Environment

Plastic Eating Bacteria

British researchers have identified naturally occurring lake bacteria that grow faster and more effectively by eating plastic bags, breaking them down to natural carbon compounds.

Writing in the journal Nature Communications, Cambridge scientists suggest that enriching waters with particular species of bacteria could be a natural way to remove plastic pollution from the environment. They add that “plastic pollution is stimulating the whole food web in lakes, because more bacteria means more food for the bigger organisms like ducks and fish.”

Alpine Heat

Swiss scientists say the freezing point in the Alps has risen to a record altitude above the summits this summer as Europe bakes in unprecedented heat. Weather balloons had to rise 5,184 metres above sea level to reach freezing, 70 metres higher than the previous record set in 1995.

Glaciologist Matthias Huss says accelerating global heating, especially in July, has caused freshwater glaciers to melt faster than ever. Wild species accustomed to cold climates are migrating higher and are reaching a point where they have nowhere else to go.

A melting glacier has shifted the border between Switzerland and Italy, putting a mountain lodge that was once entirely in Italy now technically two-thirds in Switzerland.

Wildfires

Wildfires – Europe

Though temperatures have cooled in France and the UK, firefighters are still tackling blazes in Greece, Spain and Italy.

The fires in France’s badly hit south-west have started to be brought under control.

And as the heatwave moves north-east, low water levels are hampering transport on rivers in Germany.

More than 1,000 deaths have been linked to the extremely high temperatures in Portugal while in Spain it is at least 500.

Spain has also been battling multiple wildfires. Though one in the central province of Zamora has been brought under control, according to the local government, two large wildfires are still out of control in the north-western region of Galicia. A fire in the Gredos mountain range is also spreading east towards the Madrid region, the BBC’s Guy Hedgecoe reports. Some 5,600 hectares (13,800 acres) of land have also been burnt in the north-eastern region of Aragon.

In Portugal, some 900 firefighters were fighting two active fires in the country’s far north.

Major fires have also affected Italy in the past days, causing the country to be put on its highest heatwave alert for Thursday. Italian infrastructure has also been heavily impacted, with temporary closure of a key rail route between Rome and Florence, Italian media report.

Wildfires

Wildfires – Europe

On Tuesday the wildland fire danger north of London reached the “Very Extreme” stage. At least 11 wildfires were being attended to across the UK involving almost 100 fire engines.

Hundreds of deaths have been attributed to the heat in Spain and Portugal since last week, and wildfires have forced tens of thousands of people out of their homes there, as well as in France. In southwestern France, wildfires have destroyed at least 19,000 hectares (47,000 acres) as temperatures rose to 108.8 degrees (42.7 Celsius) Monday, when dozens of locations set all-time highs. Conditions eased Tuesday when a cool oceanic air mass arrived overnight.

Wildfires – USA

More than 100 million Americans are under either a heat warning about dangerous conditions or heat advisories amid record temperatures, as 85 major wildfires burn in 13 US states, scorching more than 3m acres.

Officials said on Tuesday that 14 new large fires were reported: seven in Texas, two in Alaska and two in Washington, as well as one each in Arizona, California and Idaho. More than 6,800 wild-land firefighters, and other support staff, were deployed to fires across the US.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

In the Southern Hemisphere: Tropical cyclone 13s (Emnati), located approximately 276 nm north-northeast of Port Louis, Mauritius, is tracking southwestward at 11 knots.

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NewsBytes:

Europe – Record-breaking gusts of up to 122 mph (196 km/h) were recorded in England Friday (Feb. 18) as the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium and parts of the Netherlands and France face their worst storm in over three decades. Trees have collapsed, trucks and cars have toppled on their sides, and thousands of homes have been left without power as the storm Eunice pummeled coastal regions around the Atlantic Archipelago and Europe’s western coasts with wind, snow and heavy rain.

Brazil – Rising rivers and landslide threats have forced dozens of people to evacuate their homes in the state of Espírito Santo, Brazil, over the last few days. At least 2 flood-related fatalities were also reported. Heavy rain began to fall on 15 February 2022. In a 24 hour period to 16 February, Linhares recorded 129.20 mm of rain, Rio Bananal 115.20 mm, Aracruz 103.38 mm and São Mateus 100.20 mm. In the following 24 hour period Ibiraçu recorded 106.20 mm and Aracruz a further 84 mm.

Madagascar – The National Office for Disaster Management (BNGRC) in Madagascar reports that at least 6 people have lost their lives after the passage of Tropical Storm Dumako across the country. Meanwhile yet another storm is forecast to hit Madagascar’s shores some time next week. Tropical Storm Dumako made landfall over the Soanierana Ivongo District in Analanjirofo Region on 15 February 2022. A total of 5,095 people were affected, with 2,982 people displaced and 113 homes destroyed by the storm. Floods damaged a total of 983 homes in the districts of Toamasina I and II in Atsinanana Region. A bridge in Toamasina II district was also damaged by floods.

Global Warming

Europe’s global warming crisis

Europe has experienced abnormally high temperatures throughout the month of December as a consequence of global warming, with France recording a wave of warmth as high as 17 degrees Celsius.

The extremely mild temperatures are a result of climate change. Record high temperatures were experienced in the south, the south-west, the west and the centre of France. A mass of warm air is coming directly from the tropical Atlantic region.

Vegetation needs cold in winter to be able to develop. This is a disturbance for vegetation and ecosystems. If the mild weather persists, what may happen later in the season is that vegetation will develop too early. This will lead to exposure to frosts that may occur later in March and April.

Wildfires

Wildfires – Europe

Wildfires in Italy, Greece and Turkey have burned 230,000 hectares (568,000 acres) with the season just beginning. Last month was the world’s worst July for wildfires since at least 2003 when satellite records began.

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Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

In the Northwest Pacific Ocean: Tropical depression 06w (Champi), located approximately 313 nm south-southwest of Iwo To, is tracking north-northwestward at 06 knots.

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Newsbytes:

Colombia – Civil Defence in Colombia recently reported that over 20,000 people have been affected by heavy rain, floods and landslides across the country over the last 2 weeks. Almost 2,800 homes have been damaged and over 200 destroyed. At least 1 fatality was reported in Meta Department and one person reported missing in Antioquia.

Switzerland – Damaging flash floods swept though villages of Neuchâtel Canton in Switzerland late on 22 June 2021. Roads were ripped up and cars upturned. Fortunately no injuries or fatalities were reported. Local rivers overflowed sending torrents of water, debris and sludge into the streets of the Cressier and Frochaux during the evening of 22 June. Landslides were also reported in the area.

Virginia, USA – Heavy rainfall from 21 to 22 June caused flooding in Cameron and surrounding areas of Marshall County, West Virginia. The county reported damages to businesses, homes, municipal buildings, educational facilities and recreational facilities. Reports soon after the flooding struck suggest around 30 homes and buildings have been damaged. Flood water in parts of the city was up to 5 feet / 1.5 metres deep in places.

Europe – A series of storms brought flash flooding to parts of Poland, Czechia, Germany and Italy from 20 to 22 June 2021. The city of Poznan in western Poland was among the hardest hit areas, where buildings including a hospital were damaged.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

There are no current tropical storms.

Newsbytes:

Sri Lanka – As many as 17 people have now died and over 25,000 displaced as a result of the severe weather in Sri Lanka since 03 June 2021. According to the latest figures from the country’s Disaster Management Centre, (DMC), 10 districts have now been affected by floods, landslides and strong winds.

Europe – Storms brought strong winds, heavy rain and flash flooding to parts of Europe since last week. One weather-related fatality was reported in Germany. In Germany, Rockenhausen in the Donnersbergkreis, Rhineland-Palatinate, saw more than 40 mm of rain in 1 hour on 03 June. More than 180,000 lightning strikes were reported on 04 June. Voelkersleier in Bavaria recorded 59.2 mm of rain in 24 hours to 06 June. Croatia reported that severe flash flooding affected areas of Požega-Slavonia, Zagreb and Bjelovar-Bilogora counties 06 to 07 June. As much as 70 mm of rain had fallen in some locations.

Somalia – In a recent report the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) said that flooding across Somalia has affected about 400,000 people and displaced 101,300 in 14 districts.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

There are no current tropical storms.

Newsbytes:

Malaysia – Almost 2,000 people have evacuated their homes in Malaysia’s Sabah state after flooding struck on 11 January, 2021. The districts of Beaufort (24 displaced), Kota Marudu (710), Kudat (975) and Pitas (47) have all been affected. Levels of the Padas River in Beaufort stood at 9.09 metres as of 12 January, above the danger mark of 8.7 metres. The city of Sandakan recorded 122.6mm of rain in 24 hours to 11 January.

Southeastern Europe – Severe weather including heavy rain and snow has affected areas of South Eastern Europe over the last few days, with flooding reported in parts of Albania, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece. Heavy rainfall in Bulgaria over the last few days increased river levels in Sofia and Pernik Provinces in western Bulgaria. In Montenegro heavy rain damaged buildings in Ulcinj, while in Greece, Civil Protection and the Fire Service responded to incidents of flooding in Ioannina, Arta and Pramata in north-western Greece.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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In the Atlantic Ocean: Tropical Storm Josephine is located about 680 mi…1090 km ese of the northern Leeward islands with maximum sustained winds…40 mph…65 km/h. Present movement…wnw or 300 degrees at 17 mph…28 km/h.

In the Eastern Pacific Ocean: Tropical depression 10e (Ten), located approximately 1359 nm southwest of San Diego, is tracking west-southwestward at 04 knots.

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NewsBytes:

India – As many as 25 people have now died in flooding in the state of Bihar in north eastern India. As of 13 August, 7.7 million people were affected by flooding across 16 districts of the state. Overall, 547,804 people have been evacuated during the floods. As of 13 August, 12,479 people were staying in relief camps.

Sudan – Flooding in Sudan has affected over 180,000 people across 17 states, with over 40 fatalities reported. Recent flooding began in the country after heavy rainfall in late July. Damage was reported in parts of Khartoum and a dam collapsed in Blue Nile state.

Yemen – Ongoing rain and flash floods in Yemen continue to cause casualties and damage. Reports suggest over 130 have died in the flooding since late July, with 35,000 families affected. There are also reports that flooding has moved landmines and other explosive devices into areas not previously contaminated. he recent spate of flooding began in the country after heavy rainfall in late July, damaging infrastructure, destroying homes and shelters and causing death and injuries. Marib, Hajjah, Raymah, Al Mahwit and Al Hudaydah governorates were particularly badly affected.

Europe – After days of high temperatures, heavy rainfall brought by summer storms has caused flooding and landslides in parts of the United Kingdom, France and Italy. In the UK, flash flooding was reported in Scotland after heavy rainfall 11 to 12 August, 2020. The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said it received more than 1,000 emergency calls due to the severe weather. Authorities in Fife declared a “major incident” after flash floods caused severe damage across the region. Evacuations were carried out after a landslide near Kinghorn. Some of the worst of the flooding was in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, where the heavy rain is also thought to have triggered a landslide near which derailed a train. Three people died and 6 were injured in the derailment. Thunderstorms in France caused flooding on 12 August in parts of the northern Normandy Region. Firefighters in the region carried out 464 interventions in the departments of Orne, Calvados and Seine-Maritime. The flooding has disrupted road and rail travel. Meanwhile officials in Italy report that 3 people died and 2 were injured after heavy rain triggered a landslide in Chiareggio, a small village in the Chiesa in Valmalenco municipality, Sondrio Province in the Lombardy Region on 12 August.

Global Warming

Rivers and climate change in Europe

Studying historical documents from 5 centuries, scientists from Vienna University were able to compare flood events from the past with recent flood events in Europe. This combination of historical and hydrological research provides evidence for the strong influence of climate change on rivers and floodings. Floods tend to be larger, the timing has shifted and the relationship between flood occurrence and air temperatures has reversed.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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In the Southern Hemisphere: Tropical cyclone (tc) 16s (Gabekile), located approximately 827 nm south-southeast of Diego Garcia, is tracking east-southeastward at 02 knots.

NewsBytes:

Europe – After battering the UK with force winds and flooding, Storm Dennis moved further north with strong winds and heavy rains which caused flooding, road closures and electricity outages across the Nordic and Baltic regions and forced the cancellation of several ferries between Denmark and Norway. In Denmark, the southwestern city of Kolding was flooded as gale force winds and heavy rains battered the area. In nearby Horsens, police protectively evacuated residents near Bygholm Lake out of fear that a levee would collapse.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

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In the Southern Hemisphere: Tropical cyclone (tc) 15p (Uesi), located approximately 247 nm northwest of Noumea, New Caledonia, is tracking southward at 07 knots.

NewsBytes:

Europe – Storm Ciara caused travel chaos on Monday, severely disrupting commutes and grounding hundreds of flights as swathes of Europe were left without power by torrential rain and winds of up to 180km per hour that also caused flash flooding and the cancellation of sporting fixtures. At least six people have been reported to have died across the region. In one of the most violent storms for years, one man died and another was reported missing in southern Sweden when their boat capsized, while three people were seriously injured in Germany by falling trees and branches. Parts of northern France were put on orange alert and 130 000 homes had electricity cut off. The Netherlands closed one of its big storm surge barriers as the tempest approached on Sunday night. Police said it caused Monday morning traffic jams over 600km’s of roads. Around 220 flights were cancelled during the morning at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport – Europe’s third-busiest – most destined for other European cities. Around 240 never took off on Sunday.

Brazil – Heavy rains in Sao Paulo brought Brazil’s most populous city nearly to a halt on Monday with floods, mudslides and enormous traffic jams. Parts of the city received 100 mm (4 inches) of within three hours, swelling the Tiete River to its highest level in 15 years, according to the state’s infrastructure secretary. Many had to be rescued by rafts or helicopters after waiting hours atop inundated cars, surrounded by muddy water.

Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

In the Western Pacific Ocean: Tropical storm 30w (Phanfone), located approximately 717 nm east-southeast of Manila, Philippines, is tracking west-northwestward at 18 knots.

NewsBytes:

Europe – A one-two punch of winter storms has hit Europe with strong winds and rain over several days, leaving at least nine people dead. The first storm swept across Portugal, Spain, and southern France on Thursday and Friday, and severe flooding hit parts of Britain over the weekend. The storms killed at least seven people in Spain, where high winds also downed power lines, scattered debris on roads and railroad tracks, and forced some flight cancellations. Smaller towns in the north of the country were hit by flooding. Residents were evacuated on Friday from Reinosa, about 240 miles north of Madrid, while others watched from their balconies as vehicles were swept down the streets by the floodwaters.

Wildfires

Wildfires – Europe

Nearly 1,400 fires have hit Europe so far this year compared to an annual average of 174 in the same period over the past ten years. This has resulted in a near five-fold increase in burnt areas. Blazes have so far this year burnt 207,440 hectares. In the decade from 2008-2018, an average of 44,491 hectares had burnt by June 25 every year.

The recent heatwaves alone do not explain higher risk of fire. A number of conditions impact whether fires will spread and intensify. They include the available amount of dry foliage, temperature, overall soil moisture, wind speed and the presence of potential ignition sources, which can be natural — such as lighting — or due to human activity — such as a piece of glass or a smouldering cigarette.