Climate change, natural disasters August 2019 –

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Climate change, natural disasters 2017- June 2019
Photographer Walks Around the Flooded Streets of Venice
to Capture the City’s Tragic Beauty

Australia’s Witnesses to Fire’s Fury Are Desperate to Avoid a Sequel
Eight months after blazes devastated a wide swath of Australia, the most battered communities are trying to burn their way to safety as another fire season approaches.
From the American West, where hundreds of thousands of acres are now burning, to Australia, Siberia, Portugal, Brazil and Indonesia, the world is being forced to change how it lives with fire. Some call it “nature’s revenge.” As the earth warms from the burning of fossil fuels, wildfires are becoming larger, hotter, more frequent and far more destructive

Tropical Storm Sally Moves Toward Gulf Coast As Bermuda Braces For Hurricane Paulette
As Wildfires Grow More Intense, Iconic Western Forests May Not Come Back
Forests become grasslands, and that’s bad for carbon emissions
(NPR) High-severity fires leave behind massive burn areas with almost nothing alive. And any baby trees simply can’t thrive in the increased heat and drought brought on by climate change.
If there is forest regeneration…it happens in bands along the forest edge, where surviving trees can still drop their seeds. But…even that isn’t happening at lower elevations, where it’s hotter and drier. She’s not sure this area of the Hayman fire will ever reforest.
A new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder also finds large parts of the Southern Rocky Mountains will become unsuitable for ponderosa pine and Douglas fir tree regrowth as the climate continues to warm.

10-11 September
Wildfires Live Updates: Dozens Reported Missing in Oregon
Oregon’s governor said there were concerns for dozens of people reported missing in a state where more than a million acres have burned. California and Washington State are also battling fires.
A Climate Reckoning in Fire-Stricken California
By Thomas Fuller and Christopher Flavelle
If climate change was a somewhat abstract notion a decade ago, today it is all too real for Californians fleeing wildfires and smothered in a blanket of smoke, the worst year of fires on record.
(NYT) The crisis in the nation’s most populous state is more than just an accumulation of individual catastrophes. It is also an example of something climate experts have long worried about, but which few expected to see so soon: a cascade effect, in which a series of disasters overlap, triggering or amplifying each other.
States Are in Desperate Search for Help Battling Record Wildfires
With millions of acres ablaze across the West Coast, states are having a tough time finding available fire crews. California resorted to calling in a team of firefighters from Israel.
Facing a historic year of wildfire destruction across the West Coast, including more than three million acres consumed in California, the national emergency systems that rely on state-to-state assistance have been buckling under the strain. That has left emergency responders struggling to keep pace with fires that have destroyed entire towns and led to at least 15 deaths, with seven more people found dead on Thursday from a fire north of Sacramento.

30 August
Wildfire forces 2,400 to evacuate in Spain’s Andalusia
(Canadian Press) Around 2,400 people have been evacuated due to a wildfire that is out of control and ravaging Spain’s southern region of Andalusia, authorities said Sunday.
The blaze broke out on Thursday in the mountains near the town of Almonaster la Real, 120 kilometres (75 miles) northwest of the city of Seville. It has already scorched 90 square kilometres (35 square miles).
Twenty-four planes and one helicopter helped some 450 people including firefighters and army emergency personnel, who worked through Saturday night to tackle the fire.

26 August
Hurricane Laura Comes Ashore Threatening ‘Unsurvivable’ Storm Surge
(NPR) While most storms tend to weaken before landfall, three storms in recent years have continued to strengthen as they approached shore: Harvey in Texas in 2017, Michael, and now Laura.

22 August
California fires: Governor asks Australia for help
(BBC) California is struggling to contain huge wildfires burning forests and homes, warned Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday as more than 12,000 fire-fighters battled blazes that have killed six people.
Help was on its way from several US states as Gov Newsom put in a plea for assistance from Australia and Canada.
More than 12,000 dry lightning strikes started the blazes during a historic heat wave in which thermometers in Death Valley National Park reached what could be the highest ever temperature reliably recorded.
By Friday, emergency officials said some of the fires had doubled in size in a day, forcing 175,000 residents to flee.
Two fires are now the 7th and 10th largest in the state’s history, Gov Newsom said as he urged President Donald Trump to sign a major disaster declaration.

12 July
China raises flood alert to second highest level
(Reuters) – China raised its flood response alert on Sunday to the second highest level as heavy rain battered regions along the Yangtze River, with the eastern provinces of Jiangsu and Jiangxi among the worst hit, state media reported.
Flooding in the Poyang county of Jiangxi pushed water levels of Lake Poyang, China’s biggest freshwater lake, to above 22.52 metres (74 feet), a historical high and well above the alert level of 19.50 metres (64 feet).
According to the Ministry of Water Resources, 212 rivers have exceeded alerting levels since early July, with 19 of them rising to historical highs.
China has blamed unusual weather conditions, including humidity carried from the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, as the immediate cause, but it has also said long-term changes in climate patterns have made it more vulnerable.

2 July
Earthquake sparks fears of landslides above Three Gorges Dam
Chinese seismologist predicts earthquake above Three Gorges Dam, warns of ‘catastrophe’
(Taiwan News) — An earthquake that struck Sichuan early on Thursday morning (July 2) has sparked fears that it could cause landslides that could further imperil China’s Three Gorges Dam.
On June 26, a Chinese seismologist who goes by the YouTube handle Feng Tian Lao Wang (奉天老王) predicted that the ongoing flooding in the Yangtze River Basin would peak on July 2 and that an earthquake would also take place that day, exacerbating the situation involving the Three Gorges Dam. He predicted that a “catastrophe” would strike the river basin on that day and advised residents in the area to make preparations in advance.
The China Meteorological Administration (CMA) on July 2 issued a heavy rain warning across China for the 31st straight day, and as the seismologist had predicted, an earthquake struck the region that day. At 4:07 a.m., a magnitude 3.2 earthquake rattled Zoige County in Sichuan Province at a shallow depth of 8 kilometers, according to the China Earthquake Networks Center.

25 June
China denies millions of lives at risk as catastrophic flooding threatens Three Gorges Dam
As many as 400 million lives may be at risk as torrential rain in China threatens the world’s largest dam.
The Chinese government has moved to defend the structural integrity of the massive Three Gorges Dam, as a hydrology expert took to international media over the weekend to warn it could collapse at any moment.
The warning came as more details emerged over the drowning of eight children swept to their deaths in the swollen Fu River, upstream of the dam, on Sunday.

26 May
Disaster season is upon us. The pandemic changes everything.
[W]e are now at a point that many of us have long feared and for which we are not remotely prepared: the lethal confluence of an uncontrolled pandemic and a slew of large-scale natural disasters.
The pandemic is about to be joined in the headlines by multiple catastrophic events that will cost lives, wreck communities and exact severe economic tolls on affected populations. Last week, catastrophic dam failures and massive flooding forced at least 10,000 people to evacuate their homes in Michigan, which happens to be among the states hardest hit by covid-19. In South Asia, one of the deadliest cyclones ever in the region swept across Bangladesh and India, reaping devastation where covid-19 cases are also surging. Both hurricane and wildfire season are quickly approaching in the United States.
It is already clear that 2020 be a year for the history books. The world has lurched from one mega-disaster to the next, witnessing devastating wildfires in Australia, plagues of locusts across East Africa and South Asia, and a pandemic that has crippled the global economy.
But we are now at a point that many of us have long feared and for which we are not remotely prepared: the lethal confluence of an uncontrolled pandemic and a slew of large-scale natural disasters. … Beyond the overall response capacity concerns, conflicting protocols for simultaneous disasters pose unique challenges. How do we reconcile pandemic control guidance to stay at home and practice social distancing with a hurricane-related evacuation order or being housed in a crowded shelter with many people of varying degrees of covid-19 risk?

25 February
Indonesia’s capital hit by serious flooding for second time this year
(Reuters) – Torrential rain brought floods to Indonesia’s capital on Tuesday, paralyzing large parts of the city as rescue workers used boats to navigate streets turned into murky, brown waterways to get people to safety.
At the beginning of the year, the city was hit by some of the heaviest rain since records began, causing floods that killed more than 60 people and displaced about 175,000.
A spokesman for the Disaster Mitigation Agency said it was too early to assess the number of displaced or the scale of the damage in Tuesday’s floods. The army and police would help to rescue people, said the spokesman, Agus Wibowo.

23 February
Eastern Kentucky Has Been Underwater, but You Probably Didn’t Notice
An out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality can take hold when people lose their connection to nature.
(The Atlantic) A study released in late 2018 by the American Meteorological Society showed that record wet and dry spells are occurring around the world, and that the events are connected to climate change. The study predicted that the extreme weather would only increase in the future, which means that flooding like the kind that recently hit Appalachia will continue.
About $1 billion poured in after a fire destroyed part of Notre Dame last spring. Rightly so, as the church is a sacred and storied space. But the 25 million acres of Australia that recently burned are no less holy. The estimated 1 billion animals and at least 30 rural people who perished in the Australian fires should not be considered less precious than the spires of a cathedral, surely. Yet Australian authorities report about $500 million in donations. In Kentucky, the local newspaper reported that Whitley County sustained more than $1 million in damage from the flooding. People are receiving help from the Red Cross, and plenty of locals are showing up ready to shovel out mud or serve food, but there is no national effort to help, because the nation doesn’t notice.
‘In the bullseye.’ Floods caused severe damage in KY and potential remains for more.
Flooding that reached near-record levels last week affected more than 217 homes in southeastern Kentucky, state officials said at a news conference Thursday. (13 February)

3 February
Locust swarms threaten more countries in eastern Africa – FAO
(Reuters) – Swarms of desert locusts could ravage more countries in eastern Africa and threaten the livelihood of many more people, the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said on Monday.
Even before the locust invasion, some 11 million people in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya were experiencing food insecurity, and the swarms will worsen the situation, the FAO said.
The only solution that works is aerial spraying (of pesticides).”
Conflict and chaos in much of Somalia make spraying pesticide by airplane – which the FAO calls the “ideal control measure” – impossible, the agency said in December.

2 January
21 Dead, 62,000 Displaced in Deadliest Flooding to Swamp Jakarta in Years
Unusually heavy rain began to fall in and around the Indonesian capital Dec. 31, 2019: 377 millimeters (approximately 14.8 inches) were recorded New Year’s Eve at an East Jakarta airport by the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG). That’s the highest rainfall tally for a single day since records began in 1996, BBC News reported.
“This rain is not ordinary rain,” the BMKG said in a statement reported by The Jakarta Post.
The BMKG said the extreme rainfall was caused by the combination of a monsoon and the fact that warmer Indian Ocean temperatures south of Java had allowed more water vapor to accumulate in the atmosphere.
The climate crisis generally is causing more extreme rainfall because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture and because more water is evaporating off the ocean, The Climate Reality Project explained. Jakarta is also especially vulnerable to flooding because it is the fastest sinking city in the world: a combination of sea level rise and land sinking caused by the drilling of groundwater wells and the weight of its buildings means much of North Jakarta could be underwater by 2050.

2019

11 December
Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world, is running dry due to climate change
(Quartz) Victoria Falls, known locally as Mosi-oa Tunya, (“The Smoke that Thunders”), has seen its water levels slow to a relative trickle this dry season as drought ravages the region due to the impact of climate change. The drought, which already threatens the livelihoods of regional farmers, could also hurt the tourism industries in Zimbabwe and Zambia.
This year the two southern African nations have experienced a long-running drought which has resulted in incessant power cuts due to a reliance on hydroelectric power. It has also left over five million people in need of food aid in Zimbabwe alone.
The storied falls stretch for a kilometer across the border with a drop of some 110 meters.  … During this year’s dry season the falls have dried up at unprecedented levels as the Zambezi river, which feeds it, has shrunk.

9 – 10 December
Why Were Tourists Allowed to Visit an Active New Zealand Volcano?
Visitors were allowed to tour the mouth of the White Island volcano despite recent warnings about bursts of gas and steam.
New Zealand volcano: Photos show chaos, aftermath of deadly eruption
(Global) A volcano on an island in New Zealand frequented by tourists erupted Monday, spewing a thick plume of ash and smoke thousands of feet into the air and killing at least five people.
The death toll is likely to rise, as eight people are still missing. Police do not expect to find any more survivors.

Victoria Falls Dries Drastically After Worst Drought in a Century
(EcoWatch)
The climate crisis is already threatening the Great Barrier Reef. Now, another of the seven natural wonders of the world may be in its crosshairs — Southern Africa’s iconic Victoria Falls.
The falls are located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. They are also called Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means “the smoke that thunders” in the indigenous Lozi language, according to AccuWeather. But contrasting photographs taken by Reuters in January and December 2019 show how a severe drought has shrunk the falls into something closer to the steam that whispers.
The falls usually decline somewhat during the dry season, but the worst drought to bake the region in a century has reduced its water flow to the lowest level in 25 years, Reuters reported. This has led to concerns that the attraction that draws millions of visitors to Zambia and Zimbabwe could dry up all together.

2 December
Revealed: ‘monumental’ NSW bushfires have burnt 20% of Blue Mountains world heritage area
More than 10% of forest in NSW national parks destroyed by fire this season, with the damage to Gondwana rainforest a ‘global tragedy’
(The Guardian) The amount of bushland destroyed within NSW national parks dwarfs that of the entire previous fire season, when 80,000 hectares were lost.
The damage caused by fire in the Gondwana rainforest world heritage area in the north of the state is a “global tragedy” and an “absolute crisis” a Nature Conservation Council ecologist says.
The chief executive of the council, Chris Gambian, said the loss of 800,000 hectares in NSW national parks, out of a total of 1.9m hectares burnt in the state since 1 July, “changes the calculus of nature conservation in the state”.
The “monumental” scale of the fires meant conservation of land would now be “more important than ever”, Gambian said.

25 November
Storms in France, Greece and Italy leave ‘biblical destruction’
Seven people die as weekend of heavy rain brings landslides, floods and collapsed overpass
(The Guardian) Jean-Pierre Hameau of Météo France said the storms and flooding should not be blamed on climate change. Hameau said the phenomena, known in France as cévenols, or Mediterraneans, were relatively frequent in the region. … “However, we have noted an increase in the intensity of the rains.”
In Italy, a woman died after her car was swept away by the flood of the Bormida River in the north of the country. There was flooding in Turin, landslides in the Liguria region and Lake Como overflowed on Sunday, while the River Ticino burst its banks overnight in the northern city of Pavia. Venice, which has suffered recurrent flooding in recent weeks, was again hit with acqua alta, or high water. The Emilia-Romagna region was on high alert for extreme weather on Monday.

14 November
Venice is underwater. Other major European cities could be next.
(WaPo) As the Italian city of Venice was deluged this week with the highest tidewaters in more than 50 years, images of the historic floods stunned the world and captured the scale of the floods: A centuries-old city facing potentially irreversible damage. Residents and tourists wading through knee-high water in popular spots.
… Less noticed, however, were floods on the northern and western edges of Europe. In England, some communities have been hit in recent days with the worst floods in years. In France, at least three people died in flooding late last month.
Even though the world’s attention this week was largely focused on Venice going underwater, the floods in England and France are at least similarly indicative of how climate change could increase Europe’s vulnerability to extreme weather phenomena.
On coastlines across Europe and the world, low-lying cities like Venice are facing rising sea levels that could make vast stretches of land uninhabitable. A recent study suggested about 300 million people may be living in low-lying areas that are expected to flood by 2050. … researchers worry that floods are set to worsen in Europe’s northwest, far away from the coastlines, according to an expansive recent study that focused on river flooding. … the focal points of flood protection will increasingly move to some of Europe’s most populous cities in the north that are built along mighty rivers, including London, Paris, Hamburg and Prague. Given their historic and densely populated centers, city planners have struggled to come up with solutions that would protect those cities against major floods.
7 major Venice tourist sites damaged by historic flooding

27 October
California’s governor declares statewide emergency over wildfires as mass evacuation continues
(WaPo) In Sonoma, one of the largest evacuations in the county’s history was underway as ferocious winds and dry air fueled a wildfire that has raged in the region for days. The county sheriff’s office estimated that 180,000 people had been ordered to flee the Kincade Fire, which has spread to 30,000 acres and was only 10 percent contained. Officials rapidly expanded the number of areas under mandatory evacuation orders in the early hours of the morning as gusts as high as 93 mph swept through the hills and valleys north of the San Francisco Bay area.

Hurricane Dorian Is Not a Freak Storm
Its record-breaking power is in line with recent, worrisome trends.
(The Atlantic) Each of these trends, in turn, can be traced back to climate change, and so is likely to get even more severe. A hurricane is more likely to have strong winds, and to rapidly intensify, if the waters it traverses are warm. And as temperatures rise worldwide, air will move more slowly, failing to push hurricanes around as speedily as it used to, which will lead to more stalled storms.
That last prospect might be the scariest of all. It’s one thing for a community to weather Category 5 winds for a matter of hours, as Florida did during Andrew. It’s quite another to withstand more than a day of hurricane-force winds and sheets of rain, to huddle inside amid feet of water long after the roofs have been torn off houses, while the storm surge continues to float cars and toppled trees past the window. (3 September)

10 September
By the numbers: Measuring the fury of Hurricane Dorian.
At peak intensity, Dorian was a powerful Category 5 hurricane, the fourth year in a row that there was a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic basin. This stretch started with Matthew in 2016, Irma and Maria in 2017 and Michael in 2018.
Dorian has been the strongest of the bunch with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph and wind gusts topping 220 mph. To be classified as a Category 5 hurricane, sustained winds must exceed 157 mph.
These incredibly high winds make Dorian tied for the second-strongest hurricane to make landfall on record in the Atlantic basin, falling just shy of Hurricane Allen, which packed winds of 190 mph back in 1980. It is also the strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the Bahamas.
This two-week lifespan puts Dorian in the top 10% of all named storms in the satellite era.
Saturday marked the 15th day that Dorian was an active tropical cyclone, dating back to Aug. 24, 2019, when it first became a tropical depression.
However, this comes nowhere close to the all-time record for the longest-lived storm in the Atlantic. That record is held by the San Ciriaco Hurricane of 1899 which was classified as a hurricane for four weeks.

6 September
Atlantic Canada braces for Hurricane Dorian
Nova Scotia faces brunt of storm, power outages expected

1 September
Hurricane Dorian has smashed all sorts of intensity records in the Atlantic Ocean
Hurricane Dorian is taking extreme to the next level. With sustained winds of 185 mph Sunday afternoon and evening, the Category 5 storm has risen to the top of the charts among the most powerful tropical systems ever observed in the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s the strongest storm on record to occur east of Florida in the Atlantic and so far north. After striking the northern Bahamas, it matched the 1935 Labor Day hurricane for the strongest winds of any storm making landfall. These are just a few of the incredible feats Dorian has already accomplished, and more may be ahead.
Bahamas taking horrific direct hit from intense Category 5 Hurricane Dorian

28 August
The Amazon, Siberia, Indonesia: A World of Fire
The growing intensity of wildfires and their spread to new corners of the globe raises fears that climate change is exacerbating the dangers.
In South America, the Amazon basin is ablaze. Halfway around the world in central Africa, vast stretches of savanna are going up in flame. Arctic regions in Siberia are burning at a historic pace.
>While the Brazilian fires have grown into a full-blown international crisis, they represent only one of many significant areas where wildfires are currently burning around the world. Their increase in severity and spread to places where fires were rarely previously seen is raising fears that climate change is exacerbating the danger.
Hotter, drier temperatures “are going to continue promoting the potential for fire,” said John Abatzoglou, an associate professor in the department of geography at the University of Idaho, describing the risk of “large, uncontainable fires globally” if warming trends continue.
Wildfires contribute to climate change because not only do they release carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere but they can also kill trees and vegetation that remove climate-warming emissions from the air.

12 August
Monsoon downpours that set off flooding and a landslide in Myanmar late last week have killed at least 51 people and left dozens more missing, the authorities said, in the deadliest natural disaster to strike a part of the nation’s southeast in decades. (NY Times https://buff.ly/2YVVlG2) The death toll from a powerful typhoon sweeping across China’s east coast rose to 30 on Sunday, with at least 18 still missing, after torrential downpours forced more than one million to leave their homes, the state news media reported. (NY Times https://buff.ly/2ZTcKfv) At least 66 people have died and some 360,000 have moved to relief camps following flash floods and mudslides caused by days of torrential rains in the southern Indian states of Kerala and Karnataka, a news report said Saturday. (AP https://buff.ly/303N6VL)

9 August
Desertification a Frontline Against Climate Change: IPCC
(IPS) – A new United Nations report has described farming, land degradation and desertification as critical frontlines in the battle to keep the global rise in temperatures below the benchmark figure of 2 degrees Celsius.
The 43-page study from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released this week says better management of land can help combat global warming and limit the release of greenhouse gases.
“Climate change poses a major risk to the world’s food supply, and while better land management can help to combat global warming, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors is essential,” U.N. spokesman Stefan Dujarric told reporters Thursday.
The report offered “compelling evidence” for redoubling global efforts and shows that while “food security is already at risk from climate change, there are many nature-based solutions that can be taken,” added Dujarric.
Climate Change and Land – Summary for Policymakers
An IPCC Special Report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems

8 August
This Land Is the Only Land There Is
Here are seven ways of understanding the IPCC’s newest climate warning.
(The Atlantic) If the report has an overarching theme, it’s that land is extremely scarce, we need it for everything, and we are already using most of it. More than 70 percent of the planet’s ice-free land is already shaped by human activity, the report says. As trees are felled and farms take their place, this human-managed land emits about a quarter of global greenhouse-gas pollution every year, including 13 percent of carbon dioxide and 44 percent of the super-warming but short-lived pollutant methane.Here are seven ways of understanding the IPCC’s newest climate warning.

7 August
57 Dead, 18,000 Hospitalized in Japan Heat Wave
(EcoWatch) While the worst of this summer’s heat seems to have passed in the U.S. and Europe, Japan is in the throes of a dangerous heat wave.

The end of the rainy season last week brought a dangerous heat wave that claimed the lives of 57 people in Japan and sent tens of thousands to the island nation’s hospitals for heat related illness, the Japan Times reported.
The week that started on July 29 saw triple the number of heat-related hospitalizations as the week before. At 18,347, that’s the second highest number since heat-related records started in 2008, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, as the Japan Times reported.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said the surge in hospitalizations, deaths and people collapsing from heat stroke is partly due to people’s bodies, which adapted to the cool weather of the rainy season and did not sweat much, have been unable to cope with the sudden spike in temperature, according to the Japan News.

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