Tag Archives: storms

Natural barriers protect coasts best

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The various forms of defence against the sea which the natural world has developed are usually better than any human replacement, researchers say. LONDON, 18 July – The best thing to protect your property from the sea is a sand dune – or a mangrove swamp, or a coral reef, kelp forest or sea grass meadow. Nature, which has been doing the job for three billion years, has had time to work out the surest and most enduring sea defences, according to US researchers. Katie Arkema of the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University in California and colleagues found that the conservation of natural habitat could reduce by half the people and property at risk from coastal storms. As planetary temperatures rise and the ice caps retreat, sea levels are expected to rise: more frequent or more intense storms and flooding are also forecast. In total, 23 of the 25 most populous counties in the US are on the coasts. Coastal engineering is expensive, and anyway may not be the best solution. The researchers mapped the US coastline and calculated exposure to risk by 2100 to a resolution of one square kilometre. They factored in a number of scenarios for sea level rise and climate change. They also considered the densities of populations of the poor and the elderly and families with small children – those people most vulnerable to coastal storms. They report in Nature Climate Change that they looked at natural habitat and began to assess its value in protecting coasts: in many cases, of course, development has removed this natural protection. Notoriously, Louisiana lost vast tracts of wetlands in the 20th century, and with it the natural protection for New Orleans against storm surges of the kind that arrived in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina.

“The natural environment plays a key role in protecting our nation’s coasts”

But they found that 67% of the US coastline was protected by natural habitat. Inevitably, much natural protection had also been lost. “Today, 16% of the US coastline comprises `high hazard’ areas, harbouring 1.3 million people, 250,000 elderly, 30,000 families below the poverty line and US$300 billion in residential property value”, the researchers say. There clearly is a case for coastal engineering. Urban areas and ports need breakwaters, and shoreline communities need some kind of protection. After Superstorm Sandy battered and flooded New York in 2012, two beach communities in New Jersey discovered to their surprise that they had been protected by a sea wall built in the 19th century, and long since buried and forgotten. But the Stanford-led researchers argue that such structures are costly, difficult to maintain and may not be as effective as a natural buffer. “The natural environment plays a key role in protecting our nation’s coasts”, said Dr Arkema. “If we lose these defences, we will have to have either massive investment in engineered defences or risk greater damage to people and billions in property.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE The various forms of defence against the sea which the natural world has developed are usually better than any human replacement, researchers say. LONDON, 18 July – The best thing to protect your property from the sea is a sand dune – or a mangrove swamp, or a coral reef, kelp forest or sea grass meadow. Nature, which has been doing the job for three billion years, has had time to work out the surest and most enduring sea defences, according to US researchers. Katie Arkema of the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University in California and colleagues found that the conservation of natural habitat could reduce by half the people and property at risk from coastal storms. As planetary temperatures rise and the ice caps retreat, sea levels are expected to rise: more frequent or more intense storms and flooding are also forecast. In total, 23 of the 25 most populous counties in the US are on the coasts. Coastal engineering is expensive, and anyway may not be the best solution. The researchers mapped the US coastline and calculated exposure to risk by 2100 to a resolution of one square kilometre. They factored in a number of scenarios for sea level rise and climate change. They also considered the densities of populations of the poor and the elderly and families with small children – those people most vulnerable to coastal storms. They report in Nature Climate Change that they looked at natural habitat and began to assess its value in protecting coasts: in many cases, of course, development has removed this natural protection. Notoriously, Louisiana lost vast tracts of wetlands in the 20th century, and with it the natural protection for New Orleans against storm surges of the kind that arrived in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina.

“The natural environment plays a key role in protecting our nation’s coasts”

But they found that 67% of the US coastline was protected by natural habitat. Inevitably, much natural protection had also been lost. “Today, 16% of the US coastline comprises `high hazard’ areas, harbouring 1.3 million people, 250,000 elderly, 30,000 families below the poverty line and US$300 billion in residential property value”, the researchers say. There clearly is a case for coastal engineering. Urban areas and ports need breakwaters, and shoreline communities need some kind of protection. After Superstorm Sandy battered and flooded New York in 2012, two beach communities in New Jersey discovered to their surprise that they had been protected by a sea wall built in the 19th century, and long since buried and forgotten. But the Stanford-led researchers argue that such structures are costly, difficult to maintain and may not be as effective as a natural buffer. “The natural environment plays a key role in protecting our nation’s coasts”, said Dr Arkema. “If we lose these defences, we will have to have either massive investment in engineered defences or risk greater damage to people and billions in property.” – Climate News Network

Caucasus Climate Causes Concern

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Kieran Cooke, one of our editors, is in Armenia in the Caucasus region, looking at how possible changes in climate will affect the small, landlocked nation. THE ARARAT VALLEY, ARMENIA, Friday, 20 June – It happened as Tigran Gasparian and his family were having lunch.  A massive black cloud turned day to night in minutes. Then the hail hammered on the roof. “It was deafening”, says Tigran.  “I’ve never seen anything like it. The winds swirled around – like a tornado.  It went on for 45 minutes. At the end the hail was falling in big pieces like bits of broken glass. We knew all our crops had been destroyed.” Farmers here have heard talk of climate change: many say the summers – when temperatures can reach near to 40C – are becoming hotter while winters are getting colder. “Maybe the climate is changing” says Anoosh, Gasparian’s wife. “Or maybe the hail was sent by God as punishment for the way our country is chopping down its forests and destroying its landscape.” Armenia, a small country in the South Caucasus region with a population of a little over three million, is highly dependent on its agriculture and is famous for its fruits and herbs.  Agriculture accounts for about 20% of gross domestic product.   Cut to shreds Most of the country’s 340,000 farms are relatively small with plots of one hectare or less: there is little spare cash to fall back on when crops fail. “Our apricots, peaches, watermelons, and tomatoes were cut to shreds ” says Tigran. “Usually we’d harvest about 35 tonnes of grapes – this year we’ll be lucky if we have 50 kilos.” The Gasparian land is in the Ararat Valley, about an hour and a half’s drive from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. Sitting under the shade of cherry trees – a cuckoo calling in the distance and the snow capped peak of Mount Ararat in Turkey on the horizon – it is, in many ways, a perfect pastoral scene. But life here is tough. Produce has to be taken along badly potholed roads to the capital. Armenia, till 1991, was part of the old Soviet Union. For many farmers, adjusting to a market economy has not been easy. Many are leaving the land: both the Gasparian’s sons – now in their twenties – are going soon to jobs in Russia. “With our crops destroyed, there is nothing for us here” says one.   Changing weather There are often hailstorms in Armenia and throughout the rugged and mountainous Caucasus region but the ferocity of this one – happening in mid May when crops were just coming to life – was highly unusual. Armenia is a mountainous country with a generally arid climate and is judged to be particularly vulnerable to changes in climate.  Zaruhi Petrosyan is a meteorologist at Armenia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations. “Usually hailstorms last for only five or seven minutes” she says. “This was a very strange meteorological phenomenon. There are changing weather patterns in some regions but just how significant these are is difficult to estimate.” Mrs Petrosyan says while calculations are changing all the time, Armenia is likely to see temperatures rise by between one and four degrees centigrade by century’s end though average rainfall is likely to drop by six per cent. But international bodies predict a far greater degree of change. A report in 2009 by the Stockholm Environment Institute together with the United Nations Development Programme talked of “enormous” changes in Armenia’s climate over the next century, with likely increases in temperatures of 4.5 C in the lowlands and 7C in the highlands by 2100. Water supplies – already a serious problem in many areas – are likely to come under increased strain as rainfall decreases, said the report, causing agricultural production to fall by nearly 10%.   Money to Survive Vardan Hambardzumyan is president of the Armenian Federation of Agricultural Associations. “We are fully aware how climate change will affect agriculture” he says. “We have to safeguard our water and land resources: we have to protect our forests. Armenia plays a very small role in the problem of climate change – but that doesn’t mean we should be ignorant of its impacts.” Hambardzumyan says there’s a need to develop new seeds to resist rising temperatures and to use cattle better able to withstand the heat. “We also need innovative technology – and help from international organisations.” Meanwhile the farmers in the Ararat Valley who lost their crops due to the freak hailstorm are insisting that the government gives them financial support. “We don’t live in luxury” says one farmer. “All we’re asking for is money to survive through the year.” Another farmer points to one of his prize cherry trees:  “Usually I’d get a hundred kilos from this tree. My cherries were famous. People would queue up for them. This year I’ll maybe get a couple of buckets. The rest go to the pigs – and even they are fed up and don’t eat them.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Kieran Cooke, one of our editors, is in Armenia in the Caucasus region, looking at how possible changes in climate will affect the small, landlocked nation. THE ARARAT VALLEY, ARMENIA, Friday, 20 June – It happened as Tigran Gasparian and his family were having lunch.  A massive black cloud turned day to night in minutes. Then the hail hammered on the roof. “It was deafening”, says Tigran.  “I’ve never seen anything like it. The winds swirled around – like a tornado.  It went on for 45 minutes. At the end the hail was falling in big pieces like bits of broken glass. We knew all our crops had been destroyed.” Farmers here have heard talk of climate change: many say the summers – when temperatures can reach near to 40C – are becoming hotter while winters are getting colder. “Maybe the climate is changing” says Anoosh, Gasparian’s wife. “Or maybe the hail was sent by God as punishment for the way our country is chopping down its forests and destroying its landscape.” Armenia, a small country in the South Caucasus region with a population of a little over three million, is highly dependent on its agriculture and is famous for its fruits and herbs.  Agriculture accounts for about 20% of gross domestic product.   Cut to shreds Most of the country’s 340,000 farms are relatively small with plots of one hectare or less: there is little spare cash to fall back on when crops fail. “Our apricots, peaches, watermelons, and tomatoes were cut to shreds ” says Tigran. “Usually we’d harvest about 35 tonnes of grapes – this year we’ll be lucky if we have 50 kilos.” The Gasparian land is in the Ararat Valley, about an hour and a half’s drive from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. Sitting under the shade of cherry trees – a cuckoo calling in the distance and the snow capped peak of Mount Ararat in Turkey on the horizon – it is, in many ways, a perfect pastoral scene. But life here is tough. Produce has to be taken along badly potholed roads to the capital. Armenia, till 1991, was part of the old Soviet Union. For many farmers, adjusting to a market economy has not been easy. Many are leaving the land: both the Gasparian’s sons – now in their twenties – are going soon to jobs in Russia. “With our crops destroyed, there is nothing for us here” says one.   Changing weather There are often hailstorms in Armenia and throughout the rugged and mountainous Caucasus region but the ferocity of this one – happening in mid May when crops were just coming to life – was highly unusual. Armenia is a mountainous country with a generally arid climate and is judged to be particularly vulnerable to changes in climate.  Zaruhi Petrosyan is a meteorologist at Armenia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations. “Usually hailstorms last for only five or seven minutes” she says. “This was a very strange meteorological phenomenon. There are changing weather patterns in some regions but just how significant these are is difficult to estimate.” Mrs Petrosyan says while calculations are changing all the time, Armenia is likely to see temperatures rise by between one and four degrees centigrade by century’s end though average rainfall is likely to drop by six per cent. But international bodies predict a far greater degree of change. A report in 2009 by the Stockholm Environment Institute together with the United Nations Development Programme talked of “enormous” changes in Armenia’s climate over the next century, with likely increases in temperatures of 4.5 C in the lowlands and 7C in the highlands by 2100. Water supplies – already a serious problem in many areas – are likely to come under increased strain as rainfall decreases, said the report, causing agricultural production to fall by nearly 10%.   Money to Survive Vardan Hambardzumyan is president of the Armenian Federation of Agricultural Associations. “We are fully aware how climate change will affect agriculture” he says. “We have to safeguard our water and land resources: we have to protect our forests. Armenia plays a very small role in the problem of climate change – but that doesn’t mean we should be ignorant of its impacts.” Hambardzumyan says there’s a need to develop new seeds to resist rising temperatures and to use cattle better able to withstand the heat. “We also need innovative technology – and help from international organisations.” Meanwhile the farmers in the Ararat Valley who lost their crops due to the freak hailstorm are insisting that the government gives them financial support. “We don’t live in luxury” says one farmer. “All we’re asking for is money to survive through the year.” Another farmer points to one of his prize cherry trees:  “Usually I’d get a hundred kilos from this tree. My cherries were famous. People would queue up for them. This year I’ll maybe get a couple of buckets. The rest go to the pigs – and even they are fed up and don’t eat them.” – Climate News Network

Saving lives via mobile phone weather warnings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE As extreme weather events become more common because of climate change, the mobile phone is increasingly being recognised as an important tool for warnings that can not only save lives – but also, in Brazil, the coffee crop. SAO PAULO, 19 June – Over the last few years, violent storms, leading to flooding and mudslides, have become more frequent in Brazil.   In 2011, violent rainstorms wreaked havoc in and around Rio. Houses built on steep hillsides were swept away by devastating mudslides. An entire shantytown built on top of a former rubbish dump in Niteroi collapsed, killing over 50 inhabitants. In Novo Friburgo, a mountainous town settled by 265 Swiss families in 1820, and the surrounding region, over 1000 people died in January 2011, after several days of violent rains. Sirens had sounded to warn people to evacuate, but many people either did not hear them, or ignored them. The permanent solution of course, would be to provide better housing in safer areas, but that is still many years away. Now a scheme successfully tried on the other side of the Atlantic is to be launched in the region. The scheme was piloted on Lake Victoria, a giant lake the size of Ireland, which is shared by three countries, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.   Five thousand die Its size makes it large enough to create its own weather, and conditions can change suddenly, with winds quickly whipping up six-foot waves capable of capsizing ferries and fishing boats.  Up to five thousand of the Lake’s estimated 200,000 fishermen were dying every year due to these freak storms. The African scheme is a joint initiative between the UK’s Met Office, the Ugandan Department of Meteorology, and the telecommunications company Ericsson. Text messages are sent to the mobile phones of local fishermen, warning them of changes in the weather. Before, there were no forecasting services relevant to fishermen in the region, making access to weather information almost impossible. To capture more accurate information about the local weather conditions, the Met Office set up a 4 km resolution weather forecast model over Lake Victoria. Tom Butcher, External Relations Manager at the Met Office explained:  “A lot of the weather patterns on the lake happen on quite a small scale and are driven by the difference in temperature between the lake’s water and the surrounding land. You get warm moist air at night, rising above the lake and sucking in colder air from over the land surface – a convective process that creates a lot of storms.”   Red means danger To get round the problem of illiteracy among the fishermen, the forecasters at Uganda`s Department of Meteorology adopted the Met Office’s traffic light system of colour-coded weather warnings. Green means winds of less than five knots and no significant weather conditions predicted, therefore a very low hazard threshold, no advice needed. Red means a high likelihood of 20 knots+ winds, or severe thunderstorms, therefore a high hazard threshold and advice to ‘take action’. The project was enthusiastically received by the fishermen and within a few weeks it was saving lives. In Rio, the scheme involves attaching rain gauges (pluviometers) to mobile phone masts to give warnings in real time of extreme weather and high rainfalls to mobile phone users with 3G, via their providers. The scheme will eventually be extended to 19 Brazilian states, with the attachment of rain gauges to 1500 masts.  Experience has shown that sirens are often ignored, or not heard, but a direct message aimed at a phone user personally is much more effective.   Four hours warning This is the first scheme to use a direct link between rain gauges and the mobile phone users.  A small-scale scheme, based on information collected via satellite and from a network of meteorological radars maintained by the administration, is already in use, under a partnership between the Rio city authorities, the Civil Defence department and four major mobile phone operators. The warnings of high rainfall are transmitted by SMS about four hours before they are due. The Civil Defence also has a special warning programme for 3,500 health agents who work in 117 risk areas. The agents, each responsible for about 100 families, are then expected to spread the warnings by word of mouth. When the rainfall tops 40mm in an hour, or 125 mm in 24 hours, then the agents receive messages telling them to evacuate people. Mobile phone weather warnings are not only being used for rainfall. It may surprise some readers, who think of Brazil only as a tropical country, to know that in the southern state of Paraná, frost alerts for the region’s coffee farmers are also being sent by SMS to mobile phones. The initiative, which began in 2012, is the result of a partnership between IAPAR, Parana’s Agricultural Institute and the state’s meteorological system, SIMEPAR. Paulo Henrique Caramori, coordinator of Iapar’s Agrometeorology department, said: “the SMS service is direct and very quick and enables the coffee growers to speed up protection measures for their trees”. – Climate News Network  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE As extreme weather events become more common because of climate change, the mobile phone is increasingly being recognised as an important tool for warnings that can not only save lives – but also, in Brazil, the coffee crop. SAO PAULO, 19 June – Over the last few years, violent storms, leading to flooding and mudslides, have become more frequent in Brazil.   In 2011, violent rainstorms wreaked havoc in and around Rio. Houses built on steep hillsides were swept away by devastating mudslides. An entire shantytown built on top of a former rubbish dump in Niteroi collapsed, killing over 50 inhabitants. In Novo Friburgo, a mountainous town settled by 265 Swiss families in 1820, and the surrounding region, over 1000 people died in January 2011, after several days of violent rains. Sirens had sounded to warn people to evacuate, but many people either did not hear them, or ignored them. The permanent solution of course, would be to provide better housing in safer areas, but that is still many years away. Now a scheme successfully tried on the other side of the Atlantic is to be launched in the region. The scheme was piloted on Lake Victoria, a giant lake the size of Ireland, which is shared by three countries, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.   Five thousand die Its size makes it large enough to create its own weather, and conditions can change suddenly, with winds quickly whipping up six-foot waves capable of capsizing ferries and fishing boats.  Up to five thousand of the Lake’s estimated 200,000 fishermen were dying every year due to these freak storms. The African scheme is a joint initiative between the UK’s Met Office, the Ugandan Department of Meteorology, and the telecommunications company Ericsson. Text messages are sent to the mobile phones of local fishermen, warning them of changes in the weather. Before, there were no forecasting services relevant to fishermen in the region, making access to weather information almost impossible. To capture more accurate information about the local weather conditions, the Met Office set up a 4 km resolution weather forecast model over Lake Victoria. Tom Butcher, External Relations Manager at the Met Office explained:  “A lot of the weather patterns on the lake happen on quite a small scale and are driven by the difference in temperature between the lake’s water and the surrounding land. You get warm moist air at night, rising above the lake and sucking in colder air from over the land surface – a convective process that creates a lot of storms.”   Red means danger To get round the problem of illiteracy among the fishermen, the forecasters at Uganda`s Department of Meteorology adopted the Met Office’s traffic light system of colour-coded weather warnings. Green means winds of less than five knots and no significant weather conditions predicted, therefore a very low hazard threshold, no advice needed. Red means a high likelihood of 20 knots+ winds, or severe thunderstorms, therefore a high hazard threshold and advice to ‘take action’. The project was enthusiastically received by the fishermen and within a few weeks it was saving lives. In Rio, the scheme involves attaching rain gauges (pluviometers) to mobile phone masts to give warnings in real time of extreme weather and high rainfalls to mobile phone users with 3G, via their providers. The scheme will eventually be extended to 19 Brazilian states, with the attachment of rain gauges to 1500 masts.  Experience has shown that sirens are often ignored, or not heard, but a direct message aimed at a phone user personally is much more effective.   Four hours warning This is the first scheme to use a direct link between rain gauges and the mobile phone users.  A small-scale scheme, based on information collected via satellite and from a network of meteorological radars maintained by the administration, is already in use, under a partnership between the Rio city authorities, the Civil Defence department and four major mobile phone operators. The warnings of high rainfall are transmitted by SMS about four hours before they are due. The Civil Defence also has a special warning programme for 3,500 health agents who work in 117 risk areas. The agents, each responsible for about 100 families, are then expected to spread the warnings by word of mouth. When the rainfall tops 40mm in an hour, or 125 mm in 24 hours, then the agents receive messages telling them to evacuate people. Mobile phone weather warnings are not only being used for rainfall. It may surprise some readers, who think of Brazil only as a tropical country, to know that in the southern state of Paraná, frost alerts for the region’s coffee farmers are also being sent by SMS to mobile phones. The initiative, which began in 2012, is the result of a partnership between IAPAR, Parana’s Agricultural Institute and the state’s meteorological system, SIMEPAR. Paulo Henrique Caramori, coordinator of Iapar’s Agrometeorology department, said: “the SMS service is direct and very quick and enables the coffee growers to speed up protection measures for their trees”. – Climate News Network