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Oct

15
2014

Hottest September Ever, New Security Threats, And Devastating Cyclones

Jodde     Blog     0

This September has been the hottest the world has ever seen since record keeping began.  This is surprising because El Nino has not begun on its expected schedule, as El Nino often raises temperatures.  If the El Nino doesn’t come, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the western United States will fall into an even deeper drought, or at best receive no relief from its present drought conditions.

Another horrific typhoon has hit Japan, this time claiming the lives of two people and injuring about 100.  The fate of an additional person is unknown.  Again, hundreds of thousands of people were asked to evacuate, and several planes were grounded.  For the first time in the history of the sport, a Nippon Baseball playoff game was also suspended.  Fukushima, which literally means “lucky island”, bore the brunt of the impact, and let us not forget it was also the site of the deadly tsunami only three years ago that crippled the city and dumped radioactive waste into the ocean, which while not a weather disaster was a disaster nonetheless, and likely exacerbates the psychological if not the economic effects of this disaster.

In other news, the US Department of Defence has fingered the possibility of climate change as a major threat to national security.  Their report in no way expresses the position of The Global Warming Foundation.  The DoD, like we, are taking a neutral stance on the issue or at least they are for now, but they suggest that global warming if happening could cause resource wars, strain international relations over issues of refugees and food shortages, cause military equipment to malfunction and need repairs more frequently,  They also anticipate an increased need for humanitarian and peacekeeping missions as per the expected increase in intensity of weather disasters.  The full document can be found here.

 

For a full list of articles about recent weather events, please click here.


Oct

01
2014

New fire hazards and stifling heat

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California, a state known for intense forest fires, is grappling with a new fire threat; tumbleweeds.  They may be harmless, iconic, blowing orbs in Western movies, but the reality is far more dangerous.  Tumbleweeds are tangles of mostly dead plant matter.  Tumbleweeds are very hardy plants and can stand up to drought better than the cash crops Californian farmers are interested in, such as mustard and castor beans.  With severe drought stressing these plants, tumbleweeds are able to outcompete their rivals, leading to a massive upsurge.  Tumbleweeds, once they detach from their root, are like rolling tinder.  When there are a lot of tumbleweeds, they can get tangled together and eventually get so big that they block ravines, and cover cars, buildings and other things in their path.

A heatwave, properly so called, is a situation where temperatures are more than 5ºC (9ºF) above the 1961-’90 average for more than five consecutive days, is not only an uncomfortable situation, but a deadly one.  Heatwaves in 2003 killed over 70,000 people in Eastern Europe.  Sydney, Australia is still in the grips of such a heatwave, although there are no reports of deaths at this time.  Temperatures are more than 10ºC (18ºF) above average presently, and are expected to continue throughout the spring.  With temperatures in excess of 34ºC (93ºF)


Sep

22
2014

Water Wallop

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The American Southwest received a record and disastrous amount of rain, mostly from the remnants of Hurricane Odile, after Norbert wreaked havoc on the region not two weeks ago.  El Paso, Texas was particularly hard hit, with at least one feared death.  A sheriff’s deputy was swept away in his patrol car.  It is a sad reminder of just how much our emergency services put on the line every time they respond to a natural disaster.  She was checking the safety of low level crossings when she last radioed dispatch, heroically protecting lives at what almost certainly was the sacrifice of her own.  Odile itself was a record storm for Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and other towns in the Baja Peninsula.  The airport took heavy damage, stranding thousands of international travellers.  Much of Cabo San Lucas sustained structural damage as well, but the full extent of the damage is not known at this time.

Across the pacific, eight people are confirmed dead due to the most recent cyclone to hit China, this being the 15th this year.  More than 500 rescuers fought against the raging torrent to save 396 students from Babu Township Middle School.  Although those lives were spared, almost 400,000 people are directly affected, and the estimated economic loss is $56 million, and the serious threats of landslides and flash floods remain.  The typhoon deluged 53 cities and counties in Yunnan, China.

Meanwhile in Perth, Australia, where it is only the second day of spring, experienced record breaking heat of 34ºC (93ºF).

To read all articles this week, click here.


Sep

15
2014

Weather Calamities

Jodde     Blog     0

Japan has seen more than its share of inclement weather in the last month or so, from heat waves to landslides.  Now Tokyo is facing its latest disaster, a flooded subway system.  Due to freak, relentless rains, the likes of which have never been seen before, officials were forced to ground flights as well.  Tokyo could see more landslides, and because of the record rains, has even seen its first case of dengue fever in over 70 years.  Dengue fever is a hemorrhagic virus spread by mosquitos.  Tokyo may see flooding and landslides from the massive storm.  Meanwhile in Spain, a 20 minute hail storm caused severe flash flooding.  While no injuries or deaths were reported, several cars were swept away.

In California, an out of control wild fire has prompted 1,000 residents to evacuate, some never to return home.  Firefighters there are trying to deal with a 2.5 sq. mi (4 sq. km) blaze.  They are also dealing with a heat wave, which is making things difficult for firefighters.  Currently, there are 50 fires burning in the state.  In Washington, the fire season is six times worse than normal.

Japan has seen more than its share of inclement weather in the last month or so, from heat waves to landslides.  Now Tokyo is facing its latest disaster, a flooded subway system.  Due to freak, relentless rains, the likes of which have never been seen before, officials were forced to ground flights as well.  Tokyo could see more landslides, and because of the record rains, has even seen its first case of dengue fever in over 70 years.  Dengue fever is a hemorrhagic virus spread by mosquitos.  Tokyo may see flooding and landslides from the massive storm.  Meanwhile in Spain, a 20 minute hail storm caused severe flash flooding.  While no injuries or deaths were reported, several cars were swept away.

In California, an out of control wild fire has prompted 1,000 residents to evacuate, some never to return home.  Firefighters there are trying to deal with a 2.5 sq. mi (4 sq. km) blaze.  They are also dealing with a heat wave, which is making things difficult for firefighters.  Currently, there are 50 fires burning in the state.  In Washington, the fire season is six times worse than normal.

In Calgary, crews are beginning to deal with the downed trees, such as the one shown below, and weather has returned to what is expected seasonally.  The situation is worse for India and Pakistan, however.  The death toll there has risen to nearly 500, with thousands homeless.

IMG_20140911_211701

In Calgary, crews are beginning to deal with the downed trees, such as the one shown below, and weather has returned to what is expected seasonally.  The situation is worse for India and Pakistan, however.  The death toll there has risen to nearly 500, with thousands homeless.

 


Sep

11
2014

Update on Calgary Anomaly

Jodde     Blog     0

Photo: Jodde Mason

This chair shows the height of the snow at the time of shooting.  As you can see, the snow continued to fall.                        Photo: Jodde Mason

In our blog released Monday, we reported that Calgary was expecting 5 cm (2 in) of snow.  Nobody was expecting quite what happened though.  City crews will be dealing with downed trees for potentially several months.  The city has seen snow in September before, even in August, but never a disaster like this.  Snowfall on this scale is more typical of January, and even in the worst winters, I have never seen or heard of thousands of downed trees here.  The downed trees affected the electrical grid, leaving 30,000 people with no electricity on what turned out to be an unexpectedly cold night.  Falling trees and branches resulted in injuries on the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology campus.  School officials there warned staff and students not to walk near any standing trees, as the combined weight of the snow and their leaves caused them to collapse.  There is no estimate yet on the economic toll of this disaster, but we will keep you posted.  These are some pictures of the storm as it happened.  Pictures of some downed trees will follow in your regularly scheduled blog.

Photo: Jodde Mason

A table covered in snow.  Usually you might see a shot like this after a severe winter storm.  You can also see all the snow covered houses in the background.  Photo: Jodde Mason

 

Photo: Jodde Mason

The shrubs on the left are sheltered, but not the ones on the right.  You can see how the weight of the snow and their leaves caused them to collapse, much like the trees discussed earlier.                                                                         Photo: Jodde Mason


Sep

08
2014

More global flooding

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Earlier, we brought you news that the monsoon rains were delayed in India.  They ultimately came and were not so welcome.  The massive inundation from the sudden dumping of rain over Jammu and India’s Kashmir and other regions stranded thousands and killed at least 150 people.  In some places, the water level was as high as 30 ft! (9.1m).  This is the worst flooding India has seen in 60 years.  India’s neighbour, Pakistan, dealt with severe flooding also, deluges in Pakistan’s Kashmir, Punjab, their biggest province, Islamabad, and other regions.  Some areas received over 300mm (1 ft) of rain in a single day.  The rains are responsible for the deaths of more than 110 people, and 150 more injuries.  Monsoon rains in the region are unusual this time of year, as the monsoons should have already moved away from India and Pakistan.   Further east in Asia, thousands have been displaced in China, where 300mm (1 ft) of rain have fallen as well.  The waters triggered a number of landslides and trapped coalminers in a dormitory.  No deaths have been reported, but almost half a million people there have been affected.  In Beijing, many streets were underwater.  Severe thunderstorms pounded Croatia as well, dropping a month’s worth of rain in a single day.

Meanwhile, the remains of Hurricane Norbert dumped record rain on Phoenix, Arizona, leaving about 1,000 residents without power.  Flash flooding in Palm Springs has left hundreds of cars were partially submerged on the highways, prompting 40 rescues.

In other news, Calgary, Alberta saw their first snowfall today, about 5cm (2 in.)  While snow can hit Calgary any time, snow this early, and in such a volume is certainly unusual.

To read all articles this week, click here.


Sep

03
2014

Bone Dry

Jodde     Blog     0

The floods reported last week only represent the more dramatic weather disasters on the planet.   Sometimes, however the disaster is not violent storms, but the devastating twin conditions of their relative absence: drought and famine. The developed world is largely insulated against famine, as there is an adequate supply chain for food, and even a sizable hit to one crop in any given region is easily absorbed by other regions. This is why developed nations don’t face mass hunger in the face of shortages. That is not to say that there are not supply side shortages in industrialized nations.  Such nations, however face cost increases, and obviously the growing regions face economic hardship.  Of course famine is not the sole affect of drought.  Another particularly damaging result, one from which developed nations are not insulated, is fire.

Fires prefer very dry fuel, so there is often a spike in volume and intensity. While wind is primarily responsible for the spread of fires, dry fuel makes them quite difficult to control.  Bolivia this year has already had over 45,000 fires this year.  Four million hectares (9.9 million acres) have burned there.  Bolivia is expected to deal with conflagrations into December.  Australia has been busy putting out more than 400 brush fires, more on the situation there later.  Western Canada has also had a near record fire season, as reported two weeks ago.

Eastern Australia, meanwhile, is in the grips of their worst drought in over a century!  In Queensland, cattle production is down as a result of the drought.  Farmers are having trouble delivering good nutrition to their breeder herds, resulting in an overall drop off of cattle production.  On top of that, what few calves there are have been sold at dramatically undervalued prices, damaging farmers’ bottom lines.  When supply drops and demand stays the same, price increases, so Australians will see an increase in food prices.  Elsewhere, farmers are having difficulty growing rice in Columbia due to severe drought there.  They have already lost around 42,000 acres of farmland.  Farmers have lost an estimated $15.5 million.  They may face more than double that loss as El Nino sets in.  Naturally, this loss will result in a cost increase.  Drought and accompanying heat waves have decimated cattle in Guatemala, which is suffering through its worst such drought in decades.  With scarcities of corn and few jobs, many are at risk of acute malnutrition.

These are by no means the only drought afflicted regions in the world this week.  We will be watching the drought situation as it develops.  To read all articles this week, click here.


Aug

25
2014

Global Inundation

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August 19 - 25, 2014

Officials blame heavy rain for a number of landslides that wrought havoc on Hiroshima, Japan this week.  Over 56 people died due to the slides, with around seven people still unaccounted for.  The exact number is difficult to know.  There were several injuries as well, at least two being serious.  The landslides trapped people in over 20 locations.  Meanwhile, another six people are feared dead and one is confirmed dead after a landslide and severe flooding today in South Korea. So far there are only reports of flood related deaths, but the landslide destroyed a senior’s centre.  The landslide there also forced the closure of a nuclear power plant when rain water leaked into a water intake facility.  In other late breaking news, flooding in Bangladesh has decimated houses, leaving nearly half a million people homeless.  The government does not report any deaths as of yet, but that seems likely to change with such heavy flooding.  Furthermore, the situation is expected to worsen, with rivers flowing at dangerously high levels.  Thailand has also seen heavy flooding recently, with Phucket, Thailand flooding a third time in two weeks.  At least 12 people have been killed in India.  Flooding there has inundated no less than 1,500 villages.

Due to a previous forest fire, the heavy rainfall in Washington State triggered landslides.  While nobody was hurt in the landslides, they resulted in highway closures and several trapped vehicles.  Thunderstorms caused flooding in Winnipeg, Manitoba, chiefly in Polo Park Mall.

To see even more stories and read full articles, click here.


Aug

18
2014

Canada’s strange summer and other catastrophes

Jodde     Blog     0

July 30 – August 18, 2014

Canada, in particular western Canada, has had a bizarre summer.  Calgary, Edmonton, and other major cities frequently contend with smoke, a problem that this writer has never seen, despite living in Calgary for more than a decade.  The intense smoke came from forest fires in Banff and Jasper National Parks, as well as some fires near Kelowna, BC.  Even the Northwest Territories and the Yukon have been coping with massive fires.  More than 7 million acres, (2.8 million hectares) have burned in those two territories.  No death or injuries have been reported from any fire, though the smoke in much of western Canada has been difficult for those with asthma, emphysema and other cardiovascular diseases.  Sweden also has its hands full putting out fires.  If 1968 was the year the world caught fire, this is shaping up to be the year the world reignited.  With huge swaths of California bone dry and several neighbouring states all under serious drought conditions, we are likely to see the western US light up like its neighbour to the north.  The big problem for the US is that Canada is very sparsely populated in comparison.  Canada has a few large cities where most of the population tends to congregate, with vast stretches of wilderness.  The US is more densely populated, so a fire season like the one in Canada could be far more devastating in the US.

Flame retardant applied after burning

Photo: Jodde Mason
Firefighters uses measures such as flame retardants to try to control burns. The red covering the trees is this retardant.

 

In other news, a heatwave in Japan has caused the deaths of 15 people, with thousands more being hospitalized.  A landslide in Nepal and India have killed at least 38 people, eight of those in Nepal.  Both landslides were triggered by torrential, unrelenting rains.  Late season floods in Europe have claimed the lives of at least seven people.  An additional 13 people were killed in Varna, Bulgaria due to flash floods.  While western Canada has seen its most fiery summer in years, Bulgaria has seen its wettest summer in years.  A massive rain fuelled landslide in Switzerland caused a train to derail, resulting in several injuries to a contingent of the 200 passengers.  There is severe flooding in Portland, Maine, as well.  Stay tuned for a special on glaciers and why they are important.

To see all of our recent articles, click here.


Jul

02
2014

Underwater!

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Last week, Wyoming experienced some bizarre weather for this time of year.  They received up to nine inches (22.8 cm) of snow.  No damage or shutdowns were reported, but it still makes our radar as an unusual event.  Wyoming very rarely receives snow at lower elevations.

More severe weather happened last week as well.  Rain pummelled parts of the Midwest last week and again this week.   Minnesota saw over 10 inches (30 cm) of rain in just one day, triggering a mudslide.   That much rain usually falls in a week.  Yet more rain over the weekend has caused the Mississippi to stay in a flood state, and it is expected to do so until July 4.   This June has been the wettest on record there since 1874.  In Iowa, fifty foot trees were swept away in twisters.  Severe weather there has claimed at least one life.  The same system caused a sinkhole in Des Moines.  Severe storms continue to lay waste to the Midwest, with more flooding along the Mississippi.  Damages from this serious flooding could be well into the billions.  The seemingly unstoppable storm system also caused flooding in Texas, closing two popular theme parks, Six Flags over Texas and Hurricane Harbour.  More than twenty people had to be rescued from the raging torrents there.

Other parts of the world saw severe flooding.  Parts of China were flooded by the monsoon rains that missed India last month, slowing sowing of crops there.  At least 26 people have been killed due to the deluge.  Most of the damage was in three provinces, but nine were affected.  Those three provinces were Yunan, Guangxi, and Hunan.  In parts of Guangxi, a month’s worth of rain fell in just a day.  The floods have caused over $650 million damage to crops.

The Canadian prairies, with Alberta being spared this year, are experiencing horrendous flooding as well.  87 municipalities across Manitoba and Saskatchewan have declared states of emergency.  Both the agriculture and the oil industry there are taking severe damage.

To read all our articles in the past two weeks, click here.


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