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Is Climate Change to Blame?

Houston, Texas resident up to his knees in floodwaters dumped by Hurricane Harvey, August 28, 2017 (Photo by Jill Carlson) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Houston, Texas resident up to his knees in floodwaters dumped by Hurricane Harvey, August 28, 2017 (Photo by Jill Carlson) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

MIAMI, Florida, September 20, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Contemplating the destruction and suffering that four ferocious hurricanes have brought to the Caribbean over the past three weeks, UN Secretary-General António Guterres blames it on climate change.

This year’s hurricane season “fits a pattern,” he said at a high-level event at the UN to secure help for Hurricane Irma survivors. “Changes to our climate are making extreme weather events more severe and frequent, pushing communities into a vicious cycle of shock and recovery.”

“Extreme weather linked to climate change has an impact all over the world, including floods in southern Asia and landslides and droughts in Africa,” said Guterres. He also noted the impact of rising ocean surface temperature on weather patterns.

In the past month alone, four major hurricanes have ripped through the islands in the western Atlantic Ocean the Caribbean and lands lining the Gulf of Mexico. First Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Texas; then hurricanes Irma and Jose tore through, and now Hurricane Maria blasted in with Category 5 winds on Wednesday.

AT little less intense as a Category 4 hurricane, Maria made landfall as dawn broke in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on September 20 with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour (250 km/h).

“Maria is an extremely dangerous category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, and it should maintain this intensity until landfall,” said forecasters at the National Hurricane Center. The last category 4 storm to hit Puerto Rico was in 1932.

Maria is following a similar track as Hurricane Irma blew down in the first two weeks of September, again striking small island developing states that were already reeling from Irma.

It is exceptionally rare to have two category 5 hurricanes in such a short space of time and on a similar track.

On September 18, Maria intensified rapidly from a category 1 to a category 5 hurricane. It hit the island of Dominica with maximum winds of 159 mph (257 km/h), the first Category 5 hurricane ever to hit the island. The entire island was under the influence of peak eyewall surface winds and it took more than 150 mm of rainfall.

Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico with 155 mph winds, the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall on the island since 1932. Now all of Puerto Rico is without electricity.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center is warning of a life-threatening storm surge for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin islands.

Puerto Rico could get an additional 12 to 18 inches (300 to 460 mms) of rainfall, with 25 inches (640 mm) in some locations.

Earlier today, Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, asked President Donald Trump to declare the region a disaster zone. The White House gave the territory an emergency declaration, one designation below “disaster.”

And there’s more…

Dominca, a small mountainous island with about 70,000 residents, lost all communications during the storm.

As Hurricane Maria struck, Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit posted a message on Facebook, saying, “Initial reports are of widespread devastation. So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace. My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains.”

“So far,” wrote Skerrit, “the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with. The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside.

“Come tomorrow morning,” he wrote, “we will hit the road, as soon as the all clear is given, in search of the injured and those trapped in the rubble. I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating…indeed, mind-boggling,”

“My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured. We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds. It is too early to speak of the condition of the air and seaports, but I suspect both will be inoperable for a few days,” wrote Skerrit.

Skerrit is seeking help from friendly nations and organizations with helicopter services, because he is “eager to get up and get around the country to see and determine what’s needed.”

What many people believe is needed is a concerted decision to limit the greenhouse gas emissions they fear are driving climate change and causing these hurricanes to become even more devastating.

Most scientists say that changes in Earth’s atmosphere did not cause Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose or Maria to form.

But most agree that the effects of climate change, such as warmer oceans and rising sea levels, made these storms more destructive than they would have been in earlier decades.

“The short version is, climate change makes these very bad storms worse,” said Sean Sublette, a meteorologist with Climate Central, a nonprofit organization of scientists who conduct scientific research on climate change and journalists who inform the public of key findings.

“It’s not the proximate cause of the storm, but it makes these bad storms worse,” said Sublette. “And in the case of a really bad storm, climate change can make it totally disastrous or catastrophic.”

The question of how climate and extreme weather interact will be central to the upcoming Science Summit, organized by the World Meteorological Organization’s <public.wmo.int> Commission for Atmospheric Sciences in Bali, Indonesia from October 20 to 22.

The Summit is an opportunity to shape the WMO’s research agenda, building toward a closer collaboration between weather, climate, water and environment research.

Scientists have been hard at work analyzing the relationship between climate change and extreme storms for years.

Back in May 2016, Australian scientists published a study in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters” showing that cities face harsher, more concentrated rainfall as climate change intensifies storms and draws them into narrower bands of more intense downpours.

Engineers at the University of New South Wales found that this has major implications for existing stormwater infrastructure, particularly in large cities, which face high risks of flash flooding.

“As warming proceeds, storms are shrinking in space and in time,” said doctoral student Conrad Wasko, lead author of the paper. “They are becoming more concentrated over a smaller area, and the rainfall is coming down more plentifully and with more intensity over a shorter period of time. When the storm shrinks to that extent, you have a huge amount of rain coming down over a smaller area.”

That analysis will sound familiar to the residents of Houston, Texas who were flooded with record-breaking amounts of rainfall – at least 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, with a maximum of 51.88 inches – in late August.

Hurricane Harvey brought record multi-day rainfall to the Houston area, after it stalled in the region following landfall.  Harvey had intensified before landfall after travelling over unusually warm waters (~2°C) in the western Gulf of Mexico.

“There is no clear evidence that climate change is making the occurrence of slowly moving land-falling hurricanes in the Houston region, such as Hurricane Harvey, more or less likely. However, some aspects or “ingredients” of the Harvey event may have linkages to climate change,” said the WMO’s Expert Team on Climate Impacts on Tropical Cyclones, led by Tom Knutson of NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

Because the tropical atmosphere now holds about seven percent more water vapor than it used to due to climate warming, Knutson and the Expert Team say the rainfall rates associated with Harvey “were likely made more intense by anthropogenic climate change.”


Maximpact+WASTE

Brutal Weather Hits Extremes

SmokeBCfires

Smoke from fires burning in British Columbia, Canada. Colin Seftor, an atmospheric scientist based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, has published data maps collected by the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite that show the smoke reaching as far as the U.S. Midwest and northern Quebec. July 18, 2017 (Image courtesy NASA) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, July 25, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – France today activated the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism as forest fires ravage southern regions of the country, threatening the resort of St. Tropez and the island of Corsica. French authorities have requested firefighting aircraft, and EU support is already on its way.

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said, “The EU stands in full solidarity with France. In an immediate response, the European Commission has helped mobilize a Canadair aircraft from Italy through our Civil Protection Mechanism.”

“Earlier this month, France helped Italy fighting forest fires and now Italy is showing its support to France. This is EU solidarity at its best,” said Stylianides. “Our thoughts are with all those affected and the brave first responders working in difficult conditions.”

Conditions are difficult around the world, with fires, floods and drought coming in waves of trouble.

June 2017 extended the spell of “exceptional global warmth” that has lasted since mid-2015. Average surface air temperatures were the second hottest on record, after June 2016, finds the latest analysis from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

In addition to high temperatures, extreme weather affected many parts of the world in June and July.

Rescue services and troops in New Zealand’s South Island worked around the clock over the weekend to help those affected by a severe storm that released floods and forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes.

A state of emergency was declared in the South Island cities of Christchurch, Otago, Timaru and Dunedin after some areas were hit with more than 200 millimetres of rain in 24 hours.

The New Zealand Meteorological Service says all of July has been marked by severe weather events, caused by low pressure systems from the Tasman Sea.

Australia had the second driest June on record, with rainfall 62 percent below average for Australia as a whole, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. June was the driest on record for large areas of southern Australia because of persistent high pressure and a lack of cold fronts.

Chinese weather authorities report that the annual monsoon season was accompanied by torrential rainfall in many parts of China for extended periods in June and early July, causing considerable economic losses and transport disruption.

For instance, more than 600 flights were cancelled at Beijing airport alone on July 6 as a result of rainfall.

The rainfall was one of the contributing factors to a deadly landslide with many casualties on June 24 in  Maoxian County, Sichuan. In north and northeast China, the National Meteorological Center said that from June 21 to June 24, the maximum hourly rainfall was between 20-40 mm.

Authorities issued warnings about water levels along key tributaries of the Yangtzee River basin. There was a red alert on July 2 along the whole course of the Xiangjiang River that was near or above record levels. The water level in the section of the river in Changsha, capital of Hunan, reached a record 39.21 meters on July 2.

Since June 22, floodwaters have inundated parts of several cities in Hunan, forcing more than 311,000 people to evacuate, damaging crops and destroying more than 6,300 houses, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

In Japan, tropical storm Nanmadol brought torrential rainfall to the southern part of the country. The city of Hamada in Shimane, which faces the Sea of Japan, saw hourly precipitation of over 80 mm on July 6, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Local governments issued evacuation orders to nearly 60,000 residents in affected areas.

Tropical cyclone Mora caused Bangladesh authorities to evacuate nearly one million people from low-lying areas, At least 10 people died. Heavy monsoon rainfall in June caused severe flooding and deadly mudslides. Nearly 900,000 people were affected by floods as of July 5, authorities said.

In Myanmar, heavy monsoon rains have prevailed across the southeast Asian country since early July. Today, riverbank erosion washed away a Buddhist pagoda. Rising floodwaters across large parts of the country have claimed two lives, washed away entire villages and displaced tens of thousands of residents.

In Indonesia, drought is drying the crops as they stand in the fields.

Much of South America and Africa were warmer than average during this two month period, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reports the Middle East is broiling. The Iranian city of Ahwaz recorded a temperature of 53.7°Celsius (128.66° Fahrenheit) on June 29 as part of a heatwave with temperatures in excess of 50°C across the region, including Iraq and Kuwait.

An even higher temperature of about 54°C (129.2°F) scorched the city of Turbat, southwestern Pakistan, in late May.

But this week in Turkey, it’s too much water, not too much heat. Istanbul traffic came to a standstill as severe storms inundated the city, flooding the streets.

Temperatures were much above average, and high in absolute terms, over Morocco and northern Algeria in June and July. Forest fires are burning across northern Algeria. An estimated 1,000 hectares have been consumed.

Southern and central Europe was very much warmer than the 1981-2010 average in June, especially over the Iberian Peninsula, where Portugal experienced devastating wildfires.

The heatwave shifted from the Iberian Peninsula to southeastern Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean towards the end of June, with temperatures well over 40°C ((104°F) in many countries. The high temperatures were sometimes accompanied by damaging summer storms, hailstorms, torrential rainfall and flash floods.

Fires this month in Croatia and Montenegro sparked requests for help in fighting the flames. Still, on July 18, the Adriatic coast was engulfed in wildfires.

The Deutscher Wetterdienst said July 7, “A period with significantly above-normal temperatures and heat waves, at least for the next week, is expected for most parts of the eastern Mediterranean – from Italy, Balkans to Caucasus and Middle East.”

Conversely, says the WMO, temperatures have been well below average over the northeast of Europe. The contrast between southwest and northeast continues a pattern that was present in April and May.

In Russia, June 2017 was widely called Junabre, meaning June plus November, because of the cold weather in the European parts of the country. June was the coldest month in the past 14 years for Moscow.

FloodingLondon

Caption: Flooded streets in London, UK, June 2, 2017 (Photo by Dmitry Dzhus) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The UK should be bracing for record rainfall, says Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The UK’s two wettest winters on record occurred in 2013-14 and 2015-16, leading to flooding in many parts of the country. As a result, the National Flood Resilience Review was begun, but it needs expansion to include surface water flooding, says Ward.

Commenting on the publication Monday of the paper, High risk of unprecedented UK rainfall in the current climate in the journal “Nature Communications,” Ward said, “I hope that the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, will carefully read this important Met Office analysis because it highlights the risk of extreme rainfall that could cause flooding.”

“We know that the risk of record rainfall is increasing due to climate change. From 2000 onwards, the UK has experienced 6 of the 7 wettest years since records began in 1910, and its 8 warmest years. The period between January and June 2017 was the third warmest such period on record. As the atmosphere warms, it can hold more water, increasing the risk of heavy rainfall.”

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that starting around June 18 and continuing for over a week, scorching temperatures hit the western United States of America from Arizona to the Pacific Northwest.

June 20 was a particularly hot day for the southwestern United States. Las Vegas, Nevada (47.2°C or 117°F), and Needles, California (51.7°C or 125°F), both tied their all-time records.

Forest fires have been devouring forests across the U.S. West.

For instance, the Detwiler Fire in California began on July 15. It covers 79,400 acres and is 65 percent contained.

The Snowstorm Fire in Nevada began on July 13. It has burned 60,000 acres and is just 13 percent contained.

In Arizona, from June 17-27, Phoenix International Airport has had 11 straight days with temperatures of at least 110°F (43°C), with one day hitting 48.3°C (119°F). The heat caused multiple canceled flights. The hotter the air, the less dense it is, which means less lift for airplanes as they take off. In order to take off, the planes would have needed a longer runway, which is not available in Phoenix.

As the heat wave continued, the hot air spread west and north. On June 25, Portland Oregon, reach 38°C (101°F) and Seattle, Washington, hit 35.6°C (96°F), tying its hottest June day on record.

In July, the forests of south-central British Columbia were primed to burn. Abnormally hot, dry weather had dried out vegetation and soil, and many forests were full of dead trees left by mountain pine beetles. When lightning storms passed over the region on July 7, more than 100 fires were sparked. Some of these fires are still raging.

As of July 19, 2017, the British Columbia Wildfire Service reported 50 wildfires burning in the Cariboo region and another 21 in the Kamloops region. The fires have charred roughly 300,000 hectares (1,000 square miles) and have forced nearly 50,000 people to flee their homes.

To far south, June temperatures were way above average offshore of parts of Antarctica, where sea-ice cover was unusually low, the WMO reports. But the agency also says temperatures were well below average over East Antarctica.

So, investors can no longer count on business as usual. The climate is changing – tending toward extremes of heat, cold, drought and rainfall, and the physical impacts of climate change will affect assets and investments.

Climate change and extreme weather events will affect agriculture and food supply, infrastructure, precipitation and the water supply in ways that are only partly understood.

Yet, decisions made by private sector investors and financial institutions will have a major influence on how society responds to climate change.

There will be significant demand for capital, with governments looking to the private sector to provide much of it.


Featured Images: Wildfires send thousands fleeing the Provence resport of St. Tropez, France. July 25, 2017 (Photo by CCI Riviera & Monaco) Posted on Twitter

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