Welcome to Week 37 and the new normal! This week, I’ve also published a video announcement about some exciting and major changes happening to me and this blog. It’s more conversation than concise “announcement.” I talk about issues that are critical to all of us in the field of journalism where climate change coverage is concerned. It’s 12 minutes long and I’d be honored if you’d carve out a little time to watch it and learn more about my new project, the business model it’s based on, and why I’m even doing it in the first place:
Climate Change & Journalism: A conversation about this bad relationship and some ideas that may help
Biblical Rains Lead to Deadly Colorado Floods
The nation watches heartbroken as the news continues out of Colorado which is experiencing “Biblical Rains” according to the National Weather Service…but Biblical floods too. As of Monday, September 16th USA Today reports the number of missing persons in the wake of the floods has climbed to over 1,200. Additional rain over the weekend has hindered rescue efforts by grounding helicopters and slowing evacuations but even then, there haven’t been so many helicopter evacuations since Katrina.
Scientists believe that climate change had an impact on the disaster, which struck during what is typically one of the driest months of the year for Colorado. They also theorize that drought and wildfires contributed to the flooding: the dry soil was unable to absorb as much water, and the lack of vegetation (due to wildfires) also meant one less natural flood deterrent. Below is aerial footage shot by Payton Peterson in the aftermath of the floods- an entire neighborhood is submerged. It’s jaw dropping:
A couple of months ago I was writing about the monsoons in India, responsible for massive flooding that killed over 6,000. As we’re feeling the pain for our fellow Americans in Colorado, we should also reflect on 100-yr flooding that’s occurred in Eastern Europe, Canada and Far Eastern Russia and China. Speaking of….
Historic Russian Floods that won’t go away
Meanwhile, in the Eastern hemisphere, the historic floods along the Russian-Chinese boarders, which I reported on in Week 34’s blog is causing tremendous pain to so many. Over 23,000 people were evacuated from their homes. The flooding is so epic it can be seen in satellite images and are already being considered the most prolific in Russian history. Perhaps most remarkable is that the waters are in no hurry to recede, leaving desperate residents homeless and stranded. According to Vladimir Putin, if you look closely at the Satellite images, you can see rooftops under the water and he says, “This does make you realize you’re dealing with a disaster.” China has not escaped unscathed by the flooding either- 85 deaths have been attributed to the floods and 1.4 million acres of farmland have been destroyed as a result of the heavy rains.
Early Fire Season Threatens Sydney Neighborhoods. Firefighting Budgets in Australia Slashed
Yet again…Australia is being dowsed, flooded and burnt! Al Jazeera reports that after the warmest 12 month period on record, the wildfire season is starting extremely early. 500 firefighters have already been deployed to combat blazes, 40 of which began on the same day.
The three months ending February 28, 2013 were the hottest summer months ever recorded in Australia. This brought unprecedented heatwaves, bushfires and floods, which a government commission dubbed the ‘Angry Summer’.
Victoria and Tasmania have seen almost 3 inches of rain. As most of you know, Australia elected “socially conservative, overtly religious” Tony Abbott, (phrase lifted from Christian Science Monitor’s profile on Abbott) another climate denying Prime Minister. And the Guardian writes about how Australia has dramatically slashed funding to firefighters. I’m hardly pointing fingers. Here in California, we know what that’s all about!
Clover Fire in California destroys 68 homes
On the tail of the Rim Fire in Yosemite comes another massive blaze, this one called the “Clover Fire” further north in California near Redding. On Monday, the fire exploded at rates of 500 acres per hour. Firefighters were finally able to contain the massive blaze on Sunday September 15th, after it burned nonstop for almost a week. One man was killed, 68 homes were destroyed and 13 square miles were charred as a result. We have yet to see what the long term effects of these major wildfires will be, and if we can expect events like this to become part of the “new normal” for the American West…
Tropical Storm Man-yi Inundates Japan
Al Jazeera reports that nearly 300,000 people were evacuated from their homes to escape landslides and flash floods brought on by heavy rain. Tropical Storm Man-yi whipped over Japan with winds over 100 miles per hour and dropped nearly 4 inches of rain over many parts of the country. Around 65 people have been injured and hundreds of homes have been destroyed.
To make matters worse the weather system is moving towards Northern Japan, including Fukushima. If the heavy rain continues there, more contaminated water from the infamous nuclear power plant may leak out into the surrounding area.
Climate Change May Extend West Nile Virus Season
Climate Central reports that new research shows a correlation between a changing climate and the frequency of West Nile Virus outbreaks in the US. It all has to do with the mosquitoes that carry the disease: In areas where climate change causes drought or torrential rainfall, the number of mosquitoes will decrease due to poor living conditions for them (and thus the West Nile risk will decrease).
However, a number of areas are also going to be made prime real estate for the mosquitoes due to warmer temperatures year round and slightly more precipitation. More mosquitoes equal more transmitters of the disease, and experts predict an extension of the West Nile season as a result of this climate shift. South Carolina, Tennessee, and northern Georgia may be the hardest hit states.
Climate Denial in London Newspapers Sparks Outrage
Conservative newspapers The Daily Mail and Telegraph published stories that were skeptical of climate change as a result of relatively cooler Arctic temperatures this year causing a rise in sea ice. “And now it’s global COOLING!” screamed the Daily Mail headline, and both articles quickly circulated around the internet. However, experts are quick to assert that this “cooling” is still part of a long term warming trend and that climate change is far from over. The Alaska Dispatch notes that “while the Arctic sea ice in August stretched farther than it did 12 months ago, it remained hundreds of thousands of square miles below the long-term average, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).”
“It was very irresponsible reporting on their part,” said Ted Scambos, a glaciologist quoted in the Alaska Dispatch coverage. “They know what they’re saying and how they are saying it, and to say what they said they had to cherry pick facts.”