extinction.”

Erwin is one of the world’s experts on the End-Permian mass extinction, an unthinkable volcanic nightmare that nearly ended life on earth 252 million years ago. He proposed that earth’s great mass extinctions might unfold like these power grid failures: most of the losses may come, not from the initial shock—software glitches in the case of power grid failures, and asteroids and volcanoes in the case of ancient mass extinctions—but from the secondary cascade of failures that follow. These are devastating chain reactions that no one understands.

 

Houston’s long history of flooding

Houston, Texas, seat of Harris County, has a long history of flooding because the city was built on a flood plain. The deluge generated by hurricane Harvey in August, 2017, is only the latest episode.

Houston lies within a coastal plain about 50 miles northwest of Galveston. The area has very flat topography which is cut by four major bayous that pass through the city: Buffalo Bayou, which runs into downtown and the Houston Ship Channel; and three of its tributaries: Brays Bayou, which runs along the Texas Medical Center; White Oak Bayou, which runs through the Heights and near the northwest area; and Sims Bayou, which runs through the south of Houston and downtown Houston. The ship channel goes past Galveston and into the Gulf of Mexico.

The land around Houston consists of sand, silt, and clay deposited by local rivers.

The sedimentary layers underneath Houston ultimately extend down some 60,000 feet, with the oldest beds deposited during the Cretaceous. Between 30,000 feet and 40,000 feet below the surface is a layer of salt, the primary source of salt domes which dot the metropolitan area. Since salt is more buoyant than other sediments, it rises to the surface, creating domes and anticlines and causing subsidence due to its removal from its original strata. These structures manage to capture oil and gas as it percolates through the subsurface. [source]

Groundwater pumping also causes subsidence in parts of the city. (See: Geologists find parts of Northwest Houston, Texas sinking rapidly )

Hurricane damage in Houston:

As described by the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) [link]:

When the Allen brothers founded Houston in 1836, they established the town at the confluence of Buffalo and White Oak Bayous. Shortly thereafter, every structure in the new settlement flooded. Early settlers documented that after heavy rains, their wagon trips west through the prairie involved days of walking through knee-deep water. Harris County suffered through 16 major floods from 1836 to 1936, some of which crested at more than 40 feet, turning downtown Houston streets into raging rivers.

Houston was flooded during the September, 1900, hurricane which wiped out Galveston.

In December of 1935 a massive flood occurred in the downtown Houston as the water level height measured at Buffalo Bayou in Houston topped out at 54.4 feet which was higher than Harvey. There have been 30 major floods in the Houston area since 1937 when the flood control district was established in spite of construction of flood control measures.

In June, 2001, Harris County suffered widespread flooding due to hurricane Allison. According to HCFCD, before leaving the area, Allison would dump as much as 80 percent of the area’s average annual rainfall over much of Harris County, simultaneously affecting more than 2 million people. When the rains finally eased, Allison had left Harris County, Texas, with 22 fatalities, 95,000 damaged automobiles and trucks, 73,000 damaged residences, 30,000 stranded residents in shelters, and over $5 billion in property damage in its wake.

Some climate alarmists are claiming that global warming has played a part in the flooding produced by hurricane Harvey. Dr. Roy Spencer debunks that notion here and here. Storms of or greater than Harvey’s magnitude have happened before. Storm damage is not due entirely to weather. Some is due to local infrastructure.

It all boils down to the luck of the draw: if you choose to inhabit a flood plain, you will get wet from time to time.

P.S. Prior to Harvey, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm, the U.S. had gone a remarkable 12 years without being hit by a hurricane of Category 3 strength or stronger. Since 1970 the U.S. has only seen four hurricanes of Category 4 or 5 strength. In the previous 47 years, the country was struck by 14 such storms.