Sunday, 5 August 2018

A brief update on climate and extreme weather news

Portugal broke local temperature records Friday as the mercury climbed to 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit): Worse is to come

4 August, 2018

Eight places in Portugal broke local temperature records Friday as a wave of heat from North Africa swept across the Iberian peninsula - and officials predicted the scorching temperatures could get even worse over the weekend.

Temperatures built to around 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) Friday in many inland areas of Portugal and were expected to peak at 47 C (116.6 F) in some places Saturday.

Large sections of Portugal are on red alert on the Civil Protection Agency's danger scale.

The highest temperature recorded Thursday, when the heat began to rise, was 45.2 C (113.4 F) near Abrantes, a town 150 kilometres (93 miles) northeast of the capital, Lisbon, the country's weather agency IPMA said.

Portugal's highest recorded temperature was 47.4 C (117.3 F) in 2003.

Emergency services have issued a red alert through Sunday, placing extra services such as medical staff and firefighters on standby.

In Portugal's southern Alentejo province, streets were largely deserted.

Some farmers chose to work during the night instead of in the heat of the day.

Beaches around Lisbon, the capital, were packed.

Some 400 firefighters and five water-dropping aircraft, meanwhile, were battling a wildfire in southern Portugal's Algarve region.

Portugal sees large wildfires every year, although unseasonably cool weather through the end of July has meant fewer blazes in 2018.

The government says only about 15 per cent of the 10-year average area has been charred so far this year.

Temperatures were being driven higher across the Iberian peninsula by a hot air mass moving northward from Africa, which is also bringing dust from the Sahara Desert, meteorologists said.

The dust gave the sky a dark yellow hue in some places.

In Spain, heat warnings were also issued for 41 of the country's 50 provinces as temperatures were expected to reach up to 44 C (111.2 F).

Spain's highest recorded temperature is 46.9 C (116.42 F) in Cordoba, a southern city, in July 2017. The World Meteorological Organization says continental Europe's record is 48 C (118.4 F) in Greece in 1977.

The singular Himalayan ecosystem may just break down with devastating results for India’s Uttarakhand region

The Himalayas represent a dynamic, changing landscape. The roles played by tectonic and climate forces in making it what it is are evident. A product of millions of years of crustal shortening, the Himalayas sustain the brunt of geological stresses leading to great earthquakes on occasion and more frequent moderate earthquakes. A dynamic balance, however, exists between the forces that help raise the mountain and the opposing erosive forces like glaciers and rivers that wear it down.

One can also glimpse the contrasting external extremes of glory and squalor in the mountains - the wretched human existence in those villages amidst the uplifting beauty of the distant snow-clad peaks. The writer Bill Aitken, who travelled extensively in the Himalayas, has remarked that “the art of beholding the Himalaya lies in accepting the paradox of aesthetic wealth alongside economic poverty, of reconciling the glory of aliveness with the evenly poised mischance of death.”

The earthquakes, avalanches and floods are part of recurrent natural processes, which can turn into natural disasters because of the impact they will have on the unplanned settlements in ecologically sensitive regions. The greater intensity of any calamity - be it an earthquake or a massive flood - is proportional to the population density and the level of expansion of construction activities in the vulnerable areas. The irony is that, in spite of the so-called developmental spree, the majority of the local population continues to live in abject poverty constrained by the depletion of natural resources.

Water levels at storages supplying the Sydney metropolitan area are sinking amid a lack of rain and rising consumption, bringing the prospect of a restart of the Sydney Desalination Plant.

The total storage levels for the Sydney region are running at about two-thirds full, with the desalination plant set to be turned on to supplement the water supply when capacity drops to 60 per cent, according to WaterNSW.

The Trump administration has proposed a rollback of Obama-era fuel efficiency and emissions standards, while simultaneously taking aim at California's unique ability to set more stringent rules.

Under the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency called for the fuel economy standards for new vehicles to ratchet up over time. The increasingly strict standards were designed to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

On Thursday, the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a new proposed rule that would instead freeze the standards at their 2020 levels for six years.

The Trump administration has overturned bans on the use of pesticides linked to declining bee populations and the cultivation of genetically modified crops in US national wildlife refuges.

The move, reversing a policy adopted in 2014, has attracted heavy criticism from environmentalists.

It was announced in a memo by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Deadly heat waves are breaking records and making headlines around the world this summer, but they have nothing on the heat waves that the North China Plain is likely to see in the future if we don't act now to combat climate change.

A study published in Nature Communications Tuesday found that if we do nothing to curb emissions, China's most populous and agriculturally important region could see heat waves deadly even for healthy people by 2100.

"China is currently the largest contributor to the emissions of greenhouse gases, with potentially serious implications to its own population: Continuation of the current pattern of global emissions may limit habitability of the most populous region of the most populous country on Earth," study authors Elfatih A. B. Eltahir of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Suchul Kang of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology wrote.

Kebnekaise glacier melts as Europe prepares for hottest day

Measurements are taken of the Kebnekaise mountain glacier which is melting at an unprecedented rate

Arctic reindeer sought shade in road tunnels, Sweden’s biggest glacier melted and France faced a snail shortage as Europe prepared for the hottest day since records began.

Hot air from Africa is bringing a new heatwave to Europe, which forecasters say could break records as the continent continues to swelter.

Health warnings have been issued about Sahara Desert dust and exceptionally high temperatures that are forecast to peak at 47 degrees Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit) in some southern areas.

The UK Met Office said parts of the Iberian peninsula could beat the all-time continental European record of 48 degrees Celsius (118.4 degrees Fahrenheit) this week, with inland areas likely to be hotter than the coast.

That record was set in the Greek capital, Athens, in July 1977. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the record for Spain is currently 47.3 Celsius, while for Portugal it's 47.4 Celsius.

Mounting science is painting a very bleak picture of a future of soaring temperatures, and the accompanying death toll those soaring temperatures will demand.

New research has given us the first solid prediction of how more heatwaves like the one that's struck Europe this year will affect future death rates, finding tropical heatwaves in some areas could one day send the mortality rate skyrocketing by as much as 2,000 percent.

As temperatures climb, bodies overheat, and the chances of harsh environmental conditions (such as smog) go up. Neither is good for our health, and frequent summer heatwaves can often be too much for some people to bear.

Smoke from the wildfires now covers 

about half of the United States

The Arctic Circle — the realm of polar bears and dwindling sea ice at the top of the world — hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit, 32 degrees Celsius, this week.

This was the temperature in Banak, Norway on July 30, though some Norwegian areas even reached a couple degrees warmer, according to the European meteorology site Banak sits atop northern Europe, over 350 miles above the bottom edge of the Arctic Circle.

Heatwave affecting parts of southern Europe reaches new intensity, with temperatures rising to 45C

In the latest phase of a summer of extreme weather that has brought blistering heat to Britain, drought to the Netherlands and deadly wildfires to Greece, the heatwave affecting parts of southern Europe has reached a new intensity this weekend. According to IPMA, the Portuguese weather agency, about a third of the country’s meteorological stations broke temperature records on Saturday. The highest was 46.4C in Alvega, 120km from Lisbon.

In the southern Algarve, more than 700 firefighters battled a forest fire that had spread across 1,000 hectares near the town of Monchique; in the capital, Lisbon, the usually busy terrace cafes of the Chiado district were quiet as people stayed indoors. And in Amareleja, a sleepy town as famous for its hot summers as for its full-bodied red wines, the large outdoor thermometer at the Farm├ícia Portugal read 44.5C just after midday. Petrol station attendant Joaquim, however, was not fazed: the past couple of days had been abnormal, he said, but locals were “used to the heat and know how to adapt”.

They appeared to be adapting by simply staying indoors: there was little sign of life in the town centre. In nearby Moura and district capital Beja, streets usually at their busiest on the first Saturday of the month were mostly deserted. Further afield, flocks of sheep jostled for spots in the shade of the olive and carob trees that dot the parched fields. Cows stood motionless in the baking heat.

The high temperatures in Portugal and Spain are caused by a plume of warm air from the Sahara, which yesterday turned the sky an eerie orange in places, including above Amareleja.

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