Category: Latest News

Mangkhut batters Philippines and South China as Florence brings widespread flooding to the Carolinas

Mangkhut batters Philippines and South China as Florence brings widespread flooding to the Carolinas

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

It has been a rough and tragic weekend for people living in the Philippines, South China and the Carolinas. Two major storms are wreaking havoc – Florence in the USA and Mangkhut in Southeast Asia – killing several people and leaving widespread destruction. While Mangkhut was named “the strongest tropical cyclone of the year” by the World Meteorological Organisation, Florence is also likely to remembered for years to come due to catastrophic flooding and storm surge.

Typhoon Mangkhut: One of the most powerful storms to hit Southeast Asia in decades

As of Monday morning, 17 September 2018, Typhoon Mangkhut had led to the deaths of 33 miners in the Philippines and 29 people still missing after a landslide buried a mining site in Itogon. As search and rescue continues, Itogon’s mayor says the final death toll might still rise above 100.

Two further people were killed in the Chinese province Guangdong. More than 2.5 million people were evacuated from Guangdong and Hainan Island. Hong Kong was also severely impacted over the weekend, injuring more than 200 people, shattering windows, flooding streets and leading to the suspension of transport services.

Following the enormous death toll of Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, which killed over 7000 people, The Philippines dramatically improved preparation and evacuation procedures issuing more warnings, restricting travel, shutting schools down, and putting the army on standby. However, Mangkhut has caused extensive damage to Cagayan’s farmland, one of the major agricultural provinces in the country, threatening staple crops like rice and corn.

Hurricane Florence: Major floods and storm surge, and 50% more rain thanks to climate change

So far, Florence has killed at least 18 people and left 740,000 homes in the Carolinas without power. The coastal city of Wilmington has been completely cut off from the rest of North Caroline due to rising flood waters. Parts of North and South Carolina have seen up to one metre of rain since the hurricane – now a tropical depression – made landfall on Thursday.

According to officials in North Caroline, about 900 people were rescued from the flood waters and roughly 15,000 remain in emergency shelters. The federal administration declared a disaster in several counties of North Caroline, freeing up federal funding for recovery efforts.

The National Weather Service issued flash flooding alerts of varying degrees for all counties of North Carolina. Rainfall will continue throughout Monday, already breaking the state record set by Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Florence is also probably the first hurricane to have an attribution study made about it pre-landfall. The research found that the storm would bring 50% more rainfall than it would have without the influence of human-induced climate change.

Since both storms are still active, the final impact of Mangkhut and Florence is yet to be seen. However, it is clear that they will both have long lasting impacts highlighting the need to build back better.

 


Cover photo by NOAA: The animated GIF shows Tropical Depression Florence on Sunday 16 September, 2018.

 

Radiant Earth releases its open Earth imagery platform

Radiant Earth releases its open Earth imagery platform

Radiant Earth Foundation announced last week the release of its new open Earth imagery platform aimed to help policymakers, researchers, journalists, and others use satellite images to understand and serve their communities.

The platform offers instant and secure, free access to Earth observation data to help the global development community apply the data to real-world problems.

Currently, there are more than 600 Earth observation satellites orbiting the planet measuring global changes in real time which, in turn, lead to better informed interventions and investments from the public and private sectors.

While the current growing market for Earth observation data is often highly fragmented and cost-prohibitive, Radiant Earth Foundation’s platform brings together billions of dollars’ worth of satellite imagery and makes it available to the global development community. Additionally, the provision of user-friendly analytical tools and support allows for a range of users to consume and analyse the data in their everyday work. This includes non-imagery data, including air quality, population, and weather statistics.

Radiant Earth Foundation’s platform is now available to the public at app.radiant.earth through secure self-sign-up or integrated social sign-on via Twitter, Facebook, GitHub, or Google accounts.

Radiant Earth Foundation will host a webinar on September 26, 2018, at 11 a.m. EDT to demonstrate the platform’s unique features to users. To attend the webinar please register here: http://bit.ly/REFPlatfromWebinar.


Cover photo by NASA.
Over one million people told to evacuate as Hurricane Florence approaches US East Coast

Over one million people told to evacuate as Hurricane Florence approaches US East Coast

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

More than 1.25 million residents along the coastlines of the Carolinas and Virginia have been ordered to evacuate by emergency officials as Hurricane Florence churns towards the East Coast. The governors of North and South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland have declared states of emergency.

On Monday the hurricane rapidly intensified into a Category 4 storm (131-155 mph) with winds of 140mph and models were showing a high likelihood it might strengthen into a Category 5 storm (≥ 156 mph) today. Hurricane Florence still has a lot of unusually warm water ahead on its path meaning the storm could strike the coastline as a very powerful Category 4 storm or even a Category 5.

Starting today, state officials will reverse lanes on several major roads so that all paths lead away from the Hurricane. In South Carolina, state offices and schools in 26 counties are being shut down and repurposed as shelters.

Adding to the intensity of the storm is a strong ridge of high pressure developing off the coast of New England. This will prevent the storm from curving out to sea, as many tropical storms do, essentially getting Florence stuck in one location for several days. While the storm might lose its hurricane status rather fast after making landfall, it will still dump tonnes of rain over the same locations for potentially days. The impact could be very similar to that of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana last year.

It is possible the storm will bring more than a foot of rain to the Carolinas, and even more in some areas. Given that the region has already received a lot of rain recently, the ground will be saturated making flash floods and widespread flooding a very real and worrying possibility.

For updates on the storm, visit the National Hurricane Center.


Cover photo by NOAA: This geocolour-enhanced imagery of Hurricane Florence was created by NOAA’s partners at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere. The GOES East geostationary satellite, also known as GOES-16, provides coverage of the Western Hemisphere, including the United States, the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern Pacific. The satellite’s high-resolution imagery provides optimal viewing of severe weather events, including thunderstorms, tropical storms and hurricanes.
Global Center on Adaptation begins a new chapter

Global Center on Adaptation begins a new chapter

As of today, the Global Center on Excellence in Climate Adaptation will be known as the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA). With the new name and new look also comes an announcement that the Center will be co-hosting a Global Commission on Adaptation together with World Resources Institute. The Commission will be overseen by the 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Bill Gates, and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva. It will be formally launched in The Hague on 16 October.

According to Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Cora Van Nieuwenhuizen, who announced the formation of the Commission in Rotterdam, it will elevate the political visibility of adaptation and will focus on solutions, catalyzing a global adaptation movement and accelerating action.

The new Chief Executive Officer of the GCA, Patrick Verkooijen, explained that in this new chapter, the Center will work on supporting recommendations made by the Commission while also pursuing practical and actionable steps that can help address policies, investments, financing, and governance needed for increased global adaptation action. Essentially, the GCA will act as a solutions broker between governments, the private sector, civil society, intergovernmental bodies, and knowledge institutions to enable adaptation action.

Secretary-General Ban, who will serve as Chairman of the Board of the Global Center, said that “the role of Global Center on Adaptation will be significant because we need all societies to learn from one another.” He noted that “under the exemplary and bold leadership of Patrick Verkooijen, the Global Center will help accelerate adaptation transformation at scale and at speed.”

The Global Center initially will work to address five challenges slowing down the implementation of scaled up, effective adaptation action. These challenges focus on:

  1. Scaling up ecosystem-based adaptation – Ecosystem-based adaptation delivers greater climate resilience and additional benefits like biodiversity conservation and the creation of greener, more livable cities. However, to date, most EbA interventions have been scattered and small-scale. The Global Center is identifying barriers to scaling up EbA and working on solutions to help overcome them.
  2. Integrating climate adaptation into financial decision-making – Many businesses do not factor potential risks of climate change into their investment decisions. The Global Center is collaborating with the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and building on the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) to identify how to focus greater attention on climate risks in private sector investment decisions.
  3. Measuring effective adaptation – Making decisions about which adaptation options to pursue, whether at a local, national or global level, requires proper assessment of which options most effectively build resilience. The Global Center is bringing together world-class experts to build on the growing work in this area and determine the best way of making those assessments.
  4. Creating climate resilient cities – More than half of the world’s population lives in cities. This will rise to more than two-thirds by 2050. To successfully adapt to the growing impacts of climate change, cities will need to become climate resilient. Many cities are already active, and some are taking the lead when their own national governments falter. But most people living in cities around the world are still vulnerable to climate change. The Global Center is working with leading networks of cities to catalyze scaled-up action.
  5. Leveraging deltas to address climate change – Deltas are areas where the impacts of climate change can exacerbate existing pressures from urbanization and pollution. But they are also places of opportunity that are often rich in social, economic and natural capital. The Global Center is working with a global network with common interests in deltas to use these opportunities to address climate change challenges.

As a founding partner of the former Global Center on Excellence in Climate Adaptation, Acclimatise is excited to continue to support the GCA in this new chapter.

Visit the new GCA website by clicking here.


Cover photo from Pixabay (public domain).
2018 UK summer is joint hottest summer on record

2018 UK summer is joint hottest summer on record

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

The Met Office has confirmed that they are declaring 2018’s summer as the joint hottest on record together with 2006, 2003, and 1976.

At roughly 0.03 of a degree, the margin between the mean temperatures, all quoted as 15.8 degrees Celsius, of the four record breaking summers is so small that it is impossible to separate them. The reason for this is that the Met Office only quotes “statistics to the nearest 0.1C as differences smaller than this could result from small numerical differences arising from the statistical calculations.”

Provisional early statistics show that this was likely the warmest summer on record for England with a mean temperature of 17.2 C, beating the 17.0 C only marginally. However, this year’s temperatures will not break the records for Wales, Scotland, and North Ireland.

In terms of rainfall, 2018’s summer was notably dry and will likely be one of the UK’s top 15 driest summers and top 5 for England. Additionally, it is also one of the top 5 sunniest UK summers.

The above-average warm and dry trend is set to continue well into September.


Cover photo by PhilipBarrington/Pixabay (public domain): Brighton Pier Beach.
The Abnormality of Hurricane Lane

The Abnormality of Hurricane Lane

By Georgina Wade

Hurricane Lane may have passed by the volcanic archipelago over the weekend, but Hawai’i is still feeling the storm’s after effects as residents recover from days of heavy rain and remain on the lookout for even more showers.

Excessive rainfall triggered flash flooding, raging surf, as well as land and mudslides. On the island of Maui, a giant sinkhole opened in the middle of a road, uprooting trees, inundating drainage systems and causing some residents to remain stranded.

Dropping 52.02 inches of rain (about 132 cm) over a five-day period, Hurricane Lane has broken the Hawai’i tropical cyclone storm total rainfall record, previously set by Hurricane Hiki in 1950 at 52 inches. Although the figure is preliminary, forecasters are classifying Lane as the second-wettest tropical storm in the United States since 1950 following the record set by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Hurricanes seldom get close to Hawai’i and it’s even more of a rarity for a Category 5 to get in such close proximity of the islands. Hurricane Lane is the second Category 5 hurricane on record to pass within 350 miles or less of South Point, Hawai’i. The only other storm to do that was Hurricane John in 1994. Only two direct hurricane landfalls have been recorded, both on the island Kaua’i: Category 1 Dot in 1959 and Category 4 Iniki in 1992, which caused $3 billion in damage.

Typically, hurricanes weaken long before they approach Hawai’i due to a ring of deep, cool water that essentially surrounds the archipelago. As hurricanes are fuelled by warmer ocean temperatures, cool waters surrounding the islands usually serve as a protective barrier against ocean storms. Wind currents will also typically steer eastern-Pacific hurricanes back to the coast before they can make it to the central Pacific. This year, weaker than normal winds are allowing storms to stay alive.

This summer has been one of record-breaking temperatures, resulting in abnormally high water temperatures for the area. Sitting at about 1 to 2 degrees Celsius warmer than normal, the warmer water served as the perfect fuel for a hurricane.

Research published in Nature Climate Change  in 2015 found that warmer ocean temperatures, caused by climate change, may be fuelling stronger hurricanes while, at the same time, creating fewer storms. The study found from 1984 to 2012, wind speeds in tropical cyclones increased by 1.3 m/s. During that same time period, there were 6.1 fewer storms than would be expected if ocean and land temperatures had not increased.

National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) climate scientists who studied the 2014 hurricane season around Hawai’i found it was made “substantially more likely” by climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions, with a natural boost from El Niño. Additionally, a study conducted by NOAA last year connected global warming to 2015’s record number of major storms in the region, including three Category 4 hurricanes in the central and eastern Pacific at the same time.

Although many climate studies are predicting that as the world warms, the globe overall and the Atlantic region will likely have fewer named storms, these can be expected to be more intense than normal. However, the central Pacific forgoes that prediction as storms that should be deemed as unusual for the region, are soon to become more common.


Cover photo by NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center/Flickr (CC BY 2.0): Hurricane Lane was pictured by an Expedition 56 crew member as the International Space Station orbited nearly 250 miles above the Central Pacific Ocean on Aug. 22, 2018.
Hurricane Lane Approaches Hawaii

Hurricane Lane Approaches Hawaii

By Kathryn Hansen, NASA Earth Observatory

Multiple threatening tropical cyclones spun over the Pacific Ocean in August 2018. In the northwest Pacific basin, typhoons Soulik and Cimaron took aim at Japan and the Korean Peninsula. Then Hurricane Lane lined up in the tropical Pacific for an encounter with the Hawaiian Islands.

At 10:45 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time (20:45 Universal Time) on August 21, 2018, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this natural-color image of Hurricane Lane. Around that time, Lane was a powerful category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 250 kilometers (155 miles) per hour. The storm’s center was 925 kilometers (575 miles) south-southeast of Honolulu. By that evening, Lane intensified to a category 5 storm.

Direct hits on the Hawaiian Islands are rare, but plenty of storms get close. Hurricanes Madeline and Lester threatened the islands in August 2016, but both storms weakened and passed without a direct hit.

The evolution and track of Hurricane Lane until 22 August. Credit: NASA (see high resolution image by clicking here)

The exact track that Hurricane Lane will take remains to be seen. Forecasts from the Central Pacific Hurricane Center called for the storm’s center to curve northwest then north-northwest, bringing it “very close to or over the main Hawaiian Islands” from August 23 through 25. According to the National Weather Service in Honolulu, only one other category 5 hurricane in database records passed within 560 kilometers (350 miles) of Hawaii.

The westward path of Lane’s track from August 17 to August 22 is shown above. (View the large image to see the storm track from August 15 onward.) The track is overlaid on a map of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean on August 21, 2018. Temperature data were compiled by Coral Reef Watch, which blends observations from the Suomi NPP, MTSAT, Meteosat, and GOES satellites, and computer models.

The map highlights sea surface temperatures of 27.8°C (82°F), a threshold that scientists generally believe to be warm enough to fuel a hurricane. According to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, water temperatures along the forecasted track (not shown) were expected to stay between 27°C and 28°C, which is “warm enough to support a major hurricane.”


NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin and Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data from LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response, sea surface temperature data from Coral Reef Watch, cloud data from the NASA-NOAA GOES project, and storm track information from Unisys. Story by Kathryn Hansen.

This article originally appeared on NASA Earth Observatory and can be accessed by clicking here.

2018-2022 likely to be abnormally warm

2018-2022 likely to be abnormally warm

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

A new study published in Nature Communications finds that from 2018 until 2022 the world is likely to experience a warmer than normal period, temporarily reinforcing the long-term global warming trend and bringing an increased likelihood of intense to extreme temperatures.

The past years were the warmest on record and after a scorching summer on the Northern Hemisphere, it seems there might be little respite in the coming four years. Natural variation in the climate system will amplify the effects of rising greenhouse gas emissions and lead to a warmer than normal period.

In the study, researchers fed data from ten existing climate models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) into their probabilistic model to project how natural variability and global warming could play together in the coming five years. The results show a 58% probability that, globally, the temperatures from 2018 until 2022 will be abnormally warm, and a 69% chance that oceans will be too.

The scientists emphasise that these results do not provide predictions about heatwaves, wildfires, Arctic ice melt, or droughts. Such events might be more likely but the model is global and does not predict anything specific about regional impacts or seasonal anomalies.

“Natural variability is a wriggle around the freight train that is global warming,” author of the paper, Florian Sévellec of the French National Centre for Scientific Research says. “On a human scale, it is what we feel. What we don’t always feel is global warming. As a scientist, this is frightening because we don’t consider it enough. All we can do it give people information and let them make up their own mind.”

The coming years will undoubtedly test this forecast, but as Dr Sam Dean, chief climate scientist at New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research says, “while we can’t be sure exactly how things will play out, at the moment the odds are higher for hot years.”

Climate trends in the past years and also this year have shown that things are changing and preparing for climate impacts remains a priority around the world.


 Sévellec, F., & Drijfhout, S. S. (2018). A novel probabilistic forecast system predicting anomalously warm 2018-2022 reinforcing the long-term global warming trend. Nature Communications, 9(1), 3024. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-05442-8

Cover photo by RonPorter/Pixabay (public domain)
New report: practical guidance for using climate information for climate resilient water management

New report: practical guidance for using climate information for climate resilient water management

A new paper released by the Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme, shows how climate information can be used effectively to inform decisions related to climate resilient water management (CRWM). The paper provides practical recommendations on how best to use and integrate climate information into decision-making processes, coupled with case studies showing what this looks like in a variety of different contexts. The paper argues that while using the best available climate information can help decision-makers to go beyond business-as-usual practices in water management, good decisions can be made even in the absence of good climate information and data.

Since 2014 the ACT programme has been actively working in five South Asian countries to help national and sub-national governments mainstream adaptation to climate change into development planning and delivery systems. As part of that work, the programme is introducing CRWM into the water resources management and agriculture sectors. As presented in an earlier learning paper “Climate-Resilient Water Management: An operational framework from South Asia”, one major factor to take CRWM beyond business-as-usual approaches is using the best available climate information and data.

CRWM needs to be informed by reliable information about physical exposure and social vulnerability to climate shocks and stresses in order to create a comprehensive narrative of the impact that climate extremes, uncertainty, and variability can have on water resources management. This requires combining different types of climate information. ACT’s new paper seeks to inform government agencies and individual officials, practitioners and donors, researchers and wider civil society on:

  • How to understand the role of climate information in producing analysis including a typology of different types of climate information; and
  • How to best use climate information to inform and guide the policy-making processes.

Based on experience and learning from ACT projects, the paper presents 10 key recommendations for integrating climate information into water resources management. This is targeted at those seeking to design and implement CRWM programmes and initiatives, to help overcome some of the critical challenges to accessing and using climate information.

Climate change is already impacting the water cycle. In particular, climate change is thought to be making the monsoon more erratic and unpredictable, and decreasing the number of rainfall days while, at the same time, increasing their intensity.[1] Additionally, climate change is projected to increase the frequency and severity of both floods and droughts.[2] At same time, in South Asia, as in much of the world, water demand is increasing and accelerating in response to population growth, urbanisation, increased industrial demand, and the relatively high dependence on agriculture for livelihoods. The latter is especially problematic as rising temperatures and less rainfall decrease soil moisture, forcing farmers to water their crops more. Changes in the hydrologic cycle coupled with increased water demand will have manifold impacts on food and livelihood security, agriculture and urbanisation, industrialisation and, hence, the economy at large. As a result, there is a need for the South Asian water resources sector to plan for climate change.

Click here to access the full ACT learning paper “Using climate information for Climate-Resilient Water Management: Moving from science to action” and a learning brief.


[1] Loo, Y., Billa, L., and Singh, A. (2015). Effect of climate change on seasonal monsoon in Asia and its impact on the variability of monsoon rainfall in Southeast Asia. Geoscience Frontiers, Volume 6, Issue 6, 817-823.  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S167498711400036X

[2] Kundzewicz, Z.W., L.J. Mata, N.W. Arnell, P. Döll, P. Kabat, B. Jiménez, K.A. Miller, T. Oki, Z. Sen and I.A. Shiklomanov, 2007: Freshwater resources and their management. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson, Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 173-210. https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-chapter3.pdf

Cover photo my Dr Michel Royon/Wikimedia (public domain).
Scientists link summer of extreme weather to climate change

Scientists link summer of extreme weather to climate change

By Georgina Wade    

This summer’s severe weather has been one for the record books, with countries across the world facing extremely high temperatures. The heatwave across the northern hemisphere, has seen wildfires in the Arctic Circle and prolonged heat across the UK and Europe. In London, rising temperatures have forced Mayor Sadiq Khan to trigger a high pollution warning as forecasters predict the mercury could reach 37˚C by the end of the month.

In southern Europe, fierce blazes have devastated parts of Greece, resulting in a multitude of deaths. Japan has also declared a natural disaster, as high temperatures have lead to thousands being admitted to hospital with heat stroke. Africa recently recorded its highest reliably measured temperature in modern history: 124.3 degrees (51.3 Celsius) in Algeria.

A map from Copernicus Climate Change Services revealed just how bad the situation is with every continent shown to be experiencing above average temperatures for July.

Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and Columbia University recently revealed that the average surface temperature on Earth between January and June this year was the third hottest half-year on record since 1880 with the last four years – 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 – taking the top four spots for the hottest-recorded half-year periods ever documented.

“When a record is broken once, it’s a fluke. When it happens again, it’s a coincidence. When it happens three times, it’s a trend, but when it happens every single year, it’s a movement,” environmental chemist Sarah Green said over an email.

The reason for all of this is uncomplicated. Greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere, largely from the burning of fossil fuels, continue to rise. Carbon dioxide levels reached 400 parts per million in 2016 and topped 411 parts per million in May of this year, the highest level in 800,000 years.

This ongoing bout of extreme weather is a direct result of this concentration increase and is set to continue. And with the World Meteorological Association calling 2018 the hottest La Niña year on record, things may well get hotter still in the years to come.


Cover photo by Skeeze/Pixabay/(public domain).