Thursday, 21 August 2014
Of Change July/August 2014 - Concerns Of Uncertainty
landslides kill 36
Japan landslides kill 36
Natural disaster on the outskirts of Hiroshima leaves at least seven others missing
20 August, 2014
Rain-sodden hillsides collapsed in torrents of mud, rock and debris Wednesday on the outskirts of Hiroshima, killing at least 36 people and leaving seven others missing, the prefectural police said.
Public broadcaster NHK showed rescue workers suspended by ropes from police helicopters pulling victims from the rubble. Others gingerly climbed through windows to search for survivors in crushed homes.
Hillsides caved in or were swept down into residential areas in at least five valleys in the suburbs of Hiroshima, in western Japan, after heavy rains left slopes unstable.
In addition to the dead and missing as of Wednesday night, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 15 people were injured, two seriously.
"A few people were washed away, and it is hard to know exactly how many are unaccounted for," said local government official Nakatoshi Okamoto, noting that conditions in the area were hindering rescuers.
Authorities issued warnings that additional rain could trigger more landslides and flooding.
The land collapsed so quickly that evacuation advisories came an hour after the first mudslide, officials acknowledged.
"It's so regrettable," Kyodo News service quoted Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui as saying. "We'll find out what went wrong and take the necessary measures."
Landslides are a constant risk in mountainous, crowded Japan, where many homes are built on or near steep slopes. Torrential rains in the early morning apparently caused hillsides to collapse in an area where many of the buildings were newly constructed.
Damage from landslides and mudslides has increased over the past few decades because of more frequent heavy rains, despite extensive work on stabilizing slopes. In the past decade there have been nearly 1,200 landslides a year, according to the Land Ministry, up from an average of about 770 a year in the previous decade.
In October 2013, multiple mudslides on Izu-Oshima, an island south of Tokyo, killed 35 people, four of whose bodies were never recovered. Those slides followed a typhoon that dumped a record of more than 32 inches of rain in a single day.
The Associated Press
A comment on my timeline -
"I live about 28 miles from Oakhurst in another mountain community. Extreme drought has escalated the fire season and we were having conditions in May that we normally do not get until late August through September. Had another very serious fire even closer about a month ago. Wells are drying up and snowpack in the Sierra Nevada last winter was less than half of normal, so water reserves are way down. Hard times."
Wildfire Burns Near Yosemite National Park, Prompts Evacuation Of Thousands
A wildfire burning near Yosemite park has forced the evacuation of thousands of people, destroyed buildings, and has closed a road leading into the park.
19 August, 2014
The blaze, which is known as the Junction Fire, encompasses nearly two square miles and is burning near the town of Oakhurst, which sits about 16 miles from an entrance to Yosemite Park. More than 600 firefighters are fighting to control the blaze, which is being driven by strong winds has forced evacuation orders for 13,000 people.
“There is nothing you can do when a fire is raging,” Clement Williams, a resident of Oakhurst who was forced to evacuate, told the AP. “You just have to flee. It’s a real sinking feeling.”
Right now, 99.8 percent of California is experiencing “severe” drought conditions, the third-most severe ranking by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Nearly 82 percent of the state is in extreme drought, the second-highest drought ranking, and 58 percent of the state is in the most severe ranking of drought.
Rhonda Salisbury, marketing director for the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau, told the Fresno Bee that a fire that large hadn’t been seen in Oakhurst in more than 50 years.
“We’re all ready to get out our hoses,” she said. “We love this town and community and these firefighters have had such a hard time in the last couple years. We want to do what we can to help, but there’s not a lot of water and it’s hot and dry.”
The Junction Fire comes a few weeks after another fire that burned near Yosemite, one that also forced evacuations. The fire prompted a state of emergency declaration in Tuolumne County. The fire also comes about a year after the Rim Fire, which burned near Yosemite and was the third-largest fire in California’s history. Right now, the Junction Fire is one of more than 10 fires burning in California.
Earlier this month, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in his state, due to the dozens of wildfires that were burning across the Golden State at the time. Dennis Mathisen, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the LA Times in at the time that the fire behavior witnessed in California usually isn’t seen until September.
“With warmer weather conditions, low humidity and some wind, and all you need is a spark, and a series of dry lightning strikes, and that’s a recipe for disaster,” he said.
Soon after California’s emergency declaration, the White House released a video that linked worsening wildfires across the country to climate change, noting that the number of wildfires in the West have “increased several-fold in the last decade.”
“While no single wildfire can be said to be caused by climate change, climate change has been making the fire season in the U.S. longer and on average more intense,” White House science adviser John Holdren says in the video. “Climate change is also bringing us more dead trees — kindling in effect — killed by a combination of heat stress, water stress and attacks by pests and pathogens that multiply faster in a warmer world,” he continues.
Storm Drops Feet of Hail on Mexico City
How a warmer Arctic could lead to colder winters in Britain
20 August, 2014
When you're chipping ice from your car windscreen or sheltering from the snow on a windswept platform, you might find yourself wondering how climate change fits in with the flurry of cold winters we've seen in recent years.
One theory suggests very cold winters in the northern hemisphere could be linked to rapidly increasing temperatures much further north - in the Arctic. A new paper outlines three ways scientists think the two could be linked.
Rapid Arctic warming
Temperatures in the Arctic have been increasing almost twice as fast as the global average. This is known as Arctic amplification. As Arctic sea-ice shrinks, energy from the sun that would have been reflected away is instead absorbed by the ocean.
From 2007 to 2013, we've seen some of the lowest summer sea ice levels since records began, as shown in the graph below. This has coincided with a number of extreme cold and wet events across the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere, including the cold start to 2013 in the UK and the record low temperatures in the US and Canada during the 2013-14 winter.
Arctic sea ice summer extent has decreased by between 9.4 to 13.6% per decade. Source: IPCC 5th Assessment Report, Summary for Policymakers
Some scientists have suggested this extreme weather is a result of Arctic amplification. A new paper in published in Nature Geoscience runs through three potential explanations of what could be happening.
The wintry weather we're used to in the UK is largely caused by storms coming in from the mid-Atlantic. The passage these storms take are known as 'storm tracks'.
When the storm tracks fall directly over the UK, we get wet and mild conditions. When the storm tracks pass to the south, colder air is drawn in from northern Europe and Russia, making winters much colder.
The position of storm tracks is affected by a natural fluctuation known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). When the NAO is positive, the storm tracks fall over the UK; when negative, they fall to the south. So a negative NAO is associated with colder winters - like the ones we've seen recently.
The NAO has been largely negative since the turn of the century and some scientists suggest it is being affected by recent changes in sea ice. The authors say in the paper:
But they also say that the NAO is naturally highly variable, and so the impact of reduced sea-ice is only small in comparison. This suggests that variations in the NAO are still predominantly driven by its natural fluctuations.
The NAO has been mainly negative since the turn of the century, as shown by the blue lines on the graph above. Source: NOAA
Scientists also think Arctic amplification could be affecting the jet stream - a band of fast-flowing air high up in the atmosphere.
The jet stream received a lot of media attention in recent UK winters as a possible cause of prolonged cold weather. It's driven by the temperature difference between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes.
The theory goes that as the Arctic warms, this temperature difference decreases. This means the jet stream weakens, causing it to meander more and allow cold air to pulled eastwards over the UK.
While some initial observations support the theory, there is not currently enough evidence to be convincing. This leads the authors to say that:
The third explanation involves 'Rossby waves' - which consist of large air masses at high-altitude. Rossby waves move north and south and create meanders in the jet stream. These waves can slow down or 'block', at which point the weather experienced on the ground will remain for some time. This could be a prolonged period of cold or rain, or a heatwave in the summer.
Reductions in sea-ice extent in the Arctic have been linked to high pressure systems over the Arctic that push cold air towards northern Europe and brings cold weather to the UK. So these high pressure air masses may have a role in locking weather conditions in. But the paper highlights that modelling studies have not been able to simulate these wave changes particularly well.
This is an active area of research. Another recent paper, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the impact of Arctic amplification on Rossby waves is linked to a range of extreme weather events in northern hemisphere summers, such as Europe's heatwave in 2003.
With three potential links between Arctic amplification and extreme mid-latitude weather, there is still a long way to go before any relationship is fully understood.
There is relatively little data around the poles and Arctic amplification has only been detected in the last two decades.
However, the paper stresses that the question is "a critical one" as scientists predict Arctic amplification will continue into the coming decades.
The paper also serves as a reminder that increasing global temperatures doesn't preclude periods of very cold weather. Indeed, the paper concludes that:
Persistently High Methane Concentrations over Beaufort Sea
19 November, 2014
High methane concentrations have been showing up over Beaufort Sea over the past few days, as shown on the image below. This follows the recent high methane concentrations over the East Siberian Sea.
The persistent character of these very high methane concentrations over the Arctic Ocean indicates that methane has started to erupt from clathrates under the seabed, triggered by very warm water reaching the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.
Methane eruptions from hydrates in sediments under the Arctic Ocean helped mean methane levels reach new records, with mean global methane readings as high as 1835 parts per billion recorded at several altitudes on August 17, 2014.
The very high sea surface temperature anomalies that show up on above image give an idea of the inflow of warm water from the Pacific Ocean through the Bering Strait. This is further highlighted by the combination image below.
[ click on image to enlarge ]
The situation is dire and calls for comprehensive and effective action, as discussed at the Climate Plan blog.
Four Moscow McDonalds shut by Russian consumer watchdog
19 August, 2014
Russia’s consumer watchdog has shut down four McDonald's restaurants in central Moscow – including the first-ever outlet in the country – over “administrative violations.” More of the company 430 Russian franchises are under investigation.
“Multiple violations of sanitary norms were detected in the sourcing of food and waste disposal in McDonald’s restaurants during inspections carried out between the 18th and 20th of August,” said an official statement from the watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor.
The company has said that it will study the allegations against its franchises, and “will do everything to ensure that the restaurants open as soon as possible.”
“McDonald’s main priority is offering its customers quality and safe produce,” said a statement on the McDonald’s website.
Among the temporarily shuttered establishments is the restaurant in Pushkinskaya Square – once the biggest in the world – that became iconic when it opened in 1990 in what was still the Soviet Union, creating mile-long queues of Russians ready to wait several hours to sample the taste of America.
The first checks - and subsequent rumors that the entire burger chain may be shut down - took place in the northwestern city of Veliky Novgorod in May.
“The Caesar roll and vegetable salad have been found to contain microbe pollution with E.Coli bacteria and 10 times the safe level of microbes,” the watchdog said in a statement back then. ‘This attests to the fact that the staff breached personal hygiene rules, and the corporate sanitary disinfection regime.”
A separate claim from Rospotrebnadzor said that the nutrition sheets provided by the company did not match the actual content of the burgers on sale.
RIA Novosti/Vladimir Pesnya
The burger chain – which is headquartered in Illinois, but sells its franchise licenses to Russian companies and individuals - employs over 35,000 staff, and retailed nearly $1.5 billion worth of food to customers in the country last year.
The shot across the bow – after nearly 25 years of rapid expansion in Russia for the US company – comes amidst an escalation of sanctions between Moscow and the West. After Washington and Brussels imposed restrictions on financial lending and technological imports for Russian companies due to the conflict in eastern Ukraine earlier this month, Russia responded by embargoing agricultural produce from Europe and the US for one year
Ferguson Cop Points Gun At Protesters And Press, Screams "I Will F***ing Kill You", Has Been "Relocated"
In the aftermath of recent violent events and now that even the US Attorney General has arrived, one would assume that the Ferguson police had at least some "sensitivity" training about how to approach protesters, especially those "armed" with cameras. Not in this case. The footage below out of Ferguson shows a police officer pointing his gun directly at protesters and reporters while screaming "I’m going to f***ing kill you!"
The clip shows a Ferguson officer with his gun raised pointing it directly at a citizen journalist who was live streaming at the time: the incident was witnessed by Infowars reporter Joe Biggs who was also filming the incident.
"My hands are up bro, my hands are up," states the journalist before the cop responds, "I’m going to f***ing kill you, get back, get back!"
"You’re going to kill him?” asks another individual before the journalist asks, “did he just threaten to kill me?"
When the cop is asked for his name he responds, "go fuck yourself."
It didn't end there.
As Infowars reports, "another clip shows the officer pointing his gun as protesters demand he lower the weapon. A second cop intervenes to make the officer lower his weapon as more irate demonstrators demand to know the officer’s name."
The officer’s response to people asking for his name almost immediately prompted the launch of the Twitter hashtag #officergofuckyourself.
Biggs live tweeted the incident, and also took this photograph of the cop.
The incident is certain to provoke curiosity as to just how the local Police department is handling the de-escalation of local tensions.
Vanita Gupta @ACLUVanita
One also wonders: if not in Ferguson, just where can this pleasant, if "relocated", individual be encountered?
According to CNN, 11 journalists have been arrested in the course of the protests, which have thrown a glaring spotlight on US race relations, not to mention military-style police equipment and tactics now being deployed on the streets of America.
Watchdog groups slam
Ferguson police ‘harassment’
As tensions continue to simmer following nine days of street protests in Ferguson, Missouri, where a teenager was shot dead by a police officer, two watchdog groups have slammed the heavy-handed police tactics.
20 August, 2014
Police in riot gear detain a demonstrator (C) protesting against the shooting of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri August 19, 2014 (Reuters / Joshua Lott)
Really, Vladimir Putin needed to have asked for restraint in Ferguson. But I see Egypt has!
Egypt calls for restraint in
19 August, 2014
Egypt has backed the United Nation’s call for the United States authorities to deal with protests in Ferguson, Missouri “according to the American and international standards”.
A spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, in response to a question from state-run news agency MENA, said the ministry is “following the escalation of protests and demonstrations in the city of Ferguson and reactions thereto”.
The spokesman referred to comments made by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Monday as a reflection of the “international community’s position towards these events” including the calls for “restraint and respect for the right of assembly and peaceful expression of opinion”.
Ban also said he hoped investigations into the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown will “shed full light on the killing and that justice will be done.”
Demonstrations in Ferguson began after Brown, who was unarmed, was shot dead by a policeman. Autopsy reports showed that the teen was shot six times. Protests have escalated with incidents of looting and police forces have responded by firing tear gas.
The US Department of State has in the past repeatedly called on Egyptian authorities to respect freedom of assembly and expression.
Last week Human Rights Watch released a report saying that Egyptian security forces’ clearing of a two protest camps “probably amounts to crimes against humanity”, saying at least 817 people were killed.