Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms

No current tropical storms.

NewsBytes:

New York, USA – Severe storm near Phelps, New York has claimed the lives of at least two people after a tree fell on a moving car.

Brazil – Rain Floods Streets Before U.S. World Cup Game With Germany. Heavy, persistent rain in the coastal city slowed traffic ahead of the match, with cars and buses making slow progress toward the Arena Pernambuco as water created rivers on some access roads. About 85 millimeters (3.3 inches) of rain fell on the city from 9 a.m. yesterday to 9 a.m. this morning, according to Brazil’s Instituto Nacional de Meteorologia. About half the seats in the stadium were empty 30 minutes before kickoff.

Space Events

New Satellites Reveal Weakening of Earth’s Magnetic Field

Earth’s magnetic field has weakened this year, possibly leaving the planet more vulnerable to cosmic radiation and charged particles from the sun, scientists say.

Initial readings from a new three-satellite observation network for the planet’s magnetic field also revealed that the magnetic north pole is drifting southward toward Siberia.

Each satellite in the European Space Agency’s “Swarm” mission is equipped with several sensors, including magnetometers that measure the magnetic field’s strength and direction.

But given the limited amount of time the mission has been operating, researchers aren’t too concerned with the weakening of the field.

They say it’s probably normal, and the protective cloak around Earth should regain its strength in the near future.

Changes in Earth’s magnetic field from January to June 2014. These changes are based on the magnetic signals that stem from Earth’s core. Shades of red represent areas of strengthening while blues show areas of weakening.

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Environment

Global Temperature Extremes

The week’s hottest temperature was 120.7 degrees Fahrenheit (49.3 degrees Celsius) at In Salah, Algeria.

The week’s coldest temperature was minus 97.1 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 71.1 degrees Celsius) at Russia’s Vostok Antarctic research station.

Temperatures were tabulated from the more than 10,000 worldwide synoptic weather stations. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization sets the standards for weather observations, and provides a global telecommunications circuit for data distribution.

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.4 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

5.4 Earthquake hits Minahasa, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

5.3 Earthquake hits the Sea of Othotsk.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Sumbawa region, Indonesia.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Andreanof Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms

No current tropical storms.

NewsBytes:

Canada – Heavy rain washes out roads, causes flooding in southern Quebec. Several spots around Quebec are coping with the aftermath of heavy rainfall on Wednesday with one town declaring a local emergency.

Environment

The heat is on in Greenland

It’s been a hot June at Kangerlussuaq, where the temperature peaked at 73°F on June 15. That’s not far below the all-time hottest temperature ever recorded in Greenland of 78.6°F, set just last year on July 30 at nearby Maniitsoq Mittarfia. The unusual warmth this year melted nearly 40% of the Greenland Ice Sheet in mid-June – far above the usual 15% figure.

The warm June temperatures could be setting the stage for a big Greenland melt season this summer, and scientists with the Dark Snow Project are on the ice, 48 miles east Kangerlussuaq, conducting a two-month field experiment on the causes and implications of Greenland ice melt. The results, soon to be published, showed a pronounced spike in black carbon at the critical layer, and indicated the strong need for more research.

The “burning question”: How much does wildfire and industrial soot darken the ice, increasing melt? Was the record melt and record darkness of the ice sheet in 2012 a harbinger of the future? A darker ice sheet absorbs more solar energy, in a vicious cycle that raises temperatures, melts more ice, and further darkens the ice sheet.

The amount of melting that was caused by soot from forest fires is important to know, since global warming is likely to increase the amount of forest fires in coming decades. However, the amount of forest fire soot landing on the Greenland Ice Sheet is almost completely unknown.

Greenland’s ice sheet holds enough water to raise global sea levels by 7.36 meters (24.15 feet) were it all to melt, and civilization would be hard-pressed to deal with 10 – 13 feet of sea level rise from West Antarctica, let alone another 20+ feet from Greenland. “If we’ve committed to 3.3 meters (10.8′) from West Antarctica, we haven’t committed to losing Greenland, we haven’t committed to losing most of East Antarctica. Those are still out there for us.”

Unfortunately, the Greenland Ice Sheet is much more vulnerable to melting than previously thought, found a May 2014 study. Deeply incised submarine glacial valleys beneath the Greenland ice sheet. The researchers found that widespread ice-covered valleys extend much deeper below sea level and farther inland than previously thought, and would likely melt significantly from steadily warming waters lapping at Greenland’s shores.

The ice core study found that black carbon from forest fires helped caused a RARE, near-ice-sheet-wide surface melt event that melted 97% of Greenland’s surface on July 11 – 12 2012, and a similar event in 1889. Another factor contributing to a darker Greenland Ice Sheet and more melting may be additional wind-blown dust landing on the ice. “Our hypothesis is that now that seasonal snow cover in the Arctic is retreating earlier than before, and bare soil is available earlier in the Spring for dust transport.”

Drought

Drought – USA

Drought brings disaster declaration for all of Utah – Every county in Utah will be covered by a disaster declaration because of the ongoing drought.

Drought Nudges Nevada Wildlife Toward Urban Areas – Three years of drought in Nevada is drying up fisheries in the valleys and pushing some animals to urban areas looking for food and water.

Environment

Oceans Under Threat of Collapse

The Global Ocean Commission is out with a scathing report on the state of our oceans. To put it bluntly, our oceans are on the brink of collapse. One area the report points out is the heavy subsidizing of fishing fleets. It isn’t advances of fishing technology allowing them to catch around 10 million per year, it’s the massive fuel subsidies that keeps the industry afloat.

In addition to the overfishing, the oceans are also suffering from increased pollution. Plastics are harming the ecosystem in a way that is causing a collapse in some species. Outside of pollution, habitat destruction, climate change and ocean acidification also pose dangers to the ecosystem.

In the report, the commission is urging governments to put the hammer down on these threats quickly. If not, it may be necessary to ban industrial fishing in some areas. Already, governments have implemented marine reserves and imposed off-limits areas that ban industrial fishing.

The issue with the zones and reserves are that they are not well guarded, and fishing vessels get into them without regard to the law.

This renewed call to protect the ocean comes about a week after President Obama outlined plans to create the world’s largest protected area in the south-central Pacific Ocean.

What the report shows is that you may create an area, but you better be ready to police it. Without enforcing the rules, who is to stop vessels from encroaching on designated off-limits zones.

To read the full report, jump over to this PDF document. It outlines threats facing the world’s oceans today.

Disease

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – update

On 17 June 2014, the National IHR Focal Point of Saudi Arabia notified WHO of 2 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

Update on polio in central Africa

On 17 March 2014, WHO elevated the risk assessment of international spread of polio from central Africa, particularly Cameroon, to very high. A new exportation event from Equatorial Guinea demonstrates that the risk of international spread from central Africa remains very high (http://www.who.int/csr/don/2014_03_17_polio/en/). On 18 June 2014, Brazil reported that wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) had been detected in a sewage sample collected in March 2014 at Viracopos International Airport in Sao Paolo state. Genetic sequencing indicates that this virus is most closely related to the virus that is circulating in Equatorial Guinea.

Four wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) cases have been reported in Equatorial Guinea in 2014. The index case – Equatorial Guinea’s first case to be reported since 1999 – had onset of paralysis on 28 January 2014; the country’s most recent case occurred on 3 April 2014. Genetic sequencing indicates these cases are linked to an ongoing WPV1 outbreak in Cameroon (Cameroon’s most recent case was on 31 January 2014). Equatorial Guinea is implementing outbreak response activities, with three National Immunization Days (NIDs) with bivalent oral polio vaccine (OPV) in April and May, and plans for further NIDs in July and August. NIDs are deemed essential to stop the outbreak as an estimated 40% of children are fully immunized against polio through the routine immunization programme in the country.

Volcanos

Roundup of Global Volcanic Activity

Pavlof volcano (Alaska) activity update: eruption ends. Eruptive activity at the volcano appears to have ceased, the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) reports:

“Clear web camera and satellite images over the past several days have shown no evidence of continued lava fountaining from the summit. Only weakly elevated surface temperatures in the vicinity of recent lava flows northeast of the summit have been recorded. AVO has observed no evidence of ash emission from the volcano since early June.”

Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.4 Earthquake hits Mindoro in the Philippines.

5.2 Earthquake hits the Rat Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

5.1 Earthquake hits Fiji.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

5.1 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Kermedec Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits Vanuatu.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Prince Edward Islands.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms

No current tropical storms.

NewsBytes:

India – Over 24,000 people have been affected by floods in four districts of Assam.

Minnesota, USA – As flood waters around the state keep rising, the Governor has extended an emergency declaration for 35 counties for another 30 days.

Global Warming

New Report Puts Price Tag on Climate Change in U.S.

Climate change poses “multiple and significant risks” to the U.S. economy, particularly along coastlines and to the energy and agriculture sectors, a new report released Tuesday concludes.

Bridge hurricane 121029

The report, the first to quantify the damage the American economy could sustain from unabated climate change, was compiled by the non-partisan Risky Business Project, a venture launched in October and co-chaired by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and former hedge fund manager and environmental activist Thomas Steyer. “It makes the true costs for inaction on climate change frighteningly clear,” Bloomberg said at a press conference here announcing the report’s release.

The goals of the project and report, the co-chairs and members of Risky Business’s Risk Committee said, were to urge American businesses to lead the way on mitigating the effects of global warming and to pressure the national government into crafting a coherent public policy around the issue, though it stops short of making specific policy recommendations. Such efforts by businesses could not only protect Americans from the worst effects of climate change, but also grow and better insulate the American economy, the project’s members said.

While the report focused primarily on the most likely climate change scenarios to occur, it also examined the less likely but extremely high-risk scenarios, something the authors emphasized that businesses and individuals naturally do, for example, when they purchase fire insurance.

The report used climate projections through 2100 and what the participants said was a standard risk-assessment approach used by businesses to estimate how rises in temperature, sea level and other impacts of climate change would affect various parts of the U.S. economy and different geographic regions of the nation. “It’s important to look at these things and look at them from an economic perspective,” said Henry Cisneros, a Risk Committee member and former secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

They found that the effects vary from region to region, with sea level rise posing the biggest threat to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and that ever-increasing heat and humidity will particularly impact the Southwest, Southeast and upper Midwest.

Sea level rise and storm surge are likely — defined in the report as having at least a 2-in-3 chance of occurring — to increase the average cost of coastal storms in the East by $2 billion to $3.5 billion over just the next 15 years. When combined with anticipated changes in hurricane activity, such as stronger storms, the report found that average total annual losses from coastal storms could reach $35 billion.

Bloomberg raised the spectre of Hurricane Sandy as an example of how the effects of global warming can exacerbate a storm’s impact. There’s “no question that rising sea levels and temperatures made Sandy worse,” Bloomberg said.

Sea level rise also poses a risk separate from its amplifying effects on storms surge, as it increasingly encroaches on valuable coastal property. The report estimates that by 2050, between $66 billion and $106 billion worth of such property will likely be below sea level nationwide. By 2100, that figure could grow to anywhere between $238 billion and $507 billion.

Sea level rise in the Miami area has led to the intrusion of saltwater into freshwater areas and has increased non-storm related flooding, said Donna Shalala, a Risk Committee member and president of the University of Miami. “The future prosperity of Florida is inextricably linked to the sun and the sea,” Shalala said at the press conference.

The report also found that increasing heat will strain the nation’s energy systems, as it causes efficiency to decline while demand — in the form of a greater need for air conditioning — rises. Those simultaneous trends would drive the need for more power generation, which could simply add more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the climate system.

Heat and humidity pose public health threats, as higher humidity disrupts the body’s natural ability to cool itself since it prevents the evaporation of sweat from the skin. Urban dwellers are particularly at risk from this problem because of the urban heat island effects, as are those who work outside. Productivity of such workers could decline by 3 percent by the end of the century as it becomes increasingly too hot to work outside during parts of the day, the report found.

U.S. agriculture faces threats as a changing climate shifts where and how well particular crops grow. The report found that the production of key crops like corn, soy and wheat could decline by 14 percent by mid-century and up to 42 percent by the end of the century. Some areas, particularly northern states, could actually see increased crop yields, though.

All of the committee members and the three co-chairs emphasized the need for businesses to start examining these issues and pressing for public policy solutions now, due to the fact that greenhouse gases emitted today can last in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, effectively “baking in” a certain amount of warming.

Wildlife

Widespread impacts of neonicotinoids ‘impossible to deny’

Neonicotinoid pesticides are causing significant damage to a wide range of beneficial species and are a key factor in the decline of bees, say scientists.

Researchers, who have carried out a four-year review of the literature, say the evidence of damage is now “conclusive”.

The scientists say the threat to nature is the same as that once posed by the notorious chemical DDT.

Manufacturers say the pesticides are not harming bees or other species.

Neonicotinoids were introduced in the early 1990s as a replacement for older, more damaging chemicals. They are a systemic insecticide, meaning that they are absorbed into every cell in a plant, making all parts poisonous to pests.

But some scientists have been concerned about their impact, almost since the moment they were introduced.

Much of the worry has surrounded their effects on bees.

There’s been a well documented, global decline in these critical pollinators.

Many researchers believe that exposure to neonicotinoids has been an important destabilising factor for the species.

In 2011, environmental campaigners, the IUCN, established an international scientific taskforce on systemic pesticides to look into the impacts of these chemicals.

The members have reviewed over 800 peer reviewed papers that have been published in the past 20 years. Their assessment of the global impact says the threat posed goes far beyond bees.

In their report, to be published next month, they argue that neonicotinoids and another chemical called fipronil are poisoning the earth, the air and the water.

The pesticides accumulate in the soil and leach into water, and pose a significant problem for earthworms, freshwater snails, butterflies and birds.

The researchers say that the classic measurements used to assess the toxicity of a pesticide are not effective for these systemic varieties and conceal their true impact.

They point to one of the studies in the review carried out in the Netherlands.

It found that higher levels of neonicotinoids in water reduced the levels of aquatic invertebrates, which are the main prey for a whole range of species including wading birds, trout and salmon.

“There is so much evidence, going far beyond bees,” Prof Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex told BBC News.

“They accumulate in soils, they are commonly turning up in waterways at levels that exceed the lethal dose for things that live in streams.

“It is impossible to deny that these things are having major environmental impacts.”

The scientists are very worried about the prophylactic use of neonicotinoids, where seeds are coated in the chemicals and the plant grows up with the ability to destroy pests already built in.

“It is a bit like taking antibiotics to avoid getting ill,” said Prof Goulson, one of a team of 29 scientists involved in the research.

“The more they are used, the stronger the selective pressure you place on pest insects to become resistant to them. Using them as prophylactics is absolute madness in that sense.”

Campaigners have protested against the continued use of neonicotinoid chemicals The task force argues that with neonicotinoids and fipronil making up around a third of the world market in insecticides, farmers are over-relying on them in the same way as they once became over reliant on chemicals like DDT.

“We have forgotten those lessons and we’re back to where we were in the 1960s,” said Prof Goulson.

“We are relying almost exclusively on these insecticides, calendar spraying 20 times or more onto a single field, it’s a completely bonkers way.”

While neonicotinoids don’t accumulate in human or animal tissue in the way that DDT once did, the modern pesticides are more lethal, about 6,000 times as toxic compared to the older spray.

Representatives of manufacturers say that there is nothing new in the task force study.

“There is very little credible evidence that these things are causing untoward damage because we would have seen them over 20 years of use,” said Dr Julian Little from Bayer, one of the manufacturers of neonicotinoids.

“If you look at the tree bumblebee, it is eating the same food as the other bees, and is being exposed to the same pesticide load and weather conditions and yet it is flourishing, whereas some other bees are not.

“If it were pesticides causing the mass destruction of our fauna, surely you would see effects on all bees?”

The European Crop Protection Association said the task force was being selective in their evidence, pointing to recent studies carried out by industry showing that the declines in bee populations have been overstated.

“We respect the scientists who have produced this research, but it appears that they are part of a movement that brings together some academics and NGOs whose only objective is to restrict or ban the use of neonicotinoid technology regardless of what the evidence may show,” a spokesperson said.

Europe already has a two-year moratorium in place meaning that neonicotinoids can’t be used on flowering crops such as oilseed rape.

Last week, President Obama announced the creation of a pollinator health task force to look at the impact of pesticide exposure on bees and other insects.

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