Posts Tagged ‘hurricanes’

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Idiots (and they are idiots) who seek to deny climate change reality may care to note, as the BBC have, that the United States experienced a record year of losses from fires, hurricanes and other weather related disasters in 2017, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Total losses amounted to $306bn the agency said, over $90bn more than the previous record set in 2005.

Making the point that refusing to address climate change is not only idiocy, it’s very expensive idiocy, economically, too.

Last year saw 16 separate events with losses exceeding $1bn, including Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

NOAA also confirmed that 2017 was the third warmest year on record for the US. Only 2012 and 2016 were hotter.

Last year witnessed two Category 4 hurricanes make landfall in the States.

Hurricane Harvey produced major flooding as a result of a storm surge and extreme rain. Nearly 800,000 people needed help. Researchers have already shown that climate change increased the likelihood of the observed rainfall by a factor of at least 3.5.

Noaa says the total costs of the Harvey event were $125bn, which is second only to Hurricane Katrina in terms of costs over the 38 years the record has been maintained.

Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 storm for the longest period on record. Rain gauges in Nederland, Texas, recorded 1,539mm, the largest ever recorded for a single event in the mainland US. Hurricanes Irma and Maria cost $50bn and $90bn respectively.

As well as hurricanes, there were devastating fires in western states, particularly in California. While last winter and spring saw heavy rains in the region that alleviated a long-term drought, the resulting boom in vegetation created abundant wildfire fuel. Deadly fires in both the north and south of California meant hundreds of thousands of residents had to be evacuated from their homes.

The report from NOAA says that across the US, the overall cost of these fires was $18bn, tripling the previous wildfire cost record.

“In the general picture the warming [of the] US over the long term is related to the larger scale warming we have seen on the global scale,” said Deke Arndt, chief of NOAA’s monitoring section.

“The US will have a lot more year to year variability so that it bounces up and down depending on prevailing weather regimes. But the long term signal is tied with long term warming.”

The eastern US has been experiencing an extreme cold snap, also one of the side effects of global climate change, leading some, such as US president Donald Trump, to query the impact of global warming.

But the stats don’t lie. Temperatures in most regions of the world were above the 1981-2010 average – especially in the Arctic. On the island of Svalbard, the city of Longyearbyen repeatedly experienced mean monthly temperatures more than 6 degrees C above the long-term mark.

In November last year the World Meteorological Organisation issued a provisional bulletin stating that 2017 was likely the second or third warmest year on record. That prediction will be clarified in the coming days and weeks as various agencies around the world publish their data for the full year.

There are usually some small differences between the datasets held by the different national bodies based mainly on their coverage of the polar regions and and in their estimates of sea-surface temperature.

Meanwhile, Australia swelters yet again, with our first serious fires of the season, and often having to endure temperatures in the 40s. And our politicians continue to fiddle while the country, quite literally, burns.

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So Hurricane Patricia has come and gone without causing the widespread chaos in Mexico that was feared. Thankfully not a single fatality has been recorded, and surely the weather forecasters and the Mexican Government deserve credit for better forward planning and better disaster management protocols.Thousands of residents and tourists ended up in improvised shelters, but many felt they had escaped lightly. Nice to have some good news to report for a change.

The 1959 hurricane killed 1800 people.

The 1959 hurricane killed 1800 people.

With past experiences in mind, Mexico prepared for the worst as Patricia approached. Before and after the hurricane, warnings blared on radio and television broadcasts across the region, and government pickup trucks with loudspeakers made their way through neighborhoods.

Tens of thousands of people along the coast were evacuated into shelters and out of the danger zone. Some piled into cars and buses; others took government-provided flights and ground transportation.

States of emergency were declared in Colima, Nayarit and Jalisco states, which include the tourist resorts of Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.

About 3,000 soldiers and more than 800 federal police officers were dispatched to the area. More than 1,200 shelters were set up, able to accommodate 240,000 people. Schools were closed and three airports shut down.

The alternative was starkly demonstrated the only other time a Category 5 hurricane hit the area.

The 1959 Mexico hurricane was the only other Pacific storm in recorded history to make landfall at Category 5 intensity. In addition, with 1,800 fatalities, it was the deadliest eastern Pacific tropical cyclone on record.

First observed south of Mexico on October 23, the cyclone tracked northwest. It intensified into a Category 3 hurricane on October 25 and reached Category 4 intensity the following day. After turning toward the northeast, the hurricane attained Category 5 status and made landfall near Manzanillo, Mexico. The system continued on that trajectory prior to dissipating on October 29.

Impact from the hurricane was severe and widespread. Initially forecast to remain offshore, the system instead curved northeast and moved ashore, becoming one of Mexico’s worst natural disasters at the time. Up to 150 boats were submerged. Countless homes in Colima and Jalisco were damaged or destroyed, large portions of the states were inaccessible by flash flooding, and hundreds of residents were stranded. All coconut plantations were blown down during the storm, leaving thousands without work and instating fear that it would take the economy years to recover.

Torrential rainfall across mountain terrain contributed to numerous mudslides that caused hundreds of fatalities.

In the aftermath of the cyclone, convoys delivering aid were hindered by the destruction. Residents were vaccinated to prevent the spread of disease. Overall, the hurricane inflicted at least $280 million (in US$ 1959 value) in damage.

It’s good to know we’re getting better at predicting and handling severe weather events. As climate change kicks in, they will become increasingly common, and increasingly deadly.