Category: Latest News

Japan experiences worst floods in decades

Japan experiences worst floods in decades

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

At least 179 people have died and 70 are still missing in Japan after the country experienced the worst floods in decades. More than 8.63 million people across 23 prefectures have been ordered to evacuate their homes in central and western Japan as torrential rains have led to widespread floods and landslides. The prefectures of Okayama, Hiroshima, and Yamaguchi suffered the most severe impacts.

Water and power have been cut off in many areas leaving thousands of homes without supply. The limited access to water is proving especially difficult to cope with, as temperatures in some areas of the country are rising to scorching 35C. Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government was spending two billion yen (£13 million) to speed up supply deliveries and other support for evacuation centres and residents.

According to remotely sensed data from NASA the areas with the most precipitation saw a rainfall accumulation of over 800mm from 3 a.m. (Japan Standard Time) on July 2 to 3 a.m. on July 9. However, local rainfall amounts can be significantly higher when measured from the ground.

The map above shows rainfall accumulation from 3 a.m. (Japan Standard Time) on July 2 to 3 a.m. on July 9, 2018. (Source: NASA Earth Observatory)

Teruo Sasai, resident of Kurashiki in Okayama, said “The floodwaters were up over my house, probably reaching 4 or 5 meters, up past the roof all the way to the TV antenna. Thankfully, I was OK and nobody in this neighborhood was severely injured.”

As rains started to dissipate on Sunday, search and rescue was rolled out on a massive scale with 70,000 workers deployed for relief efforts.

While it is too soon to attribute the event to climate change with certainty, it is worth noting that a 2012 study by the Japanese government found that the number of days with 100 millimetres or more of precipitation had been increasing since the 1970s. The study also found an “increasing risk of heavy-rain induced disasters” due to climate change.

 


Cover photo by Disaster Prevention Promotion Office, Planning Department, Geographical Survey Institute/Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0): Image from 2017 when Akatani River was overflowed by the Northern Kyūshū Heavy Rain in Asakura City, Fukuoka Prefecture on July 7.
The heat is on: Northern Hemisphere experiences sweltering summer temperatures

The heat is on: Northern Hemisphere experiences sweltering summer temperatures

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Large parts of the Northern Hemisphere are currently experiencing unusually high temperatures giving us a taste of what climate change looks like in our day-to-day lives, and highlighting the need for adaptation.

Worldwide heat

Temperature records have been breaking across the United Kingdom, Glasgow for example had its hottest day ever recorded with 31.9C, and Scotland broke its temperature record with 33.2C in Motherwell. While these temperatures are not nearly as bad as elsewhere, they are out of the ordinary and are causing infrastructure problems.

Buckled rails and signal failures have led to widespread cancellations and delays. Additionally, the Met Office has activated a Level 3 – Heatwave Action across southern, central, and western England, encouraging people to check on any elderly family members or friends and other vulnerable persons.

In Canada, where Montreal broke its temperature record with 36.6C, up to 54 deaths have been linked to the heatwave in southern Quebec. Temperatures rose to 35C with high humidity and a smog advisory. Most victims were over 50 years old.

Most frightening of all, however, the temperature in the town of Quriyat in Oman never dropped below 42.6C for a full 24 hours in June.

Trends of the new millennium

The warming trend is clear, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), all 18 years of the 21st century have been among the 19 warmest on record with 2016 being the hottest year ever recorded. The five hottest years ever recorded have occurred since 2010.

Many countries have experienced what these trends can lead to. The notorious 2003 European heatwave is estimated to have caused anywhere between 20,000 and 70,000 premature deaths. In 2006, California saw a ten-day heatwave that was linked to 140 deaths. In Canada, the summer heatwave of 2010, one of the hottest on record, killed about 280 people.

A hot new normal without political will to change

The warming trends are clearly linked to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. While renewable energy use is growing, 80% of global energy use is from fossil fuels. The transition to a low-carbon economy is proving to be a slow one, thus, adaptation to climate change will be, and already is, essential.

National infrastructure, especially related to water supply, will need a lot of attention, as will housing standards. But, as we are seeing in the UK right now, transportation will need to be updated as well to deal with higher temperatures. There are also considerations for national healthcare and land management – adaptation truly needs to happen across all sectors.

However, as the political climate in the Northern Hemisphere heats up as well, climate change is rarely top of the agenda. This, of course, is a major mistake, as climate change will put even more pressure on any problems we are already facing undermining prosperity, progress, and economic growth.


Photo by Garry Knight/Flickr (CC BY 2.0): Summer in Regent’s Park.
Reflections on Adaptation Futures 2018

Reflections on Adaptation Futures 2018

By Laura Canevari

This year, Adaptation Futures opened its doors in Cape Town from 18 to 21 June. As the city faced the strongest drought in decades, delegates gathered in the South African capital to discuss how climate-related problems, such as the one Cape Town is facing, can be solved and managed.

Starting on the Gold Coast in 2010, the biannual conference has been frequented by a growing and largely diverse community of individuals and organisations from around the world who are all committed to developing responses to the impacts of climate change across a wide range of themes.

During this year’s conference, strong emphasis was placed on the role of community- and network-led initiatives in Africa as well as on the role of international financing institutions bridging the adaptation-development gap.

Mobilising the private sector

Efforts to demystify international climate finance continue, and voices from the private sector were heard, expressing the need to build a stronger business case for adaptation solutions.

For example, it was made evident that in order for the private sector to invest in Ecosystem-based Adaptation and Nature Based Solutions, metrics need to be developed that help translate environmental and societal adaptation benefits into indicators of adaptive performance on which to monitor progress and success. Accordingly, we need to re-integrate the time dimension into these discussions and acknowledge that not all adaptation options are formulated to produce immediate results, and that a mix of short, medium and long-term solutions is needed.

From satellites to court rooms

On Wednesday, Acclimatise, together with Space4Climate and GEO, organised a World Café on applications of Earth observation data, collecting the efforts from 13 organizations facilitating discussions around 14 case studies on agriculture, cities, financial institutions, insurance, and health. Our combined efforts highlighted the need to combine EO data with socio-economic data in order to develop adequate narratives about the experienced impacts of climate change. A summary of the session can be found by clicking this link.

On Thursday, during a session focusing on “Resourcing Adaptation”, Acclimatise reflected on the results from two Horizon 2020 projects, MARCO and EU-MACS, noting that in order to mobilise private sector investment in adaptation, we need to develop adequate services for sectors where the demand for climate information is increasing.

In our presentation, we discussed the climate service needs of the financial and the legal sector, noting how increased attention and action on climate related legislation and litigation, as well as the emergence of voluntary and mandatory financial disclosure frameworks, have triggered an exponential increase in the need to develop climate services for these two sectors.

Consolidation and innovation: two key areas for future development

At Cape Town, the conversation remained generally vibrant across the halls and in parallel sessions, but there is scope for improvement on at least two fronts. On the one hand, future conferences under this biannual series should strive to motivate participants to consolidate knowledge emphasising the need to formulate better initiatives in the future. Last week, we saw numerous case studies showcasing “success” stories, however, mostly without in-depth analyses of adaptation-enabling factors or descriptions of the mechanisms that could be used to replicate and scale up solutions. Equally, there is still a lot of room for innovative ideas and solutions. An exploration on how other fields are innovating may help to uncover some hints on how to remain innovative in adaptation: words inundating the web such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and the circular economy were missing from debates, yet they could enrich discussions around adaptation.

As noted in the opening plenary by Patrick Child, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General Research and Innovation, climate adaptation requires partnerships between researchers, innovators, and administrators. Partnerships that combine the experiences and skillsets of different actors are highly needed and should be framed around specific aspirations on adaptation outcomes. Efforts over the next two years should focus on nurturing these types of partnerships in order to create an enabling environment for adaptation innovation and consolidation.


Cover photo by Marlin Jackson on Unsplash.
NOAA Hurricane Season Forecast 2018: 75% chance of near or above normal season

NOAA Hurricane Season Forecast 2018: 75% chance of near or above normal season

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Centre (CPC) predict a 35 per cent chance of an above-normal season, a 40 per cent chance of a near-normal season, and a 25 per cent chance of a below-normal season for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, which extends from June 1 to November 30. Prior to the peak of the season, in early August, NOAA will provide an update to this outlook.

In terms of storms, this means that there is a 70 per cent chance of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 63 km/h or higher) forming, of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 120 km/h or higher), including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 179 km/h or higher). For context, average hurricane seasons tend to produce 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, which includes 3 major hurricanes.

Two of the main factors driving this outlook are the possibility of a weak El Niño developing and near-average seas surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. However, both of these factors are also influenced by atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are conducive to hurricane development and have been producing stronger hurricane seasons since 1995.

Hurricane track and intensity forecasts are incredibly important for risk management and preparedness. After 2017’s devastating Atlantic hurricane season, many communities, especially in the Caribbean, still find themselves in very vulnerable situations.


Listen to our latest podcast with Angela Burnett, author of the Irma Diaries, who witnessed Hurricane Irma first hand and collected survivor stories from the British Virgin Islands to shed light on the urgency of building back better and building resilience:

Cover photo by NOAA: NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite (now GOES-East) captured this infrared/visible image of Hurricane Harvey on August 25, 2017.
Low awareness of climate risks hampering resilience of critical infrastructure sectors claims new study

Low awareness of climate risks hampering resilience of critical infrastructure sectors claims new study

Low levels of awareness of climate risks and the availability of climate services are significant barriers to climate adaptation in the electricity sector, according to new research from Germany. However, the research also finds that the underlying market opportunity for climate services remains strong.

Damage to a critical infrastructure, its destruction or disruption by for example natural disasters, will have a significant negative impact on the security of the EU and the well-being of its citizens. Focussing on the German electricity sector, the report found that stakeholders in the sector claimed to need seasonal forecasts and decadal predictions, the latter aligning closely with energy companies’ time frames for strategic planning. However, despite this, there is currently a low level of demand for climate services from the sector.

The report found that four major barriers prevented the uptake of climate services:

  1. low awareness of the climate-related risks,
  2. low awareness of the benefits climate services can provide,
  3. mismatches between the required and the available timescales and spatial resolution of data and
  4. a lack of trust in the reliability of data.

In order to overcome these hurdles, the report recommends that considerable work needs to be done in the first instance to increase the visibility of the climate services industry and how it can contribute to the climate resilience of key sectors. It proposes that a ‘Climate Service Provider Store’ is created to provide information about where appropriate climate service providers are available.

Additionally, the case study recommends that work continues to ensure that seasonal and decadal forecast become ever-more accurate and that regional cooperation between industry networks and climate services providers are strengthened.

The case study was led by the non-profit research organization HZG under the MArket Research for a Climate Services Observatory (MARCO) programme of which Acclimatise is a proud partner. MARCO, a 2-year project coordinated by European Climate-KIC, hopes that research such as this will help to remove the barriers to the growth of the climate services industry across Europe.


Download the full case study “Critical Energy Infrastructureshere.

Download an infographic highlighting the key findings of the case study here.

Cover photo from pxhere (public domain).
Podcast: Hurricane Irma: Angela Burnett, author of The Irma Diaries

Podcast: Hurricane Irma: Angela Burnett, author of The Irma Diaries

In 2017 the Caribbean was struck by a series of hurricanes, the largest of which, hurricane Irma, was the strongest open Atlantic storm on record. Irma’s peak wind speeds reached 180mph as it caused catastrophic damage to the islands of Barbuda, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands.

Today we hear from someone who experienced the full force of Irma first-hand. Angela Burnett, a lifelong resident of the British Virgin Islands was working as the territory’s climate change officer when Irma struck, but even having experienced severe hurricanes in the past, she was deeply affected by the storm.

To draw attention to those living, as she does, on the front lines of climate change, Angela embarked on a mission to tell the stories of the survivors and how it has changed them.

After a process that saw Angela work late into the night by candlelight, make clandestine trips to write at a local sewage treatment works and face armed police barricades, Angela’s book ‘The Irma Diaries: Compelling Survivor Stories from the British Virgin Islands‘ was born. This is her story.


The Irma Diaries is available to purchase here.

Learn more about the book and hear extracts from the survivors’ stories here.

Cover photo by DFID/Flickr (CC BY 2.0): Damage caused by Hurricane Irma in Road Town, on the British Virgin Island of Tortola, 12 September 2017.
May the 4th be with you: Climate change on Tatooine

May the 4th be with you: Climate change on Tatooine

By Elisa Jiménez Alonso

Editor’s note: May 4th is known as Star Wars day around the world. What started as a pun based on the franchise’s catchphrase “May the Force be with you” quickly became a global phenomenon in which Star Wars fans celebrate their favourite movies.

To celebrate Star Wars day we dug out David Ng‘s gem from 2014, a climate change assessment report from Tatooine’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (TIPCC) that explores the desert planet’s climate future.

Tatooine, known as the home planet of Luke Skywalker and Jabba the Hut, is a desert planet situated in the Outer Rim territories of the Star Wars galaxy. David Ng, professor at the University of British Columbia, initially used the fictional planet to explain the concept of radiative forcing to his students, one of the key concepts of global warming which describes how increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases heat the Earth.

Based on the actual IPCC’s reports, David Ng soon found himself expanding on his own idea and creating an assessment report for Tatooine. The “Summary for Tatooine Policymakers” contains graphs describing Tatooine’s observed warming and even includes climate projections out to 100 ABY (After the Battle of Yavin, the fateful battle at the end of the first Star Wars movie “A New Hope”).

Observed surface temperature change on Tatooine 100BBY-10ABY. Source: David Ng/TIPCC

 

The report even looks at the planet’s biodiversity. Anyone remember the Sarlacc in “Return of the Jedi”? Tatooine’s warming climate doesn’t bode well for the arthropod with roots.

Maximum speeds at which species can move across landscapes (based on observations and models; vertical axis on left), compared with speeds at which temperatures are projected to move across landscapes (climate velocities for temperature; vertical axis on right). Source: David Ng/TIPCC

 

Writing in The Science Creative Quarterly, David Ng explains why he created the document:

And why all the effort? Well, firstly, this stands as an admittedly elaborate teaching prop; but secondly, I hope this document entices folks to learn more about the real IPCC report. I get the sense that very few people have even heard of the IPCC, and maybe this even includes yourself. Which is a shame because it’s kind of important. In brief, it’s a document, organized by the United Nations, and prepared by a massive group of academics to try and objectively summarize all available research on climate change and its possible downstream effects. In other words, it’s the summation of decades of work by tens of thousands of very smart people, who are essentially telling you: (1) what the scientific evidence currently looks like; (2) what you might expect to happen in the Earth’s near future; and (3) what should people in influence (i.e. governments) consider doing in order to mitigate or adapt to these projections. Put another way, it’s definitely worth a few moments of your time, even if it is a bit of a sobering read.

Read the TIPCC’s Summary for Tatooine Policymakers below:

Tatooine IPCC by ClimateCentral on Scribd


Cover photo by Darryl Moran/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).
Acclimatise complies with new data protection law

Acclimatise complies with new data protection law

We need you to take action and confirm you are happy receiving updates from Acclimatise!

The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on 25 May 2018, regulates data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union. As a European business, we at Acclimatise also have to comply with the new regulation.

One important step we have to take is collect consent from all our newsletter subscribers to confirm they want to continue receiving content from us. If you subscribe to our newsletter, please do check your inbox and other potential folders for our alert, which should reach you today, and update your details.

If you are not subscribed yet, please visit our subscription page – now GDPR compliant! – and sign up for weekly climate adaptation and resilience updates: http://eepurl.com/dnGRuH.

We have also updated our website’s privacy policy, which can be accessed here: http://www.acclimatise.uk.com/terms-of-use/.


Cover photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash
Hurricane forecasters warn of an above-average 2018 hurricane season

Hurricane forecasters warn of an above-average 2018 hurricane season

By Georgina Wade

With 2017’s record-breaking hurricane season bringing about a series of remarkable firsts, it looks like 2018 might be just as lively, if not more so.

Two hurricane forecasts released last week say that the Atlantic Coast – particularly the state of Connecticut – could have a damaging storm season.

Colorado State University meteorologists find that the United States can expect an above-average Atlantic hurricane season with the U.S. Gulf and East coasts facing nearly equal chances of being struck by major hurricane packing winds over 178 km per hour. Falling into the wind range of at least a Category 3 storm, which would lead to devastating damage.

“We anticipate that the 2018 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have slightly above average activity,” researchers said in the report, noting that western tropical Atlantic is abnormally warm right now.

Additionally, researchers at Colorado State’s Tropical Meteorology Project predict with 52 percent probability that a major hurricane will move into the Caribbean Sea during the 2018 season. Its long-range forecast expects between 12 to 15 tropical storms. Of those storms, 6 to 8 are forecast to become hurricanes and 3 to 5 are forecast to become major hurricanes.

Last year, 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes and 6 major hurricanes were reported in the United States, ranking it alongside 1936 as the fifth most-active season since records began in 1851. 2017 was also the first known year that two Category 4 storms made landfall in the continental US: Irma and Harvey.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center is expected to issue its outlook for 2018 in late May.


Cover photo by NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik: Hurricane Irma approaches Florida on Sept. 9, 2017 in this view from the International Space Station.
March on the Acclimatise Network: Urban climate change resilience – Coping with urban climate impacts in the 21st century

March on the Acclimatise Network: Urban climate change resilience – Coping with urban climate impacts in the 21st century

Inspired by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Cities and Climate Change Science Conference in Edmonton, CA, next week, we are dedicating the month of March to urban climate change resilience.

In addition to discussing the most pressing issues cities are facing due to climate change and how they can prepare for those impacts, we will also be presenting insights from recent project work.

Stay tuned for our cities content! In the meantime we leave you with this video by the Asian Development Bank about entry points for urban climate resilience action in Asia:


Cover photo by Farzaan Kassam on Unsplash