Week 34 – Philippines’ Storm Woes, Devastating Global Floods, Idaho Forest Fire and More…

Ever since I started these weekly downloads of climate change events, I’m stunned by the amount of extreme weather each week.  Surely NEXT week will be a calm one around the globe, but each new week has a series of unbelievable event to report. The floods in northeastern China and neighboring Russia are awesome in their magnitude. And 51 fires are currently burning across the western US. The National Interagency Fire Center upped the national wildfire preparedness level to 5…basically putting firefighters on war footing.  All is not calm around the globe.  Maybe next week?

Next week, I’m taking a vacation, so there won’t be a blog (it’d be nice if extreme weather took a vacation too) but the following week I’m going to start doing video reports!  I’m not sure why I haven’t done them sooner, it’s a more comfortable format for me than writing given my background.  So, check back!

By the way, a new feature this week…all photos in this graphic are clickable to their original source:

Week 34 in Photos

Philippines Floods Image Source China Floods Image Source Russian Floods Image Source Yemen Floods Image Source Idaho Fire Image Source Image Source San Luis Reservoir Shortage

Philippines Slammed By 2nd Storm

Last week I wrote about massive Typhoon Utor causing havoc in the Philippines.  This week it’s tropical storm Maring, which has put 70% of Manila under water at one point!  Different names have been attributed to this same storm system as it’s moved over the Pacific and intensified from a tropical storm to a typhoon (it became Typhoon Trami upon making landfall in China). Flooding as a result of Maring while it was still a tropical storm has caused over 130,000 people to evacuate and left an additional 18 people dead.

Source: CNNInquirer News, Weather.com, CBC.

More than 200 Dead After Multiple Chinese Floods

Many of the storms that hit the Philippines move on to China.  Typhoon Utor certainly did, causing mudslides and heavy flooding across Hunan, Guangxi and the Guangdong province (neighboring Hong Kong). Over 20 were killed in this incident and thousands were stranded.  So that’s southern China but up north near Russia, the worst flooding in 3 decades has killed 85 people and left 102 missing.  Typhoon Trami, which devastated Manila as a tropical storm, mercifully caused only minor damage and flooding in coastal parts of China.

Source: Jakarta Globe, Weather.com, CBC.

23,000 Russians Evacuated in Worst Flooding in a Century

The same weather patterns causing flooding in Northeast China also had a devastating impact in neighboring Russia’s Far East. In the Russian Amur region, unprecedented floods have caused the evacuation of over 19,000 people and the destruction of half the area’s crops. Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of the affected area, told news outlets that “Five hundred kilometres of roads have been destroyed, bridges are destroyed, [and] 38 villages have been cut off.” Relief workers are rushing to contain the flood waters as quickly as possible because flooding is expected to continue over the course of the week. The Amur River, which has flooded the city of Khabarovsk, is predicted to rise up to 26 feet- posing a threat to main roads and energy infrastructure.

Although there have been no fatalities reported, the damage done by the flood will have lasting consequences on the region. “Our [home] is basically swimming… People’s garages are submerged to the roof. All in all, everything is terrible” reported one woman whose home was underwater. In addition to losing power in some areas and a great deal of crops, almost half of coal stockpiled for winter was lost. In the words of another concerned local: “How are we going to survive the winter? We don’t even know when the water will subside.”

Source: AFP, The Guardian

Yemen Floods, Lightning Kill 50, Sweep Away Wedding Party

Over the past week lightning and flash floods have killed more than 50 people in Yemen, 27 of whom were in a wedding convoy swept away by surging flood waters. The bride survived, and rescue crews are continuing to search for other members of the party. Flash floods have been so strong elsewhere that motorists in the Udayn district have gone missing after water carried away their cars. Flash floods have been so strong elsewhere that motorists in the Udayn district have gone missing after water carried away their cars.

Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, is prone to monsoon downpours. But the combination of extreme weather and crippling lack of infrastructure to withstand such storms causes heavy damage to the country at this time of year.

Source: Al Jazeera, AFP.

Silicon Valley Water Shortage as San Luis Reservoir Falls to 17% Capacity

Yet another reservoir in the American West is falling victim to climate change: this time the San Luis reservoir, which provides water for Silicon Valley and surrounding communities, is currently at 17% capacity. When full, it holds enough water for 10 million people for a year- but now the water level is so low you can actually see the intake pipes above water in some areas.

The San Luis Reservoir is so low due to California’s record-setting dry spell and federal regulations that limited the transfer of water from another reservoir to fill San Luis. The smallest amount of rain and snow on record fell on the Sierra Mountains between January and April of this year, which in turn meant far less runoff to refill the San Luis.  Apparently people have actually been calling the water district and asking what’s wrong with the water because it tastes musty when the water line is that low.  Ewww.

Source: San Jose Mercury News.

Idaho Forest Fire Burns 101,000 Acres, Rages For 12 Days and Counting

FiresWeek34 A massive forest fire is raging across central Idaho, forcing the evacuation of 2,000 homes and burning 101,000 acres to date. The National Interagency Fire Center upped the national wildfire preparedness level to 5… putting firefighters in the Western US on a war zone  preparedness level, the first time since 2008.  Firefighters are struggling to contain the blaze, which was ignited by lightning on August 7th. Over 1,100 people are currently fighting the fire.

According to US News, “Wildfires burning in Oregon, Idaho and Montana are taxing national firefighting resources and helping to push spending past $1 billion for the year.”  Perhaps someone didn’t tell mother nature about the sequestration which cut firefighting budgets by 5% this year? Compliments of NOAA, an amazing modeling of how the smoke looks from 51 separate fires currently burning in those states. See video below.

Time magazine touches on, perhaps, the biggest tragedy of the Idaho fires:

“For rockers Huey Lewis and the News, smoke from the massive Sun Valley, Idaho, wildfire known as “the Beast” had band members who famously worried about the heart of rock and roll worrying about their lungs.”

Meanwhile, here in California, twice as much acreage has burnt as this time last year.  It’s a bad fire season already and the Rim Fire near Yosemite shut down the main west entrance to the park as nearly 16,000 acres burnt.

Sources: Huffington Post, Boise State Public Radio, Climate Central, SFGate, TIME

IPCC’s Latest Report Leaked, Shows Alarming Findings On State of Global Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had an early draft of its upcoming 5th assessment of our changing climate leaked earlier this week. The draft immediately caused a stir, most notably for the severity of the IPCC’s findings. In contrast to earlier reports, contributing scientists are “95 percent to 100 percent confident that human activity is the primary influence on planetary warming” and warn that sea levels could rise by over three feet by 2100.

Although an IPCC spokesperson quickly pointed out that “premature” to draw conclusions from a report that is still undergoing revisions, experts believe that the draft’s contents are unlikely to change substantially.

Sources: National Geographic, The New York Times.

New Report: Heatwave impacts to quadruple by 2040

German and Spanish scientist are predicting that extreme heat waves are expected to double by 2020 and quadruple by 2040 regardless of how much CO2 goes into the atmosphere. Dim Coumou, the study’s lead author, went on to warn that “In many regions, the coldest summer months by the end of the century will be hotter than the hottest experienced today” unless greenhouse gases are curbed. Coumou’s study is far more alarming than the IPCC’s comments on heatwaves, which simply stated “It is very likely that the length, frequency, and/or intensity of warm spells or heatwaves will increase over most land areas” this century.”

Al Jazeera forecaster Richard Angwin understands why some people may enjoy the hot weather caused by heatwaves, but warns:

“Leaving aside the physical stress caused by dealing with prolonged hot weather, heatwaves have major implications for agriculture, energy and water resources. In poorer, less developed parts of the world famine, political tensions and migration can all result from heatwaves.”

Source: Al Jazeera.

Study Finds Floods Will Cost Coastal Cities $1 trillion by 2050

Stephane Hallegatte of The World Bank and a group of colleagues recently published a report that by 2050 flooding will cause up to $1 trillion in damages per year as the sea level rises. The report goes on to point out that 40% of this damage will be done to four specific cities: New Orleans, Miami and New York and the Chinese city of Guangzhou. In the American cities specifically, wealth is high but protection for flooding is poor- leaving more valuable commodities endangered by the possibility of floods.

Even in the best-case scenarios the World Bank predicts a high price tag on flooding. The paper’s author’s argue that with enough preparation annual flood losses in cities around the globe could be cut to $63 billion a year.

Source: The Guardian.

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