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Jan

27
2015

Snow droughts? In a hot January!

Jodde     Blog     0

In Shakespeare’s, Much Ado About Nothing, Leonato tells Beatrice that she will never fall in love.  In agreement, she tells him that she will “in a hot January.” This fictional character did find love, and a hot January did occur, centuries later.  Shakespeare clearly meant the phrase to be akin to “when pigs fly.”  He viewed this situation as completely unimaginable in his hemisphere, as well he should have.  However, it is indeed a hot January in Calgary.  The last few days have seen people wearing shorts and t-shirts.  It has been a nice 17ºC (62ºF), which is certainly quite warm (for Canadians.)  In stark contrast, three eastern states have imposed a road travel ban due to a Noreaster.  New York had gone so far as to declare a state of emergency.  New York was expecting between two and three feet of snow (66-100cm.)  When Toronto was hit with such a massive snowstorm a number of years ago, they needed the help of the National Guard to clear all the snow, and like New York, they were well equipped to deal with it.  As it turns out, they are getting substantially less than what they expected, but it is still a major snowstorm.  Having said that, the travel bans imposed earlier today have been lifted.

Minneapolis, and St. Paul, Minnesota are not getting enough snow.  They have only received about a third of their usual snowfall for the year.  Snow is an important source of water for the watershed, so a snow drought portends drought in the coming seasons.  Snow typically melts and is carried into drainage basins.  These drainage basins often feed rivers, which cause drought conditions when they run low.  The lack of snow here would affect the east coast, so we should watch for drought conditions there to develop.  It will also likely cause problems with agriculture.  During the winter, farmers store snow in sheds, which later becomes precious water for their crops.

While in Calgary, we are enjoying record shattering temperatures, (the previous record for Sunday was 13ºC (55ºF), this is not the case in Australia.  Temperatures there have soared past 50ºC (over 120ºF).  For comparison, the government regulated holding temperature for hot food is only 10ºC (18ºF) more.  These record shattering high temperatures in the 50ºs (120ºs F)are often fatal for the elderly in particular, who do not feel symptoms of dehydration as easily as their younger counterparts.  However, even younger people who are exercising in such extreme heat have been known to fall victim to heat injuries like heat stroke and heat exhaustion, both of which can be fatal.  Those who take certain medications or use caffeine or alcohol are more vulnerable to heat stroke.

This summary in no way reflects all of what has been going on in the world.  If you would like to see all of our headlines from the past week, please click here.


Jan

19
2015

Deepening drought, deadly floods

Jodde     Blog     0

Floods decimated Malawi this week.  With substandard infrastructure, even a relatively tame event could be deadly, and this was certainly not tame.  This is the worst flooding Malawi residents can seem to remember.  There are conflicting reports around just how deadly this inundation was, but Peter Mutharika, the country’s President, put the figure at 48.  Many more deaths may follow, however, due to the deadly infection cholera.  Around 200,000 people were also left homeless.  What’s worse,  numerous animals died in the flood, and the flood was deleterious for crops.  In a nation where so many of its residents are subsistence farmers, this is a significant blow.  The flooding is a result of heavy rain that has been falling for weeks, and more may be on the way with tropical cyclone Chedza closing in.  Several cities in northern Sumatra is dealing with a deluge this week also.  No lives were lost in that event, but over 10,000 homes were damaged.  A landslide also caused traffic chaos in an otherwise unaffected region.

Meanwhile, the opposite extreme in climate is going on in California, Sao Paolo, Brazil, and many other regions.  The snowfall in California has been woefully sparse so far this winter, and the crippling drought California faces is nowhere near over.  They need trillions of gallons of water to precipitate to have adequate reservoirs.  It seems that it is falling elsewhere.  Sao Paolo has not had a drought as bad as their current one in 80 years.  The Cantareira water system which supplies most of the country’s water needs is at only 6% capacity, and several others are running low.  The Sao Paolo government has yet to implement water usage restrictions, but such a refusal could prove disastrous, and they may have no choice but to impose water rations at this point.

In other news, a new study reports that wheat yields will decline 6% per degree of temperature increase.  This will, naturally, cause rising prices which will be felt chiefly in the developing world.  This could increase poverty in countries already struggling with it, or even cause famine in the worst case.

This summary in no way reflects all of what has been going on in the world.  If you would like to see all of our headlines from the past week, please click here.

 


Dec

29
2014

Dismal December Week

Jodde     Blog     0

The end of the year is shaping up to be a dismal one for many people in the world.  Flooding has decimated Malaysia, which received record rainfall.  Malaysians are no strangers to flooding, and no stranger to tragedy (more on that later,) but even they see it as “epic.”  Cape Town was also inundated due to an unusually high tide and rough chop.  Sri Lanka also suffered from a heavy deluge, displacing approximately 46,000 residents.

California, on the other hand is welcoming any rain it gets.  The problem here is known in economics as the tragedy of the commons.  While drought conditions have not ended, and are in fact nowhere near ending, collectively Californians may feel that is okay for just them to momentarily increase their water use.  Since they are unaware of their neighbours’ increased use, they feel continued justification.  Therefore, the intense rain that many see as a boon, may have a net zero or even a net negative effect on reservoirs’ volumes.  The drought has already caused more than $2 billion in losses, mostly due to diminished crop yields.  Governor Jerry Brown renewed calls to for Californians to “treat it like the drought of our lives.”  The outlook seems grim.  She goes on to warn that another drought could be just around the corner.

AirAsia was trying to fly out of a severe thunderstorm when it disappeared over the Java Sea.  Planes are designed to be Faraday cages.  Lightning travels around the fuselage, not through it, so it is not usually damaging when it hits the plane, but what we know is that power seems to have been lost; the pilots never communicated with air traffic control again, and it happened suddenly.  Flying through a severe thunderstorm is very dangerous for planes, as their airspeed indicators can get clogged with ice, or they can lose them because of a power failure.  This loss makes it easy to critically stall in an already precarious situation.  There is no word on whether accident investigators believe this to be the cause, but pilots speculate that it is.  If the weather is indeed to blame, this would make two natural disasters for Malaysia within days of each other.

In the US, a massive tornado flattened an Moore, Oklahoma city school. killing at least 91 people and seriously injuring no less than 145 people.  The school itself is entirely decimated, as is a large swath, a 2 mile (1 km) tract, of the city.  Part of the reason for the extensive damage was the location of the tornado.  As a factor of probability, tornados are more likely to strike rural areas than urban ones, as urban areas are larger and more prevalent than urban areas.  Very few tornados hit cities, but the ones that do are devastating.

There is some good news this week.  It turns out that the extent of arctic sea ice is recovering in the fall and winter seasons.  The recovery is driven by thick ice being retained, making arctic ice more resilient than previously thought.  Sadly, it seems that in 2015, if 2014 is any indication, many of us will have to be more resilient than we ever thought we could be.

This is only a small sampling of what happened in the world this week.  To read the rest of the articles we’ve collected, click here.


Nov

06
2014

Wind and Water

Jodde     Blog     0

While fortunately no deaths or injuries due to weather events this week have come to our attention, property damage and the disruption of people’s lives and livelihoods most certainly has.  Due to flooding In Buenos Aires this week, over 5,000 people have been displaced, and the rain that has been causing that flooding is expected to continue. In Vancouver, BC, flooding and rockslides have caused the government to evacuate certain regions of the city.  The extent of the damage is unknown at this point.

Typhoon Nuri, possibly the largest storm ever recorded is expected to dissipate but have lasting effects on the jet stream, bringing with it unseasonably cold temperatures.  Meanwhile a rare tornado touched down in Catania, Italy.  This ripped the roof off at least one building, damaged houses and townhouses, and caused general infrastructure chaos.  Another tornado is suspected of causing a great deal of damage to Coalville, UK.  Some cars, roofs, and businesses were damaged, with the worst hit being the Belvoir Shopping Centre, with one business likely requiring extensive repairs before reopening.

 

To read all our articles in the last week, click here.


Oct

30
2014

Poking the bear, and other weather threats

Jodde     Blog     0

When black bears and humans cross paths, the result is not always good for either species.  Bears usually avoid humans, but over time do become habituated to human garbage. They have been known to break into homes and even, incredibly, cars for a morsel. They are usually curious, but their curiosity can decimate personal property, e.g. cars as just discussed. Bear encounters are usually the result of a lack of food, and this year berries and other staples of black bears’ diets, which mostly includes berries are sorely lacking. While they can find insects in logs and other places in their territories, these cannot sustain them. The berries are not growing in Yosemite this year, where there is a growing bear problem, due to drought.

Meanwhile, the drought in Moultrie, Georgia, US is responsible for increasing the production cost of cotton, and similarly pumpkin growers in California must pump in more water than during typical years due to the dry weather.

Across the ocean, Athens experienced torrential rain over the weekend, flooding the city. The knee-deep water flooded houses and shops, and swept away cars. According to one eye witness, Athens “[has] the same problem every year, but never before to this extent”.

For more articles from the past week, click here.


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

Jodde     Blog     0

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

Jodde     Blog     0

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


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