Friday, July 20, 2012

You Don't Need A Weatherman...

..to know which way the wind's blowing:
Japanese troops are airlifting supplies to thousands of people trapped in mountainous districts cut off by floods on the southern island of Kyushu. Rescue teams have been searching for those missing following flooding and landslides caused by record rainfall.

The death toll has now risen to 26. Hundreds of thousands have been affected. Many of them are staying in evacuation centres. Heavy rain has also caused flooding in Japan's historic capital, Kyoto. TV footage showed muddy waters sweeping through homes and streets as rivers burst their banks in Kyushu.
Japan floods: Troops airlift supplies to Kyushu (BBC)
One person has been killed and at least 10 others injured during a series of freak tornadoes in northern and western Poland. The extreme winds hits the country's Kujawy-Pomorze and Wielkopolska provinces, destroying 100 homes.

Some 400 hectares of trees have also been damaged in Bory Tucholskie forest, a national park and popular tourist destination. Electricity power-lines have also been damaged.

The BBC's Adam Easton, in Warsaw, says that though tornadoes are not unknown in Poland, this summer's series of events has been particularly dramatic and weather forecasters have predicted stormy conditions will continue.
Poland: Tornadoes hit Kujawy-Pomorze and Wielkopolska (BBC)
Flash floods caused by torrential rain have swept the southern Russian Krasnodar region, killing 144 people, officials say. The floods, the worst there in living memory, struck at night, reportedly without warning. TV pictures showed people scrambling onto their rooftops to escape.

President Vladimir Putin has flown over the region by helicopter and has had emergency talks with officials in the worst-hit town of Krymsk. Most of those who died were in and around Krymsk, a town of 57,000 people. But nine deaths were reported in the Black Sea resort of Gelendzhik with a further two in the port town of Novorossiysk. 
Russian TV showed thousands of houses in the region almost completely submerged and police said many of the victims were elderly people who had been asleep at the time.

"Our house was flooded to the ceiling," Krymsk pensioner Lidiya Polinina told the Agence France-Presse news agency. "We broke the window to climb out. I put my five-year-old grandson on the roof of our submerged car, and then we somehow climbed up into the attic." Dozens of people are reportedly missing, and there are fears that the death toll will rise further.

Emergency teams have been sent from Moscow by plane and helicopter. Crude oil shipments from Novorossiysk have been suspended.
Russia flash floods: 144 killed in Krasnodar region (BBC)
Wildfires have struck in Greece, Spain and Portugal, forcing hundreds of people to flee their homes. Helicopters and planes have been used to dump water onto the areas affected. Susana Mendonca reports.
Wildfires burn across southern Europe (BBC)
As Londoners prepared for the 2012 Olympics, the UK has experienced unseasonably wet and cool weather. The months of April, May and June were unusually rainy, cloudy and cold in Great Britain (and July hasn’t proven much better!). Even ping-pong ball-sized hailstones were part of the mix in June.
The average rainfall in Wales and England during June was more than double the normal amount, and precipitation levels in Scotland and Northern Ireland were high as well. With skies full of storm clouds, hours of sunshine have also been fewer than normal across the country. What's more, flooded streets made driving hazardous in some areas, while a landslide even caused a freight train to derail.

Weather forecasters have attributed the downpours to a weather pattern known as the Spanish plume. Rain occurs when a warm, humid air mass encounters a cold air mass. During a Spanish plume, the warm front comes from the UK's south, while the cold front sweeps in from the west.

In addition to the Spanish plume, the jet stream has also been blamed by meteorologists for the dreary weather. The jet stream is a major current of air in the upper atmosphere. In recent months, the jet stream was further south than it is normally.
Strange 2012 Summer Brings Downpours and Drought (Environmental Graffiti)
The rice harvest in India, the world’s second-biggest producer, is set to drop from an all-time high as the weakest monsoon in three years slows planting, potentially boosting global prices. Futures climbed for the first time in four days.

“It will be difficult to match last year’s record rice production,” said Samarendu Mohanty, a senior economist at the International Rice Research Institute in Manila. Output was 104.3 million tons in the year ended June 30.

A 22 percent shortfall in monsoon rains delayed sowing of crops from rice to cotton, stoking a rally in commodity prices and threatening to accelerate India’s inflation that exceeded 7 percent for a fifth straight month in June. Dry weather from the U.S. to Australia has parched fields, pushing up corn, wheat and soybean prices on concern global supplies will be curbed. Costly rice, staple for half the world, may increase global food prices forecast by the United Nations to advance this month.
Weakest Monsoon Since 2009 to Shrink India Rice Harvest (Bloomberg)
CHICAGO – Water worries are springing up across the Midwest amid worsening drought conditions. Demand is approaching record levels in some areas, forcing voluntary and mandatory usage restrictions as utilities strain to pump enough water while reservoirs and other sources shrink.

Des Moines issued a peak water alert after demand Wednesday reached 90.6 million gallons, nearing the 2006 record of 92 million gallons, says Des Moines Water Works assistant general manager Gary Benjamin.

If the situation gets worse, he says, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could be asked to release water from the Saylorville Lake reservoir. "We're just asking people to use water wisely," he says.

All of Indiana is under a water-shortage warning, and many communities there have implemented mandatory restrictions. A water-shortage watch is in place for more than two dozen Kentucky counties, and Nebraska farmers have been ordered to stop using rivers and streams to irrigate their crops because of dropping water levels.
Midwest drought and heat increase water supply worries (USA Today)
In Nelson’s corn fields — the plants more vulnerable to drought than beans — crops look like corpses. Hair-dryer winds have given way to more moderate breezes this week, yet the ground remains kiln-dry.

Spring rains quit early in the Midwest. In fact, they barely came. Summer storms never struck with enough moisture to keep soil from turning to dust and some corn and soybean fields from going bust.

The parching of the region has already led some growers to cut their corn for silage, the farmer’s version of salvage. That same scorching of America’s grain belt could bump up prices at the pump and the grocery store.

At a time when the world’s appetite for corn has never been greater — to fatten our cattle, to make our chips, to sweeten our soda and to fuel our cars — a relentless drought has made kernels into crisps.

Not since the late 1980s has the nation’s midsection seen the corn crop so battered by lack of rain. Where leaves of emerald would normally dangle eight and nine feet above the ground, dung-colored ribbons droop and crackle while tassels barely reach eye level.
Midwest corn crop ravaged by drought (Kansas City Star)
As Bill McKibben points out in a piece to be published in Rolling Stone on Friday, not only was May the warmest on record for the Northern Hemisphere, not only was it “the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average,” but it was also followed by a June in which some 3,200 heat records were broken in the United States.

The first page alone of the Rolling Stone article will scare the pants off you, but the chorus needs to grow bigger, louder and stronger. That’s why the forthcoming book (due July 24) from Climate Central, “Global Weirdness,” is so welcome. “Global Weirdness,” which explains climate change in simple, easy-to-understand language and ultrashort chapters, is intentionally calm because, says Michael Lemonick, one of the authors: “Some people respond well to ‘Big trouble is coming and we must do something immediately,’ but others are overwhelmed and just turn off. We believe that if you look at all the available evidence it’s clear we’re pushing the earth into a regime where it hasn’t been before, and the effects could well be disastrous.”

The time to avoid calamitous effects has likely passed. This doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless, but the longer we wait to curb emissions, the worse and longer-lasting the effects. Climate Central’s projections show that the biggest cities in Florida, and a great deal of the Northeast coastline (including New York City), will be underwater by 2100, when almost everyone now alive will have “managed” to leave the scene. Of course, the calamities won’t be limited to North America, nor is 2100 some magical expiration date; the end isn’t in sight.
The Endless Summer, Mark Bittman, New York Times.

An unstable climate is already wrecking the global economy. Remember this tidbit from late last year:

Thailand is 20% underwater, and is second-biggest hard drive producer after China. Now do you care about the floods? (BoingBoing) According to the Financial Times, the world is braced for another food crisis. Get ready for the next round of global political instability.

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