Monthly Archives: October 2018

Typhoons in the Pacific

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It’s been a busy tropical weather season north of the equator this year with a dozen typhoons in the western Pacific, 13 hurricanes in the eastern Pacific, and eight hurricanes in the Atlantic basin which includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

The most recent storm to make landfall was Typhoon Yutu, which has just hit the northern Philippines. Last Thursday it struck the northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory, as a Super Typhoon with 180 mph winds, destroying buildings and killing at least two people.

In the Philippines, where locals call Yutu “Rosita”, the storm has killed at least six people, according to a Washington Post report. Several other people have been reported missing as the storm knocked out power to entire provinces and caused major flooding. Officials say Yutu blew down trees and power lines, and tore roofs off of buildings.  More than 10,000 villagers moved to emergency shelters in several northern provinces.

Yutu is now a weaker tropical storm and could brush the east coast of China later this week, according to the forecast from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

[Freight Waves]

Hurricane Michael one of strongest hurricanes ever to hit US

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Hurricane Michael clobbered and flooded neighborhoods in Florida that were in its path after the Category 4 storm made landfall Wednesday afternoon as one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. According to meteorologists, no Category 4 or 5 hurricane has made landfall in the Florida Panhandle since record-keeping began in 1851.

Shortly before slamming Florida’s Panhandle, Hurricane Michael had strengthened to a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 150 mph that was expected to flood the coast with deadly storm surge. The National Weather Service said the hurricane made landfall just 2 mph away from being classified as a Category 5 storm.

Emergency officials across the region, in fear of their own safety, temporarily stopped responding to 911 calls from residents who hadn’t evacuated. Some area newsrooms lost power, cutting off the flow of information from local journalists covering the storm.

“This is the worst storm that our Florida Panhandle has seen in a century,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said at a news conference at the state’s emergency operations center in Tallahassee.

The storm’s central pressure had plunged the lowest recorded for any hurricane to hit the U.S. except for Hurricane Camille in 1969 and an unnamed hurricane in 1935, which were both storms with Category 5 winds.

Michael is forecast to lash coastal areas of Florida, Alabama and Georgia with as much as 12 inches of rain. Farther inland, damaging winds, torrential rain and life-threatening flash floods are forecast for parts of Georgia and Alabama.

One of the biggest concerns on the coast is storm surge. If the storm moves ashore during high tide, a 130-mile stretch of the coast could see storm surges as high as 14 feet.

Michael could cause as many as 1.8 million customers to lose power in Florida and southern Georgia.

[Los Angeles Times]

12 years to curb climate change

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The latest United Nations report warns that we have just 12 years to curb climate change!

The UN report, which is based on more than 6,000 scientific references from 91 authors across 40 countries, outlines the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

It warns that the world is rapidly running out of time before catastrophic effects on the planet take place. Drafted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN’s climate change body, the report calls for “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

Without action, by the year 2040 ours will be a world of increasing wildfires and droughts, inundated coastlines, the mass die-off of coral reefs, and massive food shortages. Put together, this compendium of global cataclysms will put the lives of “several hundred million” people at risk.

Climate change making humanitarian work harder

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Climate change is already making emergency response efforts around the world more difficult, more unpredictable and more complex, according to the world’s largest humanitarian network.

This warning from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) coincides with the launch of a UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) report that sets out the predicted impacts of both a 1.5°C and a 2.0°C rise in the global average temperature by 2099.

In 2017, IFRC and the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network responded to over 110 emergencies, reaching more than 8 million people. IFRC President Francesco Rocca said: “More than half of our operations are now in direct response to weather-related events, and many others are compounded by climate shocks and stresses. If this is the situation now, then it is difficult to comprehend the scale of crises confronting vulnerable communities in a world that is 1.5°C or 2.0°C hotter.”

Dr Maarten van Aalst, a climate scientist and director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre based in The Hague, added: “Climate remains at the center of the international agenda. In 2018, we have seen lethal heatwaves and wildfires across the Northern Hemisphere, including in unexpected places like eastern Canada, Japan and Sweden. A rapid analysis in July by an international group of climate scientists showed that in some European locations climate change made the heatwave at least twice as likely.”


What’s next for survivors of Indonesian tsunami?

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In the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that flattened entire villages and a tsunami hit this coastal region on the island of Sulawesi, the Indonesian government is shifting its attention to the mammoth task of cleaning up and rebuilding. The twin disasters have caused as estimated $700 million in damage and taken over 2,0000 so far. [Expected to climb to 7000!] Officials say that rebuilding and reconstructing the villages could take months, as engineers and scientists work to guarantee that the new cities will be better able to withstand the frequent quakes. Read about liquefaction

For over 70,000 now homeless survivors, and the many more who have lost loved ones, have a more urgent and daunting task of contemplating what to do next.

Some have crowded the crippled airport looking for coveted spots on flights out of the city. Others have joined caravans of motorbikes and cars streaming south to larger cities.

Most, however, remain scattered at makeshift camps pitched on any patch of open space. Those whose houses have not been destroyed say they are too afraid to return inside, fearful that the weakened structures could collapse, especially if there is a strong aftershock.

Many know, too, that they will be dependent on aids and handouts for weeks to come.

[Washington Post]

A house turned into a pool. A school turned into porridge.

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Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who is leading the rescue effort, visited Balaroa, a village which was wiped out by liquefaction. Residents who once lived here, he said, would be relocated to other areas because it would be impossible to rebuild their villages. The government, he added, will spend about two months focused on emergency responses, including building temporary shelters for those who have lost homes.

Some villages were wiped off the map when the ground turned into a rushing slurry of soil, a phenomenon known as liquefaction. Homes in such villages appear to have turned into a “swamp.”

One resident, Veronika is concerned about her two young sons and possible trauma from what they experienced. One barely speaks, the other cries and mumbles in his sleep.

“Just ask him, ‘where’s the house?’ He’ll say, “it’s turned into a pool,’” she said of her older son. “Or ask him, what grade are you in? He’ll say, ‘the school was turned into porridge.’”

[Washington Post]

The tsunami didn’t destroy Indonesian 1747 homes. Liquified land did.

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Munif Umayar, a survivor of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the city of Palu, took up a laborious search for his house in the ruins of the Balaroa neighborhood. After a long hunt, and hard digging, he finally found it–at least 150 yards from where he guessed he used to live.

That was the power of the earthquake, turning the ground into jelly in a deadly churn that eradicated landmarks and sent buildings flowing sideways even as they were being sucked down into rubble.

Balaroa sustained almost no damage from the ensuing tsunami.

Instead, the neighborhood was laid waste when the earthquake caused a phenomenon known as liquefaction, undermining and destroying at least 1,747 homes in this part of town alone. Balaroa is now a vast wasteland of debris. Rooftops are all that remain of many houses.

This is not to dismiss that an untold number were swept away by the tsunami, especially by the third and final wave that was more than 20 feet high in some places. And many bodies are thought to still be buried under rubble in places like Balaroa.

[New York Times]

Hurricane Florence’s financial toll on US homes and businesses

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Across the three U.S. states hardest hit by Hurricane Florence — North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia — the cost to rebuild is staggering. Here’s a look at the devastation’s price tag:

$45 billion property damage – The top-end estimate of property damage reflects the effects of floodwaters and strong winds on thousands of single-family homes across an enormous disaster zone, according to Moody’s Analytics.

$28.5 billion in flood losses – That’s the maximum estimate of all flood losses across the zone, including from storm surge, rain and rising rivers, an analysis by the firm CoreLogic shows. North Carolina is thought to have suffered most, with $22 billion in losses.

$18.5 billion in estimated uninsured flood loss – As in Hurricane Katrina, most homes and businesses devastated by Florence’s floodwaters were not insured for damage from rising water.

[Source: CNN]

A step toward a smaller carbon footprint

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Burning fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas releases carbon into the atmosphere as CO2 while the production of methanol and other valuable fuels and chemicals requires a supply of carbon.

There is currently no economically or energy efficient way to collect CO2 from the atmosphere and use it to produce carbon-based chemicals and fuels, but researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering have just taken an important step in that direction.

Karl Johnson, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor in the Swanson School’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, led the research group as principal investigator. “Our ultimate goal is to find a low-energy, low-cost metal-organic frameworks (MOF) capable of separating carbon dioxide from a mixture of gases and prepare it to react with hydrogen,” says Dr. Johnson.

Dr. Johnson believes perfecting a single material that can both capture and convert CO2 would be economically viable and would reduce the net amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

“You could capture CO2 from flue gas at power plants or directly from the atmosphere,” he says. “This research narrows our search for a very rare material with the ability to turn a hypothetical technology into a real benefit to the world.”


Ending malnutrition, one sack garden at a time

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In the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, the streets and gutters are flooded with trash. The poor families who live here struggle to put food on the table.

Grace Kwamboka knows this struggle all too well. Each week she spent much of her meager income to buy food to feed her three boys. But Operation Blessing had another solution—a sack garden.

These gardens require very little space and grow bountiful amounts of produce. With these new gardens, Grace can now feed her family without the need to spend money at the market. She can prepare her family healthy, delicious meals right from her own garden.