tagged w/ hydrologic cycle
Deadly floods that have swamped nearly all of the Philippine capital are less a natural disaster and more the result of poor planning, lax enforcement and political self-interest, experts say.
Damaged watersheds, massive squatter colonies living in danger zones and the neglect of drainage systems are some of the factors that have made the chaotic city of 15 million people much more vulnerable to enormous floods.
Urban planner Nathaniel Einseidel said the Philippines had enough technical know-how and could find the necessary financing to solve the problem, but there was no vision or political will.
"It's a lack of appreciation for the benefits of long-term plans. It's a vicious cycle when the planning, the policies and enforcement are not very well synchronised," said Einseidel, who was Manila's planning chief from 1979-89.
"I haven't heard of a local government, a town or city that has a comprehensive drainage masterplan."
Eighty percent of Manila was this week covered in waters that in some parts were nearly two metres (six feet and six inches) deep, after more than a normal August's worth of rain was dumped on the city in 48 hours.
Twenty people have died and two million others have been affected, according to the government.
The deluge was similar to one in 2009, a disaster which claimed more than 460 lives and prompted pledges from government leaders to make the city more resistant to floods.
A government report released then called for 2.7 million people in shantytowns to be moved from "danger zones" alongside riverbanks, lakes and sewers.
Squatters, attracted by economic opportunities in the city, often build shanties on river banks, storm drains and canals, dumping garbage and impeding the flow of waterways.
The plan would have affected one in five Manila residents and taken 10 years and 130 billion pesos (3.11 billion dollars) to implement.
But squatter communities in danger-zones have in fact grown since 2009.
"With the increasing number of people occupying danger zones, it is inevitable there are a lot people who are endangered when these things happen," Einseidel said.
He blamed the phenomenon on poor enforcement of regulations banning building along creeks and floodways, with local politicians often wanting to keep squatters in their communities to secure their votes at election time.
Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Manila, vital forested areas have been destroyed to make way for housing developments catering to growing middle and upper classes, according to architect Paulo Alcazaren.
Alcazeren, who is also an urban planner, said the patchwork political structure of Manila had made things even harder.
The capital is actually made up of 16 cities and towns, each with its own government, and they often carry out infrastructure programmes -- such as man-made and natural drainage protection -- without coordination.
"Individual cities can never solve the problem. They can only mitigate. If you want to govern properly, you must re-draw or overlay existing political boundaries," he said.
Solutions to the flooding will require massive efforts such as re-planting in natural drainage basins, building low-cost housing for the squatters and clearing man-made drainage systems, the experts said.
"It will cost billions of pesos but we lose billions anyway every time it floods," Alcazeren said.
Meanwhile, with Environment Secretary Ramon Paje warning that intense rains like those this week will become the "new normal" due to climate change, there have been concerns about the city's ability to lure and keep foreign investors.
However American Chamber of Commerce president Rhicke Jennings said Manila remained an attractive destination.
"Companies will continue to invest in the Philippines for all its positive qualities," he said, citing well-trained Filipino staff and pointing out there were key parts of the city with good infrastructure that did not badly flood.
Jennings highlighted the rise of the outsourcing sector in the Philippines as evidence that foreigners would not abandon the country because of floods.
Companies such as JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank and Accenture have all set up backroom operations in recent years, mostly in slick new parts of Manila where infrastructure is state-of-the art and which did not flood this week.
More at the linkDeadly floods that have swamped nearly all of the Philippine capital are less a... more
HEAVY rain has pounded North Korea for a second day, submerging buildings, cutting off power, flooding rice paddies and forcing people and their livestock to reach safety on dry rooftops.
The latest rain follows downpours earlier this month that killed nearly 90 people and left more than 60,000 homeless, officials said.
The floods come on the heels of a severe drought, fuelling renewed food worries about a country that already struggles to feed its people.
Two-thirds of North Korea's 24 million people face chronic food shortages, a UN report said last month, while asking donors for $US198 million ($A190 million) in humanitarian aid for the country.
South Korean analyst Kwon Tae-jin said the recent flooding, coming so soon after the dry spell, is expected to worsen the North's food problems.
On Sunday and Monday, rain hit the capital Pyongyang and other regions, with western coastal areas reporting heavy damage.
In Anju city in South Phyongan Province, officials reported 1000 houses and buildings were destroyed and 2300 hectares of farmland were completely covered.
The Chongchon River in Anju city flooded on Monday, cutting communication lines and submerging rice paddies and other fields, said Kim Kwang Dok, vice-chairman of the Anju City People's Committee, who told The Associated Press the disaster is the worst in the city's history.
Boats made their way through the muddy waters that covered the city's streets on Monday. Many residents sat on their homes' roofs and walls, watching the rising water. A young man wearing only underwear stood on a building's roof with two pigs; four women sat on another rooftop with two dogs.
Helicopters flew to various areas to rescue flood victims, state media reported. Casualties from the latest rains were not immediately reported.
If it rains again before the water drains, Kim said, the damage will be greater.HEAVY rain has pounded North Korea for a second day, submerging buildings, cutting off... more
A tropical storm inched across northern Taiwan on Thursday after already dumping up to five feet of rain that has flooded farmland, swollen rivers and paralyzed life on much of the densely populated island of 23 million people.
Saola weakened from a typhoon to a tropical storm by late afternoon, but its slow movement and continuing heavy rains raised the prospect of devastating flooding in areas that have absorbed more than 150 centimeters (58 inches) of rain since Tuesday.
It has caused five deaths and left two people missing in Taiwan after killing 26 people in the Philippines.
In the day in the northeastern county of Ilan, rescuers used rubber boats and amphibious vehicles to help hundreds escape flooded homes.
Dozens of flights were canceled at Taipei's main international airport, where heavy winds destroyed two jetways, and rail transport throughout the island was disrupted. All seven major reservoirs in Taiwan released large quantities of water to prevent flooding.
By nighttime, Saola was centered just off northern Taiwan, moving northwest toward China at 17 kph (10 mph). It had sustained winds of 90 kph (54 mph), gusting to 119 kph (71 mph).
Offices and businesses were closed throughout northern Taiwan. In Taipei, normally busy streets were deserted except for cleanup crews clearing off fallen trees and branches. The Defense Ministry mobilized 48,000 soldiers to help mitigate the storm's impact.
Television footage showed acre upon acre of flooded farmland in low-lying coastal areas, punctuated by scenes of raging rivers and roads blocked by mudslides in the island's mountainous center.
More at the linkA tropical storm inched across northern Taiwan on Thursday after already dumping up to... more
Residents of southwestern Japan are returning home after four days of record rainfall that caused massive flooding.
Hundreds of thousands of people on the island of Kyushu began to clean up Monday, as the death toll from flooding and landslides reached at least 27.
Sunday, Japanese troops airlifted supplies to more than 3,000 people who were stranded in Fukuoka prefecture, southwestern Japan.
More than 90 millimeters of rain an hour fell in Kyoto prefecture in western Japan, flooding hundreds of homes.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said Sunday that the worst is over, but predicted more heavy rain in some areas through Monday.Residents of southwestern Japan are returning home after four days of record rainfall... more
More than 200 flood warnings and alerts were issued by the Environment Agency on Saturday as torrential rain swept the country, causing havoc in many areas.
In East Tynedale, Northumberland, a man in his early 20s was killed after his car plunged off the A68 between Broomley Grange and Healy in heavy rain.
In Yealmpton, Devon, the Yealm burst its banks, flooding more than 40 homes, including some that had six feet of water inside, police said.
The rain led to flooded homes, road closures and havoc on public transport across parts of the country as the latest downpours continued to fall on ground already saturated after three months of record-breaking rainfall.
The RSPCA urged farmers to move livestock from low-lying fields and ensure that animals had access to food and shelter, and told pet owners to keep their animals safe at all times.
Thousands of motor-racing fans heading to the F1 British Grand Prix were warned not to attend the Silverstone race track in Northamptonshire for race qualifying on Saturday after the deluge left car parks unusable and caused long traffic jams near the circuit.
Officials said that they would have the car parks ready for use on Sundayand be able to accommodate all ticket holders.
Craig Woolhouse, the Environment Agency's head of flood incident management, urged people to remain on alert for flooding, especially in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.
"It has been raining heavily and the situation could escalate quite quickly. We would also ask people to remember to stay away from flood water, and do not walk or drive through it, as it is often fast-moving and can contain sewage and other debris."
Many parts of the country received more than half the average rainfall for July in one day, and the Met Office warned that heavy rain was expected to move east overnight, reaching Sussex and Kent on Sunday.
More at the link
http://current.com/green/93697348_a-swing-from-drought-to-deluge-in-texas-and-other-states-in-line-with-broad-scale-climate-predictions.htmMore than 200 flood warnings and alerts were issued by the Environment Agency on... more
The punishing seven-year drought of the 1950s in Texas brought about the modern era of water planning. But the drought of 2011 was the hottest, driest 12 months on record there.
Though only a handful of towns saw their water sources dry up last summer, it got so bad that cities, industries and farmers began to think the unthinkable: Would they run out of water?
With the state's population expected to double by 2060, Texas must begin an expensive and politically charged search for new water sources. No other reservoir in Texas better symbolizes the state's competing demands for water than Lake Travis, nestled in the juniper-covered hills west of Austin.
Marina owners, a nuclear power plant, computer chip makers, rice farmers and the booming city of Austin all depend on Lake Travis and its upstream cousin, Lake Buchanan, for their existence.
Last summer, Lake Travis was nearly two-thirds empty. Today, the drought persists, and the lake is only half full.
Boat ramps lead to nowhere. Weeds encroach where bass used to swim. The views of million-dollar homes look out on boat docks sitting on a bed of dried mud.
Connie Ripley is a Texas homeowners activist. "A lot of people are trying to sell their properties because they're just fed up with Lake Travis," Ripley says. "I mean, we're looking in Colorado right now. It's just not worth the hassle of the lake going up and down and up and down constantly, when it could be managed better."
Ripley and other upstream water users are increasingly concerned over the fact that half of all managed water in Texas goes to agriculture. In the case of Lake Travis, 60 percent of the water released from the dam last year went to farmers 300 miles downstream.
"We had plenty of water last year at the beginning of the season. So the farmers got their water, and they just continued to take all the water they wanted," Ripley says.
That's not the case this year.
In March, the Lower Colorado River Authority, the entity that manages this basin, asked the state for emergency authority to cut off water to the farmers, fearing there wouldn't be enough water for customers such as Austin.
The Franzen brothers raise cattle and rice in Matagorda County, down on the Texas coast, and they depend on the Colorado River to flood their rice fields.
Derril Franzen, in jeans and a cowboy hat, surveys an unplanted field of gray dirt.
"It's the funniest feeling we've had in our life. It's the first year in the history of this ranch that's been producing rice since the early 1900s that we haven't had any water," Franzen says.
Rice farmers don't have a lot of sympathy for people who value Lake Travis for the pretty sunsets.
Haskell Simon is a rice farmer and a spokesman for his industry in the county seat of Bay City.
"Now if those folks feel strong enough they want to take away our livelihood by using water for their recreational and development needs, then perhaps they should be talking to us about how to compensate the farmers for their loss of livelihood, which we've depended on for 110 years," Simon says.
These are the kinds of stakeholders sitting at the table these days, all demanding answers from Becky Motal, general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority.
"2011 got a lot of people interested in the fact that, gee, we need more water," Motal says. "You know, there's more demand on the system, and everybody wants a share of that water."
More at the linkThe punishing seven-year drought of the 1950s in Texas brought about the modern era of... more
North Korea dispatched soldiers to pour buckets of water on parched fields and South Korean officials scrambled to save a rare mollusk threatened by the heat as the worst dry spell in a century gripped the Korean peninsula.
Parts of North Korea are experiencing the most severe drought since record keeping began nearly 105 years ago, meteorological officials in Pyongyang and Seoul said .The protracted drought is heightening worries about North Korea’s ability to feed its people. Two-thirds of North Korea’s 24 million people faced chronic food shortages, the United Nations said earlier this month while asking donors for $198 million in humanitarian aid for the country.
Even in South Phyongan and North and South Hwanghae provinces, which are traditionally North Korea’s “breadbasket,” thousands of hectares (acres) of crops are withering away despite good irrigation systems, local officials said.
Reservoirs are drying up, creating irrigation problems for farmers, said Ri Sun Pom, chairman of the Rural Economy Committee of Hwangju County.
A group of female soldiers with yellow towels tied around their heads fanned out across a farm in Kohyon-ri, Hwangju county, North Hwanghae province, with buckets to help water the fields. An ox pulled a cart loaded with a barrel of water while fire engines and oil tankers were mobilized to help transport water.
The North Korean villages of Kohyon-ri and Ryongchon-ri were among several areas that journalists from The Associated Press visited in recent days.
Pak Tok Gwan, management board chairman of the Ryongchon Cooperative Farm in North Korea, said late last week that the farm could lose half its corn without early rain.
Mountainous North Korea, where less than 20 percent of the land is arable, has relied on outside food aid to help make up for a chronic shortage since a series of natural disasters and outmoded agricultural practices led to a famine in the 1990s. North Korean farmers still face a shortage of fuel, tractors, quality seeds and fertilizer, the U.N. said in a report earlier this month. Many irrigation systems rely on electrically powered pumping stations in a country with unstable power supplies, the report noted.
On Tuesday, North Korean state media reported record-high temperatures in Pyongyang and other cities in the southwest.
South Korean officials also reported the worst drought in more than a century in some areas after nearly two months without significant rainfall, raising worries about damage to crops and a dangerous drop in water levels in the nation’s reservoirs.
“The worst drought in 104 years is causing damage to our agricultural and livestock industries, resulting in price hikes in some farm products,” Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan told a crisis management meeting Tuesday.
Nearly 28,000 South Koreans, including soldiers and local residents, have been mobilized to help water rice paddies and farm fields and more than 13,000 water pumps have been provided to drought-stricken areas, the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said.
South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik picked up a hose to water a field during a visit Tuesday to Hwaseong, south of Seoul. Beneath a blazing sun, dead fish could be seen on the nearly dried-out bed of a reservoir in Bongdam village in Hwaseong.
More at the linkNorth Korea dispatched soldiers to pour buckets of water on parched fields and South... more
Flash floods in Afghanistan triggered by days of torrential rain have killed more than 30 people, officials said Saturday, with dozens reported missing.
Waters swept through villages and parts of the city of Cheghcheran in central Ghor province early on Saturday, engulfing dozens of homes, provincial spokesman Abdulhai Khatibi told AFP.
"So for I can confirm that 24 people have been killed in these floods, but some are also missing," Khatibi said.
The floodwaters also destroyed hundreds of hectares of farmland and displaced hundreds of people in the impoverished province, he said.
In the northeast of the country, two days of torrential rains and hail triggered flooding in the remote province of Badakhshan, killing at least eight and destroying up to 100 houses, the provincial head of the national disaster management authority told AFP.
"This kind of rain and hail is not common at this time of year, so people were caught off guard," Sanaullah Amiri said.
Hundreds of villagers in high-risk areas have been evacuated as a precaution against further flooding, he said.
Afghanistan's harshest winter in 15 years saw unusually heavy snowfalls and experts predicted that rivers swollen by melting snow were likely to flood in the mountainous north in spring.
In May, flash floods in Sari Pul province, which borders Ghor to the north, killed 50 people, mostly women and children.
More at the linkFlash floods in Afghanistan triggered by days of torrential rain have killed more than... more
After a weekend that included navigating streets in kayaks and canoes, residents in parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast sought alternate routes and emergency shelter on Monday as the work week got under way.
With nearly 2 feet (60 cm) of rain reported in some areas since Thursday, flooding has racked up millions of dollars in damage and left thousands without power. Many have been forced into shelters in the face of what some are calling an unprecedented June deluge.
"We've probably seen the worst of the rains in terms of downpours, but now it's transitioning to more of a scattered thunderstorm pattern, so the rain chances aren't declining, and people need to remain cautious," said Jack Cullen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mobile.
Official rainfall totals for the period spanning midnight Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday indicated Mobile received just over 10 inches at the Mobile Regional Airport, and Orange Beach in the far southeast corner of Baldwin County received more than 11 inches during the same period.
But Cullen said the figures were a bit misleading because the heaviest rains - which varied from as little as 5 inches to as many as 23 inches - fell outside official recording sites.
In nearby Pensacola, for instance, only 15.05 inches were recorded officially at the airport during the 48-hour period ending at 8 a.m. Monday, but a personal rainfall gauge 11 miles southwest of the Florida city recorded 23.58 inches during that same period.
Over the weekend, locals in hard-hit parts of the Florida Panhandle, especially around Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, could be seen paddling down streets in kayaks and canoes.
Cullen said a site just south of Mobile recorded a cumulative 22.46 inches of rain between Friday and Monday mornings, and another 1 to 2 inches were expected to fall throughout the day Monday.
"It's going to vary widely from none in some places to more than 2 inches farther south, depending on where the storms train as they redevelop," Cullen said. "Now, we're starting to see the rivers rise, and that will continue as the runoff continues."
Mobile and Baldwin county authorities in southwest Alabama closed numerous roads, especially in lower lying areas throughout the weekend as torrential rains and damaging winds pounded the coast, flooding already saturated communities from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.
More at the linkAfter a weekend that included navigating streets in kayaks and canoes, residents in... more
The sudden shift from drought to heavy rainfall that caused severe flooding in central Cuba drove home to the authorities the need to redesign preparedness and prevention plans for climate-related emergencies.
"These unusually heavy rains in such a short period of time made it necessary for us to update our plans and modify procedures to adapt to climate change-related phenomena," said Inés María Chapman, president of the National Institute of Water Resources (INRH).
The INRH’s responsibilities include acting in a timely manner, with foresight, and the constant monitoring of every dam and reservoir in Cuba.
For example, Chapman described the measures taken to keep the Zaza reservoir and others in the central province of Sancti Spíritus stable as "a real-time exercise in how to act in the face of weather events."
During a tour of the Zaza reservoir, the largest man-made reservoir on the island, the official pointed out that just a few days ago, INRH experts were discussing the possible need to accelerate the well-drilling programme in order to keep up rice production.
The problem was the low level of water in the reservoir, because the forecasts indicated that the drought would continue over the next few months. But the situation changed abruptly, and in less than 48 hours, the Zaza reservoir received more than 800 million cubic metres of water.
Official sources say the danger presented by the reservoir has been documented in the civil defence system’s contingency plans since a storm filled it in an unexpectedly short time in June 1972, while it was still being built, causing severe cracks.
But never before had the reservoir filled up as quickly as it did from Wednesday May 23 to Friday May 25. Last week’s rains made this the rainiest month in the history of the region, with 500 mm of accumulated rainfall – more than 300 percent of the monthly median.
Although May marks the start of the rainy season in Cuba, which runs through October, this month actually ended with a major rainfall deficit on a national level, far below the totals registered in the same month in 1995, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2008, according to sources at the Meteorology Institute's Forecast Centre.
The forecast for this month was for near normal precipitation in all of the country’s regions. And in the case of central Cuba, estimates ranged from 135 to 265 mm - far below the total accumulated after last week’s heavy rains.
Scientists say the effects of climate change will include a rise in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. The biggest threats to Caribbean island nations like Cuba are hurricanes, drought, heavy rainfall and a rise in the sea level.
More at the linkThe sudden shift from drought to heavy rainfall that caused severe flooding in central... more
191,000 people are homeless or have have suffered "significant" damage due to flooding in the Amazon region of eastern Peru, reports the Associated Press.
The flooding is considered the worst in 30 years, inundating croplands and communities along the Amazon River and its tributaries. Last month the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency in Loreto, a region that borders Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil. Now there are reports of a leptospirosis outbreak, which has already killed three people. Hundreds of others have been hospitalized with skin, intestinal, and respiratory problems.
Damage has been exacerbated by new developments in floodplain areas as well as higher than usual rainfall.
Scientists have warned that Peru is likely to experience increased incidence of flooding and drought as a result of climate change. Last week the country adopted a resolution to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions.
"If we don't do something we will have problems with water supplies along the coasts, we know there will be more droughts, more rains ... we are already seeing temperature changes," Mariano Felipe Soldan, head of the government's strategic planning office, told Reuters.
Read more: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0502-peru-amazon-flooding.html#ixzz1tmAjDCeI
More at the link:
http://lh6.ggpht.com/-kZe8MuFoyps/T5R-Ru-HV1I/AAAAAAAAGXI/NkqP3AfAHro/image%25255B5%25255D.png?imgmax=800191,000 people are homeless or have have suffered "significant" damage due... more
Southern England and Wales were on high flood alert Tuesday, with thousands of homes at risk from a deluge that has killed one person after Britain's wettest April in over 100 years.
Rivers were being closely monitored as flood defences held back muddy water from over 25,000 homes, the Environment Agency said. A total of 40 warnings of expected flooding and 152 alerts for possible floods were in place Tuesday.
"There is still a risk of flooding across many parts of England and Wales with particular focus on Somerset, Dorset and Devon," the agency said Monday evening, ahead of a night of thunder and heavy showers.
Forecasters the Met Office said Tuesday that heavy rain was starting to ease but "there will still be a good deal of standing water and a continued risk of localised flooding since river levels remain high".
Provisional Met Office data showed the past month has been the wettest April since records began in 1910. Figures to April 29 showed 121.8mm (4.8 inches) of rain fell on average, almost double the long-term average for April of 69.6mm.
A man and his dog were killed as they tried to cross a flooded ford in Hampshire, in southeast England, on Monday, while in Northamptonshire in central England, 1,000 holidaymakers were evacuated from a caravan park.
Despite the downpour, large parts of Britain remain officially in drought after two dry winters, with householders under instructions to save water where they can.Southern England and Wales were on high flood alert Tuesday, with thousands of homes... more
Climate scientists have been saying for years that one of the many downsides of a warming planet is that both droughts and torrential rains are both likely to get worse. That’s what climate models predict, and that’s what observers have noted, most recently in the IPCC’s report on extreme weather, released last month. It makes physical sense, too. A warmer atmosphere can absorb more water vapor, and what goes up must come down — and thanks to prevailing winds, it won’t come down in the same place.
The idea of changes to the so-called hydrologic cycle, in short, hangs together pretty well. According to a new paper just published in Science, however, the picture is flawed in one important and disturbing way. Based on measurements gathered around the world from 1950-2000, a team of researchers from Australia and the U.S. has concluded that the hydrologic cycle is indeed changing. Wet areas are getting wetter and dry areas are getting drier. But it’s happening about twice as fast as anyone thought, and that could mean big trouble for places like Australia, which has already been experiencing crushing drought in recent years.
More than 3,000 robotic profiling floats provide crucial information on upper layers of the world's ocean currents. Credit: Alicia Navidad/CSIRO.
The reason for this disconnect between expectation and reality is that the easiest place to collect rainfall data is on land, where scientists and rain gauges are located. About 71 percent of the world is covered in ocean, however. “Most of the action, however, takes place over the sea,” lead author Paul Durack, a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said in a telephone interview. In order to get a more comprehensive look at how water is exchanged between the surface and the atmosphere, that’s where Durack and his colleagues went to look.
Nobody has rainfall data from the ocean, so Durack and his collaborators looked instead at salinity — that is, saltiness — in ocean waters. The reasoning is straightforward enough. When water evaporates from the surface of the ocean, it leaves the salt behind. That makes increased saltiness a good proxy for drought. When fresh water rains back down on the ocean, it dilutes the seawater, so decreased saltiness is the equivalent of a land-based flood.
Fortunately, as the scientists make clear, research ships have been taking salinity measurements for decades in most of the planet’s ocean basins, so it’s possible to see where and how fast salinity has been changing. And it turns out that the saltiness has been increasing, especially in the waters surrounding Australia, southern Africa and western South America — all places where drought has increased as well.
The climate models weren’t really wrong, Durack hastened to add. “They’re accurately capturing the spatial patterns in hydrologic changes, and they’ve got the basic physics right. They’re just providing very conservative estimates of how big the changes are, and now we’re starting to understand that.”
More at the linkClimate scientists have been saying for years that one of the many downsides of a... more
The cycle of evaporation and rainfall over the past 50 years has intensified at twice the rate predicted by climate change models, according to a report by US and Australian scientists of ocean salt levels.
The increase in the rate at which the atmosphere moves water from dry spots to wet spots means the world’s dry areas, like Australia, have been getting drier, while wet regions have been getting wetter.
In a paper published today in the journal Science, researchers from CSIRO and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California, report that the “rich get richer” effect in the water cycle marks a clear fingerprint of climate change.
By looking at ocean salinity levels collected by 3,500 robot buoys, known as Argo, the researchers were able to determine which parts of the ocean experienced more rain fall than water evaporation – or vice versa. They found salty areas had been getting saltier and fresh areas fresher. The water cycle had strengthened by 4% between 1950 and 2000 – twice the rate forecast by global climate models.
What happened at sea also applied to land, said Richard Matear, of CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Flagship, because “the ocean … stores 97% of the world’s water, receives 80% of all surface rainfall and has absorbed 90% of the Earth’s energy increase associated with past atmospheric warming.
“Warming of the Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere is expected to strengthen the water cycle largely driven by the ability of warmer air to hold and redistribute more moisture.”
Lead author Paul Durack, a post-doctoral fellow at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said “salinity shifts in the ocean confirm climate and the global water cycle have changed.
“These changes suggest that arid regions have become drier and high rainfall regions have become wetter in response to observed global warming."
The researchers estimated the water cycle could accelerate by 24% by the end of the century, posing a threat to the supply of freshwater in parts of the world.
Dr Susan Wijffels, co-chair of the global Argo project and a co-author on the study, said that although Australia would continue to experience periodic El Nino and La Nina dry and wet spells, there would be “an underlying, long-term change of the background”.
Australia was stuck in the middle of oceanic regions dominated by evaporation, so droughts would become more severe.
“The base climate is going to be drifting … the dry areas are going to become even more water stressed and the wet regions will probably become wetter.”
By Justin Norrie, Editor | 27 April 2012The cycle of evaporation and rainfall over the past 50 years has intensified at twice... more
The disappearance of Arctic sea ice has crossed a "tipping point" that could soon make ice-free summers a regular feature across most of the Arctic Ocean, says a British climate scientist who is setting up an early warning system for dangerous climate tipping points.
Tim Lenton at the University of Exeter has carried out a day-by-day assessment of Arctic ice-cover data collected since satellite observation began in 1979. He presented his hotly anticipated findings for the first time at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London on Monday.
Up until 2007, sea ice systematically fluctuated between extensive cover in winter and lower cover in summer. But since then, says Lenton, the difference between winter and summer ice cover has been a million square kilometres greater than it was before, as a result of unprecedented summer melting. These observations are in contrast to what models predict should have happened.
Despite fears of runaway sea-ice loss after summer cover hit an all-time low in 2007 – opening the Northwest Passage for the first time in living memory – modelling studies based on our best understanding of ice dynamics indicated the ice cover should fully recover each winter. "They suggest that even if the ice declined a large amount in one year, it should bounce back," says Walt Meier of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
Instead, Lenton's research shows a permanent alteration. According to data from the past five years, the Arctic sea ice has not recovered from the 2007 extreme low. "The system has passed a tipping point," he says.
What caused the change is still unclear. Lenton speculates that the exceptional low in 2007 (pictured, above right) might have allowed the ocean to absorb so much heat that a lot of the thicker multiyear ice, which used to persist through the summer, was melted. Alternatively, the loss of ice may have changed air circulation patterns above the Arctic in ways that have similarly "locked in" the change.
More at the linkThe disappearance of Arctic sea ice has crossed a "tipping point" that could... more
2012 Heat Records Demolish Cold Records 14-to-1
It has been a summer to remember. In winter.
Like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace. As Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro says of the current heat wave:
This remarkable warmth is associated with a bulging ridge of high pressure aloft that is exceptionally strong and long-lasting for March. While natural factors are contributing to this warm spell, given the nature of it and its context with other extreme weather events and patterns in recent years there is a high probability that global warming is having an influence upon its extremity.
This year, U.S. heat records have been outnumbering cold records by a stunning amount — 14-to-1 (19-to-1 in March) – as this chart from Steve Scolnik at Capital Climate makes clear:
Monthly ratio of daily high temperature to low temperature records set in the U.S. for every month of 2011 and the first half of March, seasonal ratio for summer and fall 2011, winter 2011-2012 to date, and annual ratio for 2011 and 2012, data from NOAA.
I like the statistical aggregation across the country, since it gets us beyond the oft-repeated point that you can’t pin any one record temperature on global warming. If you want to know the historical ratios, see the 2009 analysis, “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.,” which shows that the average ratio for the 2000s was 2.04-to-1, a sharp increase from previous decades. Gerald Meehl, the lead author and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), explained, “If temperatures were not warming, the number of record daily highs and lows being set each year would be approximately even.”
As Jason Samenow of the Capital Weather Gang notes, this week saw truly “Historic record warm weather“:
Temperatures more characteristic of June have broken hundreds of temperature records over the last several days and promise to continue into the next week in many areas. In some places, temperatures have been an eye-popping 30-40 degrees above normal, nearing or surpassing the warmest temperatures ever recorded so early in the season.
Since Sunday, an amazing 943 new record highs have been broken or tied across the U.S. compared to just 9 record lows
More at the link2012 Heat Records Demolish Cold Records 14-to-1
It has been a summer to remember. In... more
As has been the case in other parts of the country in recent years, the parched region from eastern Texas to northern Louisiana and Arkansas is swinging sharply from experiencing severe drought to facing the risk of potential flooding in a span of just a few short months. Or as climate blogger Joe Romm might colorfully put it, Texas and nearby states may be swinging from “hell to high water.”
Just a few months ago this region was still mired in one of the worst droughts on record. Last year was Texas’ driest on record, and the vast majority of the state was classified as being in severe to exceptional drought. The scorching summer of 2011 only exacerbated the drought by drying out soils and reservoirs more quickly. Oklahoma and Texas both set records for the warmest summers of any state since records began in the U.S. in the late 19th Century.
As I detailed in late February, a wetter pattern has returned to eastern Texas and neighboring states, and drought conditions have eased. A slow-moving storm system is expected to drop several inches of rain in eastern Texas, northern Louisiana and much of Arkansas during the next three days. According to the National Weather Service, parts of northeast Texas and much of southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana may receive up to 4 inches of rain Thursday night, with more to come on Friday. The Weather Service is not yet warning of the risk of major flooding, but some flash flooding is certainly possible where slow-moving thunderstorms hit.
The feast-or-famine nature of rainfall in Texas and the Lower Mississippi River Valley lately is in line with broad-scale climate change projections and observational studies, which show that the hydrological cycle is already starting to intensify, bringing more frequent and severe heavy precipitation events and droughts.
More at the linkAs has been the case in other parts of the country in recent years, the parched region... more
The total volume of water that has melted from all of the world's polar ice sheets, ice caps and mountain glaciers over the past decade would repeatedly fill Britain's largest lake, Windemere, more than 13,000 times, according to one of the most comprehensive studies of the Earth's frozen "cryosphere".
Using a unique pair of satellites that have monitored the disappearing ice over the entire surface of the globe, scientists estimated that some 1,000 cubic miles of ice has disappeared between 2003 and 2010 – enough to cover the US in one-and-a-half feet of water.
The survey found that the melting of the cryosphere has been responsible for raising sea levels by about half an inch over the same period, equivalent to a rise of about 1.5mm a year. This was on top of sea-level increases due to the thermal expansion of seawater caused by rising ocean temperatures.
Data gathered by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), a joint satellite project run by Nasa and the German government, also found that the amount of ice melting from the mountain glaciers and ice caps that were not in Greenland or Antarctica was actually significantly smaller than previous estimates had suggested.
Instead of contributing nearly 1mm of sea level rise per year as previously suggested, some of the Earth's glaciers and ice caps, especially in the Himalayas and other mountain ranges in Asia, were melting significantly slower than expected, contributing about 0.4mm of sea level rise per year – less than half the amount predicted.
One explanation for the previous overestimates could be that most of the glaciers that have been studied intensively are at lower altitudes and therefore more prone to melting. Higher glaciers are colder and less susceptible and yet only 120 glaciers out of 160,000 glaciers and ice caps have been directly measured from the ground.
The GRACE satellite experiment, however, covered the entire globe and found that all the world's glaciers and ice caps combined, apart for those in Greenland and Antarctica, had lost about 148 billion tonnes of ice, or about 39 cubic miles, annually between 2003 and 2010. The individual glaciers on the fringes of Greenland and Antarctic contributed an additional 80 billion tons over the same period, the study published in Nature found.
"This is the first time anyone has looked at all of the mass loss from all of the Earth's glaciers and ice caps with GRACE," said John Wahr, professor of physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who was part of the research team that analysed the satellite data.
"The Earth is losing an incredible amount of ice to the oceans annually, and these new results will help us to answer important questions in terms of both sea-level rise and how the planet's cold regions are responding to global change."
Professor Jonathan Bamber, of Bristol University, said: "Melting glaciers are an iconic symbol of climate change... they seem to have been receding, largely uninterrupted, almost everywhere around the world for several decades."
Cubic miles of ice has disappeared between 2003 and 2010 from polar caps.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/billions-of-tons-of-water-lost-from-worlds-glaciers-satellite-reveals-6672129.htmlThe total volume of water that has melted from all of the world's polar ice... more
Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ) says torrential rain that has caused chaos around the state's south-east on Tuesday is only going to get heavier.
Hundreds of millimetres of rain has been dumped across the Gold and Sunshine coasts and Brisbane, bringing flash flooding, landslips and hundreds of road closures.
Evacuation centres have been opened at Narangba and Deception Bay, north of Brisbane, with about a dozen homes evacuated in Burpengary.
The Bureau of Meteorology says flooding could worsen in some areas with more rain expected across the region overnight and wet weather forecast for the rest of the week.
Police have reported dozens of traffic incidents since the big wet began and officials are warning people to stay out of floodwaters.
EMQ director of operations Warren Bridson says the situation is deteriorating.
"The rain is going to get heavier particularly between Maroochydore and Brisbane city in the next couple of hours, which means our State Emergency Service personnel are escalating their response," he said.
"We've had about 500 calls for assistance up until now and of course that is increasing all the time."
Mr Bridson says emergency crews will work through the night.
"The predictions are... more rain tonight and again tomorrow. I would expect the disaster management systems will escalate tomorrow if that transpires therefore there will be more activities around the local disaster management groups," he said.
He says it will be a long night for residents throughout the south-east.
"We're asking the community to really be aware tonight about what's predicted," he said.
"To take care on the roads and to be patient if they make calls to the State Emergency Service because it's going to be a long, hard night for the SES people in the south-east."
Weather bureau spokeswoman Michelle Berry says the wet conditions are likely to continue until next Tuesday.
"This is certainly quite a severe event that's occurring throughout south-eastern Queensland at the moment," she said.
"We can get these very moist air streams through the summer months.
"It doesn't have the same depth of moisture as what we were seeing through January of last year but it's certainly a very severe event ands that's why we are warning for it continuing into tomorrow also."
More at the linkEmergency Management Queensland (EMQ) says torrential rain that has caused chaos... more
Heavy rains that began overnight Tuesday and poured steadily on Wednesday triggered floods throughout western Oregon on Thursday, with high water pouring over roads throughout Benton County and soggy ground helping to create landslides, downed trees and other weather mayhem.
The winds calmed and the rains eased by Thursday night, but forecasters said that more rain and even stronger winds could be on the way, although intermittently, through the middle of next week.
Area schools and universities were taking no chances, though: Oregon State University’s Corvallis campus will be closed today, as will schools in the Corvallis School District and Alsea. Philomath schools will start two hours late.
The Marys River near Philomath crested on Thursday evening and was expected to fall below flood stage by 10 p.m. today, the National Weather Service said, but it still was causing trouble –as witnessed by the closure of Highway 99W in south Corvallis on Thursday night. At press time, the highway still was closed.
The Willamette River was expected to rise above flood stage at about 1 p.m. Friday, the Weather Service said, and is expected to crest at about 4 p.m. Friday. The forecast was for some flooding of low-lying agricultural land east and south of Corvallis.
Elsewhere in Benton County, the Weather Service said flooding was expected on the Alsea River near Tidewater, where the river was not expected to fall below flood stage until Saturday morning.
Soggy ground was blamed for landslides on Vineyard Mountain that prompted authorities to close Rosewood Drive. An evacuation center was established at Crescent Valley High School.
The forecast calls for up to an inch of additional rain today –but that wouldn’t even come close to a Wednesday rainfall that rewrote the area’s weather records. In the 24 hours ending at 8 a.m. Thursday, 4.02 inches of rain fell at Hyslop Farm outside of Corvallis – easily breaking the previous record for Jan. 19, 2.25 inches, a mark set in 1911.
In fact, Wednesday went into the record books as the third-rainiest day in 101 years, said Kathie Dello of the Oregon Climate Service at OSU. The only other days that saw more than 4 inches of rain in 24 hours were Nov. 19, 1996, when 4.45 inches fell, triggering massive flooding that cut off access to south Corvallis for several days, and Jan. 28, 1965, when 4.28 inches fell.
The effect of the rain was most evident at the Marys River. It reached 21.41 feet Thursday morning, breaking the old record of 20.9 feet, and flooded parts of Corvallis and Philomath. Dello said she wasn’t sure when the old record was set, but thought it was either 2005 or 1996.
Several roads were closed in the Philomath area because of high water spilling out of the Marys, including Chapel Drive and 13th Street. Sections of Greenberry and Bellfountain roads were also closed, and numerous other rural roads around the county had areas of high water.
Coast Range communities were among the first to feel the storm’s punch: Communities on the range were isolated by power failures that began earlier in the week, when heavy, wet snow snapped branches into power lines.
Kathi Downing, who lives in Nashville and writes a column about the Coast Range for the Gazette-Times, said that electricity was out Tuesday night for hours, then from 6:30 a.m. Wednesday to 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
“We had downed branches all over the place,” she said. Along with the electrical outages, phone service also went down, cutting residents off from communications.
“We don’t get cell service out here,” she said. “That’s country life.”
The Alsea School District closed schools and its playing fields and some buildings were flooded. Power outages also prompted closure of the Eddyville Charter School and the Blodgett Elementary School.
Power also was out for a time in northeast Corvallis on Thursday, when an area around Cheldelin Middle School suffered flooding.
Floodwaters in that area were receding Thursday night, leaving Corvallis officials most worried about the continued closure of Highway 99W in South Corvallis – a closure that brought back memories of the 1996 flood.
But Roger Irvin, the Benton County director of public works, said county officials believed the worst of the flooding might be over.
“At this point we’re not expecting any significant increases from what we have now,” Irvin said.Heavy rains that began overnight Tuesday and poured steadily on Wednesday triggered... more