Friday, August 31, 2012

Study suggests large methane reservoirs beneath Antarctic ice sheet

Terra Daily via SPX: The Antarctic Ice Sheet could be an overlooked but important source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, according to a report in the August 30 issue of Nature by an international team of scientists. The new study demonstrates that old organic matter in sedimentary basins located beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet may have been converted to methane by micro-organisms living under oxygen-deprived conditions.

The methane could be released to the atmosphere if the ice sheet shrinks and exposes these old sedimentary basins.

Coauthor Slawek Tulaczyk, a professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz, said the project got its start five years ago in discussions with first author Jemma Wadham at the University of Bristol School of Geographical Sciences, where Tulaczyk was on sabbatical.

"It is easy to forget that before 35 million years ago, when the current period of Antarctic glaciations started, this continent was teeming with life," Tulaczyk said. "Some of the organic material produced by this life became trapped in sediments, which then were cut off from the rest of the world when the ice sheet grew. Our modeling shows that over millions of years, microbes may have turned this old organic carbon into methane."

The science team estimated that 50 percent of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (1 million square kilometers) and 25 percent of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (2.5 million square kilometers) overlies pre-glacial sedimentary basins containing about 21,000 billion metric tons of organic carbon.

"This is an immense amount of organic carbon, more than ten times the size of carbon stocks in northern permafrost regions," Wadham said. "Our laboratory experiments tell us that these sub-ice environments are also biologically active, meaning that this organic carbon is probably being metabolized to carbon dioxide and methane gas by microbes."...

Antarctic mountains, pack ice and ice floes, shot by Jason Auch, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Isaac rain stalls U.S. crop harvest, some damage done

Sam Nelson in Reuters: Rain and wind from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac are expected to move into the central U.S. Midwest on Friday and into the weekend, stalling crop harvests and causing some localized damage, an agricultural meteorologist said.

Isaac continued to cause headaches, bringing heavy rainfall and the threat of flash flooding to the lower Mississippi Valley as Gulf Coast residents prepared to start their cleanup efforts.

Before Isaac slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said 6 percent of the country's corn crop had been harvested and 8 percent of the soybean crop was dropping leaves, ready for harvest.

"Certainly it will slow harvest and some of the corn crop could be hurt. The stalks are fragile and brittle," Don Keeney, meteorologist for MDA EarthSat Weather, said.

Corn plants already had been weakened and yields slashed by the stress from the worst drought in America's heartland in more than 50 years. Much of the crop was pushed to maturity and is set to be harvested as it is more vulnerable than normal to harm from wind and rain.

Keeney said 2 to 4 inches of rain with locally heavier amounts could be expected in a broad swath from eastern Missouri through Illinois, Indiana and into Ohio with winds of 10 to 15 miles per hour (16 to 24 km per hour) and heavier gusts....

Four storms in the tropical Atlantic and Pacific are in various stages of development. Tropical Storm Isaac is slowly weakening over central Louisiana, but is still producing heavy rain, severe weather and high water levels along the northern Gulf coast. Hurricane Ileana is in the eastern Pacific and growing a little stronger, but is headed for cooler waters. Hurricane Kirk has become the fifth hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season and is expected to stay well offshore. Tropical Depression 12 has formed far east of the Lesser Antilles and is forecast to reach hurricane strength in a couple of days. It is still too soon to know what impacts Tropical Depression 12 might have on land. This image was taken by GOES East at 1445Z on August 30, 2012. From NOAA

Work hard for a flood solution

An editorial in the News & Star (UK): We have been here before. And that’s just one of the reasons why this week’s flooding is so frustrating. There is devastation for the victims, as well as fear from those who wonder if their home might be hit next time. And a general feeling that flooding which was supposed to happen once in a lifetime – perhaps less than that – has struck twice in less than three years.

Climate change or not, something is happening to our weather. More than two inches of rain fell on parts of west Cumbria in six hours on Wednesday night. Homes were flooded at Egremont, just days after a house there collapsed into the rain-swollen River Ehen. Gosforth, Seascale, St Bees, Moresby, Ravenglass, Beckermet and Keswick have also been affected.

....Arguments still rage about whether more could have been done to prevent the 2009 floods, so expect no quick verdict on this week’s events. But if lessons can be learned they should be pushed through as swiftly as possible to lessen the chances of another deluge bringing another burst of devastation....

The River Eden in Cumbria flooding in 2005, shot by Howard Quinn, Wikimedia Commons via Geograph UK, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Climate change killed Egypt's pyramid builders

Tim Wall in Discover News: The drought parching the United States is one of the worst in the nation's history, but it hasn't been as destructive as the drought that may have withered ancient Egypt's Old Kingdom. Pollen and charcoal buried in the Nile Delta 4,200 years ago tell the tale of a drought of literally Biblical proportions associated with the fall of the pyramid builders.

"Even the mighty builders of the ancient pyramids more than 4,000 years ago fell victim when they were unable to respond to a changing climate," said U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt in a press release. "This study illustrates that water availability was the climate-change Achilles Heel then for Egypt, as it may well be now, for a planet topping seven billion thirsty people."

Evidence of other empire toppling droughts lay buried in the sediments of the Nile River until it was dug up by a University of Pennsylvania doctoral student who now works for the USGS. The results were published in Geology. Approximately 5,000 years ago, another drought may have hastened the demise of the kingdom of Uruk in what is now Iraq...
Throwing a virgin into the Nile. Because that always helps against a drought. From the Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA) where it is available at the following Uniform Resource Identifier: 21497. Original source: Loring, W.W. "A Confederate Soldier in Egypt". Dodd, Mead & Company: New York, 1884. p. 140a. Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

Kashmir’s melting glaciers may cut ice with skeptics

Athar Parvaiz in IPS: ...That the weather is warming over Kashmir is not news for climate scientists who have shown in several studies that the glaciers in the vast Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalaya (HKKH) region – called the world’s ‘third pole’ – are melting and receding at an increasing pace. In the latest of these studies, European scientists led by Andreas Kaab of the department of geosciences, University of Oslo, have shown that glacial melt is worse in the Kashmir Himalayas than in other regions of the HKKH.

Kaab’s findings, published in the Aug. 23 edition of ‘Nature’, suggest that Kashmir’s glaciers may be receding by as much as half-a-metre annually, presenting an immediate threat to the rivers that  feed into the Indus basin. “Glaciers are among the best indicators of terrestrial climate variability,” said Kaab in the study. “They contribute importantly to water resources in many mountainous regions and are a major contributor to global sea-level rise.” Kaab said that while there is a paucity of glacier data in the HKKH region, there is “indirect evidence of a complex pattern of glacial responses” to climate change.

Prof. Shakil Romshoo, who teaches geology and geophysics at Kashmir University, says that studies that he and his colleagues conducted in 2009 showed that Kashmir’s glaciers were melting at an increasing pace. “We have been saying for many years now that Kashmir’s glaciers are melting at an ever faster rate,” Romshoo told IPS. His team found that the Kolhai glacier, one of the largest in Kashmir, had shrunk to 11 sq km, losing two sq km over a period of 40 years.

Another scientific study on the Kashmir Himalayas had also shown that the snow cover over the region was on the decline. The study, led by glaciologist H. S. Negi, was published in the December 2009 issue of ‘Journal of Earth System Sciences’, a bi-monthly published in India. Negi, who is attached to the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment of India’s defence ministry, based his findings on 20 years of remote satellite-based climatic data, covering the period 1988 – 2008. According to Negi’s findings, where total snowfall in the Kashmir valley was 1,082 cm in 2004-05, it had declined to 968 cm during 2005-2006 and reduced further to 961 cm by 2006-2007.

Kolahoi Glacier and Mt.Kolahoi. It's the tallest mountain in the Kashmir Valley. Shot by Irfanaru, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Drenched New Orleans passes big post-Katrina test

Ellen Wulfhorst and Scott Malone in Reuters: Drenching rains from Hurricane Isaac brought flooding to the U.S. Gulf Coast on Wednesday, but elaborate defenses built to protect New Orleans after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina seven years ago seemed to pass their first major test.

The slow moving weather system, downgraded to a tropical storm on Wednesday, dumped massive amounts of rain to test new levees and flood containment systems and officials were careful not to declare a premature victory. "This is a slow-moving storm and it is going to cause a tremendous amount of damage," said Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, warning of another day of wind and rain ahead.

Water flooded over the top of a levy on the outskirts of New Orleans and threatened to flood oil refineries and towns in the state and neighboring Mississippi. It looked, though, as if most energy facilities had escaped damage.

In districts outside of New Orleans, rising floodwaters forced the evacuation of several thousand people from their homes, but no deaths or serious injuries were reported.

While not nearly as strong as Katrina - a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale when it slammed into New Orleans in 2005 - authorities have warned repeatedly against underestimating Isaac, which has brought prodigious amounts of rain.

Isaac slowed dramatically as it approached land and hugged the coast for hours before turning inland. This allowed it to take on more strength than many forecasters had expected, said Tim Doggett, the principal scientist at AIR Worldwide, a disaster modeling agency....

Hurricane Isaac on August 28, 2012, from NASA

Building resilience to disasters in Western Balkans and Turkey

UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction: The United Nations, European Commission and national authorities have launched a new project in the Western Balkans and Turkey that will reduce disaster risks and increase resilience to climate change.  The project launch is planned for 30 August in Zagreb, Croatia and it is aimed at high-level participants from disaster management authorities and national meteorological and hydrological services.

The Western Balkans and Turkey are prone to multiple hazards such as heat and cold waves, precipitation that causes floods as well as landslides, droughts and forest fires and earthquakes. Climate variability and climate change, new land-use patterns and increasing human settlements in vulnerable areas may compound such problems.

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) are co-sponsoring the two-year multi-beneficiary project. EUR 2.2 million is being provided by the European Commission's Directorate General for Enlargement, under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance Programme. Beneficiaries are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, and Kosovo (under UN Security Council Resolution 1244/99).

The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, said: "Each country has its own unique risk profile but exposure to floods and earthquakes are common to most of the countries which will be assisted under this important programme. Cross-border cooperation on disaster risk management is essential to maximizing resources and ensuring the timely sharing of early warnings between states."

"Weather, climate and the water cycle know no borders. This project will make a very important contribution to strengthening regional capacity to meet present and future risks and adapt to climate variability and change," said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

The project will strengthen national disaster risk management, and meteorological and hydrological services. The three main areas of work include: building and enhancing regional networking and coordination for disaster risk reduction; strengthening cross-border cooperation on disaster risk management and increasing regional capacity to monitor and predict hydro-meteorological hazards. The project will also work towards an effective cross-border multi-hazard early warning system....

An aerial view of Zagreb, shot by Suradnik13, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Fast climate response differs over land and sea

Liz Kalaugher in Environmental Research Web: On a scale of days, climate response is distinctly different between land and ocean, and to carbon dioxide versus solar forcing. That is according to a team from China, India and the US that has completed the first study to investigate responses to these factors in a coupled atmosphere-ocean climate system on a timescale from days to weeks.

"Recently, a number of studies have shown that climate response on timescales shorter than one month, the so called 'fast climate adjustment' has great implication for climate response on longer timescales of decades to centuries," Long Cao of Zhejiang University, China, told environmentalresearchweb. "However, there are very few studies on the actual climate evolution and associated physical mechanisms on timescales from days to weeks."

Together with Govindasamy Bala of the Indian Institute of Science and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution, US, Cao conducted large ensemble simulations using the UK Met Office Hadley Centre global climate model HadCM3L. The researchers employed a step-change quadrupling of atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration or a 4% rise in solar irradiation, chosen because it yields a similar long-term change in global-mean surface temperature to the carbon-dioxide increase. The control conditions were 280 ppm of carbon dioxide and a solar constant of 1354 W/sq. m.

"Previous studies investigated fast climate adjustment under the idealized situations of either zero global-mean surface temperature change or fixed sea-surface temperature," said Cao. "We investigate the actual development of fast climate adjustment without imposing any constraints on the atmosphere–ocean climate system."...

Sun and clouds shot by, public domain

Storms, drought overshadow UN climate talks

Apilaporn Vechakij in AFP: World climate change negotiators faced warnings Thursday that a string of extreme weather events around the globe show urgent action on emission cuts is needed as they opened new talks in Bangkok. The week-long meeting in the Thai capital, which was devastated by major floods last year, aims to prepare the ground for a meeting of ministers under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Doha starting in November.

"This meeting opens in the immediate aftermath of a deadly typhoon in the Republic of Korea and a hurricane that hit near New Orleans on the seventh anniversary of Katrina -- powerful reminders of the urgent need to lower greenhouse gas emissions," said Marlene Moses of Nauru, who chairs the Alliance of Small Island States.

For small islands particularly vulnerable to climate change, "development prospects, viability and survival hang in the balance", she warned. Some experts believe the UN target to limit the rise in global average temperatures to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is already unattainable.

At least 19 people were killed this week by the most powerful typhoon to hit South Korea in almost a decade and thousands of people were evacuated in New Orleans as Hurricane Isaac pounded the southern US city.

In the Philippines, storms and flooding from torrential rains killed at least 170 people in August, while the US Midwest breadbasket is reeling from the worst drought in more than 50 years.

"Climate change and typhoons or droughts like in the United States are interlinked," said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres....

Wat Phra Kaew, view from entrance area toward the golden chedis. The sky is dark due to a thunderstorm nearby. Shot by Ahoerstemeier, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Study highlights lack of climate-linked aid to Malawi

Bernard Appiah in Contrary to popular belief, relatively little donor funding is being channelled towards climate change adaptation activities in Africa, according to researchers who conducted a study released this month (9 August) that examines foreign aid to Malawi.

Aid funding specific to climate change activities represented less than two per cent of the total donor aid to Malawi, according to what the researchers say is the first study to analyse specifically all climate aid to any single country.

Providing such data to disentangle climate-specific aid and map its application with geospatial tools can help compare the effectiveness of climate aid projects, as well as boost donor coordination, say the researchers.

The study analysed all aid to Malawi from September 2011 to May 2012, and was published by the Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) programme at the Strauss Center, University of Texas at Austin, United States.

"Despite all the media attention on climate vulnerability in Malawi and other African countries, there doesn't seem to be much aid going into climate change adaptation in the region," lead researcher, Catherine Weaver, told SciDev.Net. 

Developing countries receive nearly US$150 billion in aid annually for socio-economic development and poverty alleviation, but need US$100 billion more a year to address the threats of global climate change, according to a 2010 World Bank report....

An irrigated field in Malawi, shot by Alexandria Riboul, USAID

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Drought a serious blow to Balkans agriculture

The Oman Daily Observer: An unprecedented drought in the Balkans has dealt a serious blow to agriculture, causing grave losses estimated at more than a billion euros in one of Europe’s poorest regions. Temperatures over the past week in the southeastern European region have soared to more than 40 degrees Celsius, with no rains in most areas. After being hammered by a particularly rough winter with plummeting temperatures and record snowfall, Bosnia is now sweltering through its hottest summer since records began 120 years ago.

Sead Jelec of the National Association of Farmers said the country’s agricultural losses are estimated at between 30 and 40 per cent. The “total value of agriculture production in Bosnia is around one billion euros ($1.25 billion). We can say that the losses would be around 300 million euros,” Jelec said. The drought had especially hit corn crops, but also fruits and pastures. Croatia’s national agricultural chamber estimated the losses for that country at more than 134 million euros, chamber chairman Matija Brlosic said.

Several regions have declared a state of emergency, including the eastern Slavonia area, Croatia’s main agricultural producing region, where the drought has ravaged fields and left sunflowers browned and withered on their stalks. “Slavonia has literally been devastated. Cultures planted in spring are in a catastrophic state and the losses are estimated at between 60 and 100 per cent,” Brlosic said. Of around 1.5 million hectares of farming land in Croatia, only 18,000 are covered with irrigation systems.

In Serbia, initial loss estimates are close to one billion euros, a government source said. Particularly hard hit is the northern province of Vojvodina, nicknamed “Serbia’s granary,” with production estimated to top out at just 50 per cent of normal. More than one million hectares have been hit, mostly of corn, maize and soya, the agriculture ministry said, prompting the government to adopt a package with measures to assist farmers and their fields....

Beehives in Bosnia, shot by Tamas Ring, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

New York City braces for climate change through panel and task force

Karen Frantz in the Queens Times Ledger: A panel and task force that first convened several years ago to identify ways the city can cope with the local impact of climate change, such as fiercer storms and rising sea levels, will now meet on a regular basis and have an expanded focus.

“Climate change is here and our city must be prepared to deal with this and to have a coordinated response,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) told a news conference at City Hall last week, lauding the passage of legislation institutionalizing the task force and panel.

The legislation, passed unanimously by the Council Aug. 22, is being hailed as the first of its kind among federal, state and local governments.

“It’s great for New York City to be the national leader in greenhouse gas reduction. It’s also great for us to be the leader in climate change adaptation,” Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said. Gennaro, head of the Council Committee on Environmental Protection, is the author of the legislation.

The New York City Panel on Climate Change, made up of scientific experts on climate change appointed by the mayor and modeled after the International Panel on Climate Change, will now make projections once every three years about the risks rising global temperatures pose to the city.

In addition, the New York City Climate Change Adaptation Task Force will make strategy recommendations for reducing climate change impacts on vulnerable populations, public heath, natural systems and the economy one year after the panel makes its projections....

Lower Manhattan from a helicopter, shot by nosha, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Yosemite on virus alert before holiday

Janice Lloyd in USA Today: With one of the busiest weekends of the year approaching, Yosemite National Park officials are warning holiday travelers about the dangers of a rodent- borne virus following the deaths of two park visitors.

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome is a rare but serious respiratory illness that has been blamed for the fatalities. A total of four people have been infected. The two other people are recovering.

All four people stayed in “signature tent cabins” in Curry Village in the eastern side of the popular California park. Visitors are being given a brochure about the virus and how to protect themselves. Germs are transmitted in droppings, urine and saliva of mice and rodents.

“Hantavirus is a very serious thing and we want to convey the importance of that and the precautions people can take,” said Scott Gediman, spokesman for Yosemite National Park. “But we don't want people to think they can't come to Yosemite. Even with the hantavirus we expect to be full. Labor Day is traditionally very busy.”...

Transmission electron micrograph of the Sin Nombre Hantavirus. Hantaviruses that cause Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) are carried in rodent droppings, especially the deer mouse. Incubation lasts for 1–5wks. Sickness begins with fever and muscle aches, followed by shortness of breath and coughing. From the Centers for Disease Control

Climate blights Zanzibar's economic future

Issa Yussuf in via the Tanzania Daily News: Zanzibar is already highly vulnerable to climate variability, and will be amongst most affected by future climate change, while sea level rise received most attention; there are multiple risks, particularly to ecosystem services that underpin island economies.

This is a concluding paragraph in a research report conducted on 'Climate Change on Zanzibar: Impacts, Adaptation, Economics &Low Carbon Growth' by the Global Climate Adaptation Partnership, and local partners. Thanks to the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) for funding. Researchers in the report launched two weeks ago, have advised Zanzibar that adaptation can reduce the risks, cautioning of cost, and requires necessary finance and capacity to access and effectively use resources.

Mr Paul Watkiss, the research project director, led other experts in the eight month research in the Islands advising further, Zanzibar to act now, including considering Low carbon development by providing a more sustainable energy future, development and sustainability benefits, and opportunities for finance

The objectives of the study were to: Assess climate change impacts and their economic costs for Zanzibar, analyze costs and benefits of adapting to these effects over different timescales, assess the potential for low carbon growth, including development benefits and finance opportunities, and build national capacity and take advantage of local knowledge. In a general perspective a large proportion of Zanzibar's GDP and most of the livelihoods on the islands are associated with climate sensitivity activities, either directly such as with agriculture or tourism, or indirectly for example from the use of natural resources.

Therefore the economy and people of the islands are very dependent on the weather and climate. However, the finding in the research shows that climate of Zanzibar has been changing, and in the last decade has seen a significant increase in extreme events (climate variability), the recent extreme events such as droughts and floods, as example, which has led to major economic costs....

Growing red algae in Zanzibar, shot by Leyo, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Switzerland license.

Isaac rains boost Cuba water reserves

Terra Daily via AFP: Tropical Storm Isaac, which swept across Cuba at the weekend before heading toward the southern United States, substantially boosted the communist nation's water reserves, state media said Monday.

The rains from Isaac added 74.4 million cubic meters of water to the five reservoirs closest to the storm's path, according to the official daily Granma.

Before the tropical storm hit the island, 11 reservoirs in Santiago de Cuba province were at 57 percent capacity but have now increased to 66 percent said the island's Institute of Water Reserves.

Dams in the central province of Ciego de Avila, meanwhile, are at 96 percent capacity, a local official said....

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Isaac officially reaches hurricane strength

CBS News: Isaac officially ballooned into a hurricane Tuesday that could flood the coasts of four states with storm surge and heavy rains on its way to New Orleans, where residents hunkered down behind levees fortified after Katrina struck seven years ago this week.

Shelters were open for those who chose to stay or missed the chance to get away before the outer bands of the large storm blow ashore ahead of a forecast landfall in southeast Louisiana on Tuesday night or early Wednesday.

Forecasters warned that Isaac was a large storm whose effects could reach out 200 miles from its center. Water may be worse than wind because the storm could push walls of water while dumping rain to flood the low-lying coast in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami upgraded Isaac to a Category 1 hurricane midday Tuesday, with surface wind speeds of 75 mph and flight-level winds even stronger, at 110 mph. The storm system was centered about 75 miles south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River at 12:20 p.m. ET and was moving northwest at 10 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was 160 miles southeast of New Orleans.

CBS News hurricane consultant David Bernard reports from CBS station WFOR-TV in Miami that some areas hit by Isaac could see as much as 20 inches of rain. In Washington, President Obama urged Gulf Coast residents to listen to local authorities, saying in brief remarks at the White House that "now is not the time to tempt fate."

The president declared a state of emergency in Louisiana late Monday, more than 24 hours before the storm was expected to hit the Gulf Coast. The declaration makes federal support available to save lives, protect public health and safety and preserve property in coastal areas....

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (Aug. 23, 2012) Employees of Bremcor, a military contracting company, tie down geo-fabric netting that surrounds the detainee camps at Guantanamo in preparation for Tropical Storm Isaac.

Deadly typhoon pounds South Korea, smashes ships

Hung-Jim Kim in USA Today: A powerful typhoon pounded South Korea with strong winds and heavy rain Tuesday, killing nine and churning up rough seas that smashed two Chinese fishing ships into rocks and forced the coast guard to perform a daring rescue of survivors.

Rescuers saved 12 fishermen and searched for 10 still missing from the ships that hit rocks off South Korea's southern Jeju island. Five fishermen were killed, officials said.

Separately, at least four other people died as Typhoon Bolaven knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of South Koreans, canceled flights and temporarily halted joint war games by U.S. and South Korean military forces.

North Korea, which is still struggling to rebuild from massive floods and a devastating drought before that, was next in the typhoon's path. Heavy rain and strong winds hit many parts of the country Tuesday, a day that was supposed to be a North Korean celebration of its young people.

Off Jeju island, dangerous waves kept rescue vessels from approaching the wrecked fishing ships. The coast guard used a special gun to shoot rope to one ship so officers could pull themselves over and bring the fishermen back to shore, coast guard spokesman Ko Chang-keon said. Eighteen fishermen survived. The coast guard rescued 12, and the others swam or were washed ashore....

An August 26, 2012, view of Typhoon Bolaven, a strong typhoon over the Northwest Pacific Ocean.

Could Thailand withstand another flood?

Asia Sentinel: A year ago, central Thailand was inundated with what may have been the worst floods in the country’s history, covering the Ayutthaya plain with up to three meters of water and drowning a major segment of the multinational car and electronics industries that had settled there.

The question today is whether it could happen again. Although the Thai government has developed a reconstruction plan focused on immediate relief and recovery and as well as projected long-term solutions including raising dykes, extensive reforestation and other solutions, there are reasons to be concerned whether the government is moving fast enough.

Certainly, as climate change has grown more severe, severe weather incidents have been picking up all over the region. Although there have been no signs so far that Thailand might take another hit like the country got from last year’s Tropical Storm Nock Ten, which inundated 20 Thai provinces, at least 85,000 people in Myanmar next door to Thailand were forced out of their homes this month by what has been described as the worst flooding since 2004.

Other cities have been hit hard as well. Manila has been flooded repeatedly. Beijing was hit by the heaviest rainfall in 60 years in late July, leaving 37 people dead and thousands stranded at the city’s main airport. Roofs collapsed and downed power lines electrocuted an unknown number of people Taiwan has been battered by Tropical Storm Tambin, which dropped 500 mm of rain on the southern part of the island and appears about to return it again. Tropical Storm Bolaven has turned into a super typhoon, with sustained winds of 185 km per hour and is headed straight up the Yellow Sea towards North Korea. Citizens of Jiangsu in China have been warned to prepare for severe weather.

“While the 2011 (Thai) flood disaster was exceptional in scale and impact, climate change projections suggest that natural disasters of this kind are likely to occur more frequently and more severely in Thailand in the years ahead,” the Asia Foundation warned in a recent report. “It is important to recognize that this unique moment needs to extend beyond the communities that were most seriously affected by the 2011 flooding and that Thailand needs to develop good practices, lessons learned, and knowledge-sharing to shape and influence broader and longer-term environmental governance in Thailand.”...

Floodwaters inundated Rojana Industrial Park in Ayutthaya Province, Thailand, in the 2011 inundation. US Marine Corps photo

Feminine creativity in the face of natural disasters in Cuba

Ivet González in IPS: Blanca Lima raises all her appliances above flood level, puts boxes of clothes on top of wardrobes, and fills the shelves she installed near the ceiling with all kinds of objects. In less than an hour, she is ready to evacuate her home in case of a flood in the Cuban capital.

“When they announce that there will be a high sea and flooding, I already know where I’m going to put the refrigerator and set up a platform to raise the mattresses. I have weathered so many floods that I now have a whole system for dealing with them,” Lima told IPS.

In their homes, Cuban women come up with strategies to minimise the danger and losses during natural disasters like hurricanes. Gender expert Isabel Moya says women have special talents in terms of organising and empowering their communities during extreme events.

“The strengths of women have helped transform traditional practices and dynamics, in environmental protection and risk management, for example,” Moya told IPS. She advocates the recognition not only of the double workday of women, their jobs and household responsibilities, but of a triple workday, which includes their work in the community.

According to Moya, girls are educated in “the culture of care, a capacity that is later transformed into strong neighbourhood involvement by women. “They relate to each other and establish solidarity among themselves in a different way. These skills can generate a change in community ties,” she said....

A street in old Havana, shot by Angelo Lucia, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Floods cause havoc in Nigeria, Cameroon via the Daily Trust (Nigeria): Five persons have been confirmed dead and 19 others injured as floods ravaged more villages in Safana, Kurfi and Batsari local government areas of Katsina State while many more have been reported missing in Adamawa State, Daily Trust can report.

...Daily Trust gathered that 543houses were also destroyed in the three affected local government areas. The affected villages include Runka and Illela in Safana local government; Dadinkowa, Tsabawa and Shirgi in Batsari; Kurfi and Faduma villages in Kurfi local government.

Chairman, caretaker committee of Mai'Adua local government, Engineer Abba Yusuf, said two people died in Dankunde and Mai'Adua, while two women injured in Mai'Adua local government area.

Yusuf said Mai'Adua disaster was caused by over flooding of Tafkin-Bauna, saying "if this dam can be controlled, people of Gwajo-Gwajo village will be protected from experiencing future flood. We have concluded arrangement to tackle the problem once and for ever."

And in Adamawa, more communities are still being affected by floods following continued release of water from the Lagdo Dam in northern Cameroun. Already, no fewer than 126 settlements have been submerged in the riverine areas, displacing several families with many missing....

Monday, August 27, 2012

Typhoon Tembin seen looping back to Taiwan

Bloomberg: Typhoon Tembin, which drenched southern Taiwan last week before going out to sea, appeared to be looping back Monday for another run at the island and the nearby Philippines, forecasters said.

The revisit comes after another storm about 1,200 miles (750 miles) to the northeast, Typhoon Bolaven, lashed the Japanese island of Okinawa. It injured five people and left 66,500 households without power as of Monday afternoon, but did less damage than feared before moving north into the East China Sea. Bolaven could affect coastal areas of South Korea by Tuesday, weather officials said.

Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau predicted that Tembin would make landfall early Tuesday in the same part of southern Taiwan where it dumped more than 500 millimeters (20 inches) of rain three days ago. Tembin, packing winds of 119 kph (75 mph), will likely skirt the eastern Taiwanese coast before moving northward toward the Chinese mainland, the bureau said.

In Manila, the Philippine weather agency reissued typhoon warnings to residents and fishermen for Tembin, which blew out of the archipelago over the weekend. Fishing boats in the north were urged not to venture out to sea while larger ships were warned of possible big waves and heavy rains.

While Tembin was not likely to blow onto land, Filipino forecaster Manny Mendoza said its 600-kilometer (375-mile) -wide cloud band would likely intensify monsoon rains and bring strong winds and thunderstorms to the country's still-soggy north....

Typhoon Tembin on August 24, via NASA

Arctic sea ice extent breaks record low

National Snow & Ice Data Center: Arctic sea ice appears to have broken the 2007 record daily extent and is now the lowest in the satellite era. With two to three more weeks left in the melt season, sea ice continues to track below 2007 daily extents.

Please note that this is not an announcement of the sea ice minimum extent for 2012. NSIDC will release numbers for the 2012 daily minimum extent when it occurs. A full analysis of the melt season will be published in early October, once monthly data are available for September.

Arctic sea ice extent fell to 4.10 million square kilometers (1.58 million square miles) on August 26, 2012. This was 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) below the September 18, 2007 daily extent of 4.17 million square kilometers (1.61 million square miles). Including this year, the six lowest ice extents in the satellite record have occurred in the last six years (2007 to 2012).

After tracking near 2007 levels through July, the extent declined rapidly. Since then, the loss rate has slowed some, averaging about 75,000 square kilometers (29,000 square miles) per day—equivalent to the size of the state of South Carolina. However, this is still much faster than the normal rate at this time of year of about 40,000 square kilometers per day (15,000 square miles)....

The graph shows Arctic sea ice extent as of August 26, 2012, along with daily ice extent data for 2007, the previous record low year, and 1980, the record high year. 2012 is shown in blue, 2007 in green, and 1980 in orange. The 1979 to 2000 average is in dark gray. The gray area around this average line shows the two standard deviation range of the data. The 1981 to 2010 average is in sky blue. From the National Snow & Ice Data Center website

Poor urban planning to blame for Vietnam's climate change effects

Vietnam Net Bridge: Dr. Bach Tan Sinh from the Ministry of Science and Technology’s National Institute for Science and Technology Policy and Strategy Studies said that integrating climate change adaptation issues into urban planning remains a pressing issue in Vietnam.

“Many of Hanoi’s lakes have been filled in for real estate projects, which has resulted in flooding after heavy rain. This is due to human interference, it’s not a natural occurrence,” he added. Over the past 50 years, up to 80% of the capital’s water surface area has been filled as a resulted of rapid urbanisation. Meanwhile, the city has the only one pump station for drainage.

The inundation in HCM City is also blamed on a lack of sufficient drainage and weak urban planning. Previously, the city has a thick network of rivers, canals and marshes which could easily deal with flood tides or rain water. However, over the past decades, many of them have been filled in for new urban area projects, affecting the water flow and causing flooding.

Environmental experts also pointed out that underground water exploitation and the construction of high-rise buildings on weak foundations have also contributed to the depression in land levels, worsening the city’s drainage situation. Meanwhile, the flooding in the central region is the result of riverhead forest destruction, and improper water discharge by hundreds of hydropower lakes.

Dr. Sinh also said, “We’re working in Da Nang, Quy Nhon and Can Tho within the framework of a project to help Asian countries manage climate change adaptation. I see a case that an ecological mangrove forest in Quy Nhon City has been demolished to make way for real estate development, destroying a natural preservation area and a coastal protection corridor. Urban planning agencies should take a more careful consideration before making decisions about a project.”...

A 2008 flood in Hanoi, shot by haithanh, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Philippines floods prompt climate action

Kara Santos in IPS: This year’s floods, one of the worst in Philippine history, destroyed a staggering 57 million dollars worth of crops, pushing  this climate vulnerable country to implement disaster risk reduction measures.

“We used to schedule our harvest season around the wet and dry months. But now you can never tell,” says Teresita Duque, a rice farmer in the Nueva Ecija province of the Central Luzon region, the ‘rice granary’ of the Philippines.

...Monsoon rains enhanced by Typhoon Haikui near China had already been drenching Luzon, the Philippines’ main island, for several days when, from Aug. 6-7, nearly two months worth of rain fell on Metro Manila and several provinces in Luzon. At least 95 people perished in the ensuing floods and landslides, with nearly a million others forced to evacuate their homes.

As the Philippines tries to emerge from years of agricultural backwardness and attain food self-sufficiency, farmers, non-government organisations (NGOs) and government agencies are trying to map out strategies that can mitigate the effects of weather patterns gone wild.

Scientists at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), a non-profit agricultural research centre based in Los Banos, Laguna, believe that a flood resistant variety of rice, dubbed ‘submarino’ for its ability to withstand two weeks of submergence, could be one answer.

Last year, when typhoons Nessat and Nalgae devastated Central Luzon, farmers who had planted ‘submarino’ were able to harvest their crops even after their paddies had been submerged for nearly a week....

Researchers checking deepwater rice in the Philippines, shot by International Rice Research Institute, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Isaac promises drought-relief in south/central US

Sam Nelson in Reuters: Fallout from Tropical Storm Isaac is likely to include drought-relieving rainfall for a big chunk of the central and southern U.S. Midwest, an agricultural meteorologist said on Monday.

Isaac was about 400 miles southeast of the mouth of the U.S. Mississippi River early on Monday and, according to Dee, should make landfall early Wednesday on either the Mississippi or Louisiana Gulf Coast as a Category 1 hurricane with 90-mile-per-hour winds.

A side benefit to the storm will be welcome rainfall to parched U.S. crop land and grazing lands. The worst drought in more than a half-century has already harmed much of the nation's corn and soybean crops. While the wet weather as a fallout from Isaac will be welcome, it is too little too late to be a huge benefit to this year's crop.

"The big question is how much will later planted soybeans benefit," said John Dee, meteorologist for Global Weather Monitoring. "It would have helped a lot more if the rainfall came two weeks ago."

Dee said from 3 to 5 inches or more rainfall was expected beginning on Wednesday and Thursday in Louisiana and Mississippi, from 1 to 4 inches by Friday in Arkansas and Missouri, and from 0.50 to 1.00 inch or more by Saturday and Sunday in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio....

Tropical Storm Isaac on August 26, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Green Climate Fund to discuss $100 billion pledged by rich countries

Fiona Harvey in the Guardian (UK): The fate of billions of dollars of promised funding from rich countries to help the developing world adapt to climate change will be discussed on Thursday in Geneva, at the first meeting of the UN's Green Climate Fund.

The fund is meant to be the biggest single funding route for the $100bn (£63bn) that developed countries have pledged should flow to poor nations each year by 2020, to help them cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the effects of global warming.

But key decisions – such as where the fund should be headquartered, who should run it, how it will operate and how it can raise funds – will be delayed for months. ... A final decision on the GCF's location – Germany, Namibia, and other countries have all offered to be the host – is understood to be unlikely before the end of the year.

All of the other important issues around the GCF, including how much money it is likely to have to disburse and how it will raise funds from the private sector, are matters of contention. The fund is unlikely to have much sway over the initial round of "fast-start" financing from rich to poor countries that was agreed at the Copenhagen summit in 2009. Most of the $30bn (£19bn) pledged at Copenhagen has now been committed, and most of it is already earmarked for various projects. For instance, the UK is on track to provide £1.5bn between 2010-13 and about £1bn of this has already been committed to bilateral and multilateral projects developed with poor countries, or is being channelled through existing funding routes....

The UN building, shot by Stefano Corso. Pensiero, Wikimedia Commons: The copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permitted. 

Tropical Storm Isaac starts lashing Florida Keys

CBS News: Tropical Storm Isaac gained fresh muscle Sunday as it bore down on the Florida Keys, with forecasters warning it could grow into a dangerous Category 2 hurricane as it nears the northern Gulf Coast.

Isaac drew new strength early Sunday during a warm-water crossing of the Florida Straits after causing weekend havoc in Cuba, where it downed trees and power lines. Before that, Isaac was blamed for four deaths in Haiti. The death toll in Haiti from the storm has risen to seven.

Gov. Rick Scott said in a news conference on Sunday that state, federal and local officials are coordinating efforts to make sure everyone is on the same page as Tropical Storm Isaac approaches Florida. he also said delegates visiting the Tampa area for the Republican National Convention will learn that in addition be being a great tourist destination, Florida is prepared to deal with hurricanes.

Scott noted there had been some minor power outages in South Florida as Isaac's feeder bands bring rain and wind to the area. He said the major concern in the Tampa Bay area will be wind. And as the storm approaches the rain-saturated Florida Panhandle, flooding may become an issue.

On Key West, locals followed time-worn storm preparedness rituals while awaiting the storm after Isaac swamped the Caribbean and shuffled plans for the Republican National Convention. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Sunday that Isaac had started lashing the Keys with rain and wind by late morning....

Tropical Storm Isaac on August 24, 2012

Small island nations take fight against climate change into their own hands

Mridhul Chadha in Clean Technica: Small island countries around the world probably face the gravest threat from global warming and climate change. Some of these countries are also among the economically weakest in the world. With little to no diplomatic authority in the world order, these countries regularly seek support from their much advanced neighbors – Australia and New Zealand in the case of Pacific Island countries, and India in the case of Indian Ocean Island countries.

But the advanced economies have their own agendas, leaving these island countries practically alone to fight and adapt to the rising sea levels and depleting resources. However, over the past few years, these island nations have been pushing their agenda at international summits with increasing thrust. Quite appropriately, these countries have taken matters into their own hands, realizing that depending on the more advanced economies may not be the best approach. A number of these countries have taken steps to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Tokelau, a small group of Pacific atolls situated off the coast of New Zealand, is all set to become the world’s first truly renewable nation. The island houses 1,400 people who are currently dependent on diesel fuel generators burning 200 liters of diesel daily. However, residents hope to depend on solar energy by October this year.

The funding for the project will be provided by outside companies, along with $7 million advance from the New Zealand government. Other countries are also taking steps to ensure they are not completely reliant on other countries. Maldives is said to be considering a tax on tourism to raise funds for adaptation and mitigation plans....

The atoll of Atafu, part of Tokelau, shot from space

Drastic desertification

Terra Daily via SPX: The Dead Sea, a salt sea without an outlet, lies over 400 meters below sea level. Tourists like its high salt content because it increases their buoyancy. "For scientists, however, the Dead Sea is a popular archive that provides a diachronic view of its climate past," says Prof. Dr. Thomas Litt from the Steinmann-Institute for Geology, Mineralogy and Paleontology at the University of Bonn.

Using drilling cores from riparian lake sediments, paleontologists and meteorologists from the University of Bonn deduced the climate conditions of the past 10,000 years. This became possible because the Dead Sea level has sunk drastically over the past years, mostly because of increasing water withdrawals lowering the water supply.

In collaboration with the GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam (German Research Centre for Geosciences) and Israel's Geological Service, the researchers took a 21 m long sediment sample in the oasis Ein Gedi at the west bank of the Dead Sea. They then matched the fossil pollen to indicator plants for different levels of precipitation and temperature. Radiocarbon-dating was used to determine the age of the layers. "This allowed us to reconstruct the climate of the entire postglacial era," Prof. Litt reports. "This is the oldest pollen analysis that has been done on the Dead Sea to date."

In total, there were three different formations of vegetation around this salt sea. In moist phases, a lush, sclerophyll vegetation thrived as can be found today around the Mediterranean Sea. When the climate turned drier, steppe vegetation took over. Drier episodes yet were characterized by desert plants. The researchers found some rapid changes between moist and dry phases....

Salt-covered stones at the Dead Sea, shot by xta11, public domain