Wednesday 31 July 2019

Trouble n Hong Kong

Crackdown Coming? China
Gathers Forces On Hong Kong Border Amid Unrest

30 July, 2019

Massive anti-Beijing protests which have gripped Hong Kong over the past month, and have become increasingly violent as both an overwhelmed local police force and counter-protesters have hit back with force, are threatening to escalate on a larger geopolitical scale after the White House weighed in this week.

With China fast losing patience, there are new reports of a significant build-up of Chinese security forces on Hong Kong's border, as Bloomberg 

The White House is monitoring what a senior administration official called a congregation of Chinese forces on Hong Kong’s border.


From nearly the start of the protests which began over a proposed extradition bill (which would see Hong Kong citizens under legal accusation potentially extradited to the mainland) interpreted as major Chinese overreach inside historically semi-autonomous Hong Kong, officials in Beijing have suggested an "external plot" afoot, more recently alleging the hidden hand of the United States. 

The latest charge made Tuesday by mainland government officials is that the still escalating Hong Kong unrest is the "creation of the US" — something which the Trump admin official speaking under anonymity to Bloomberg firmly denied. 

On Monday Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a press interview
 that "protest is appropriate" and that "we hope the Chinese will do the right thing" regarding respecting Hong Kong's historic "one country, two systems" status. This was enough to elicit a quick response alleging US meddling out of Beijing on Tuesday.
The White House is monitoring a buildup of chinese forces on Hong Kong’s border, a senior administration official said.” Here we go..the moment the pla army marches from Shenzhen, it’s over. china’s army is going to invade HK. It’s inevitable. #hk
— Kyle Bass (@Jkylebass) July 30, 2019

It’s clear that Mr. Pompeo has put himself in the wrong position and still regards himself as the head of the CIA,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news briefing

"He might think that violent activities in Hong Kong are reasonable because after all, this is the creation of the U.S.”
China's position has been to recently declare the protests going "far beyond" what's legal and "peaceful" amid clashes with police. 

People’s Liberation Army soldiers at Stonecutters Island naval base in Hong Kong last month. Source: NYT/Reuters

Last week Chinese military leaders hinted that People's Liberation Army troops could be used to quell the protests following widespread reports of vandal attacks on the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, according to The New York Times Ministry of National Defense, Senior Col. Wu Qian, said at the time, That absolutely cannot be tolerated.”

For now, few details are known concerning the reported Chinese "build-up" on the border, which could consist of military forces, as Bloomberg added to its report

The nature of the Chinese buildup wasn’t clear; the official said that units of the Chinese military or armed police had gathered at the border with Hong Kong. The official briefed reporters on condition he not be identified.
The timing of the back and forth unsubstantiated allegations is interesting especially in light of President Trump seeking to reinvigorate stalled trade deal negotiations with China, currently being conducted in Shanghai following the ceasefire to the trade war.

Nicholas Humphrey reports on the Arctic

The Most Important Event On The Planet Right Now
30 July, 2019
The state of affairs:
1. Arctic Sea Ice is currently at record lows in the Northern Hemisphere and at or near record lows within the Arctic Basin itself. Further significant sea ice losses are expected this week.
The sea ice is extremely thin (one meter or less) throughout the Arctic Ocean, with anomalously large ice free areas over the Laptev, Kara, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. The Bering Sea reached an ice free state very early. Also, ice free areas are growing off the north coast of Greenland and offshore the islands of the Canadian Archipelago; this is where the thickest ice of 3-6 meters used to be located. However there is now are only isolated areas with thickness of 3 meters and much of it is only 1-2 meters thick.
The ice is being removed by offshore winds now capable of pushing the ice out to sea.
North coast of Greenland, July 74-29.
Canadian Archipelago, July 14-29th.
This"detachment" of the sea ice sheet from those coastlines is unprecedented and exposes the Central Arctic sea ice to lower albedo heating with additional dark open water (running 2-8 C above normal around the Arctic Ocean where it is exposed), as well as large swells and high winds from storms as we move into August and September. In my opinion, this "detachment" phenomenon elevates the risk of major sea ice collapse and a new record low minimum for sea ice in the Arctic Basin by mid-September.

July 29th sea surface temperature anomalies relative to 1961-1990 normals. Most of the Arctic sea ice is surrounded by sea surface temperatures 2.25-8 C/4-14 F above normal.
2. The Greenland Ice Sheet is forecast to lose 40 gigatonnes of ice in a matter of days, enough to raise global sea levels at least a tenth of a millimeter.
Peak temperatures Tuesday and Wednesday over the Greenland tundra may be as high as 20-25 C (68-77 F) with the interior ice sheet in the range of 3-5 C (37-41 F), potentially higher. Darkening and resulting albedo reduction on the ice sheet is being caused by increasing meltwater, algae growth and soot from fires in the Arctic. There is the potential for this week to be the 2nd biggest melt event ever observed on Greenland.
Greenland is forecast to be 4.9 C above 1981-2010 normals or 6.7 C above pre-industrial early Wednesday morning.  
3. The fires in the Arctic are reaching apocalyptic levels. According to Greenpeace of Russia 12 million hectares (over 29.6 million acres) have been burned in Russia this year, with 3.2 million hectares actively on fire in Siberia as of July 27th. In addition to burning vegetation, carbon-rich peat is burning and will likely burn for months, releasing significant carbon emissions. There were 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide released in June across the Arctic from fires, surpassing the total emissions released from the Arctic in June in 2010-2018 combined. By late-July, total emissions reached 121 megatonnes, exceeding the record emissions season for fire in the Arctic in 2004of 110 megatonnes. Fires have not only burned in the Siberian Arctic, but also Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, and Scandinavia.
There are 72 active fires in Alaska as of July 29th,with five over 40,500 hectares (100,000 acres) and one approaching 202,300 hectares (500,000 acres). As previously mentioned, much of soot from the fires will fall on snow and ice in the Arctic, reducing albedo and accelerating melting of both.
4. Large emissions of methane gas appear to be venting from the Arctic Basin. This can be seen via satellite atmospheric sounding data showing wide swaths in the middle atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean with emissions of at least 2000 parts of billion of methane (considered a large concentration). Methane is at least 150 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide on timescales of 5 years or less and is growing in concentration in Earth's atmosphere.  
Methane detected in the middle atmosphere July 29th. Many high concentration plumes are originating from the Arctic region.
The highest concentration methane layer in the upper-atmosphere. Global mean is near 1900 ppb and Northern Hemisphere mean likely in 2000-2200 ppb range. A "methane veil" covers much of the Northern Hemisphere, with significant area of high concentration methane over the Siberian continental shelf. 
Scientists studying that region predict more abrupt releases of methane from the continental shelf on the order of years to a few decades as the waters continue to warm because of sea ice losses. 
5. The conditions favorable for extensive melting of sea ice, Greenland ice and the production of further large fires (namely, very abnormal heat and drying of vegetation/peat) will continue over Greenland, much of Alaska and Central Siberia forat least the next two weeks.
Nostation in the state of Alaska has been below freezing for more than a month.Further sea ice losses and abnormal heating will further drive jet stream wave anomalies and extremes (storms and heat waves) in the Northern Hemisphere. 
---MeteorologistNick Humphrey
PS: See my CryosphereUpdating Page daily.  

State of Emergency declared in Siberia

Russia: Flooding closes federal highway in Siberia 

Fire and flood apocalypse with wildfires raging and dire threat to Baikal, world’s deepest lake

Almost 3 million hectares on fire, including Arctic, with fumes having hit area larger than European Union.

Fire and flood apocalypse hit Siberia and Russian Far East. 
Siberian Times,
29 July, 2019

A series of natural disasters are hitting Siberia, with the latest a dire threat from severe flooding to Baikal - the oldest and deepest lake in the worth, containing 20% of the planet’s unfrozen freshwater. 

The alert concerns flooding in Baikalsk - where evacuation has begun - and 
concerns that toxic mudflows can dump poisonous sludge from a former pulp and paper mill into the lake’s pristine maters. 

Pools of liquid sludge containing lignin poses a huge threat to the life in Baikal with warnings of an ‘ecological catastrophe’.

We can only pray now,” said one campaigner pointing to a risk of a dam burst on the Solzana River where a bride had been swept away already. 

Baikalsk flooded

Water comes closer to Trans-Siberian railway

Baikalsk flooded

Bridge leading to BPPM collapsed

Bridge leading to BPPM collapsed

stones blocked the motorway
The alert concerns flooding in Baikalsk. Water comes close to the Trans-Siberian 
Railway, some districts of the town are already flooded, bridge across river Solzana 
which leads to Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill collapsed. 

While Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, a Soviet-era production facility seen as an
ecological threat to the lake, is now closed, the risk of pollution from untreated waste storages at the site is acute, say reports.

The last devastating Baikal mudflow was in July 1971 which washed 20 kilometres of the Trans-Siberian Railway into the lake and destroyed several sections of the 
road from Irkutsk to Ulan-Ude.

The railway could again be threatened

Elsewhere, some 2,000 have been evacuated in major flooding in Amur region in 
the Russian Far East.

There are fears of a repeat of the massive destruction of 2013.

Stranded pets have been rescued with 17 villages hit and 600 houses 

Baikask mudflow of 1971

Baikask mudflow of 1971

Baikask mudflow of 1971

Baikask mudflow of 1971

Baikask mudflow of 1971
The last devastating Baikal mudflow was in July 1971 which washed 20 
kilometres of the Trans-Siberian Railway into the lake and destroyed several sections of the road from Irkutsk to Ulan-Ude.

Some 3,000 kilometres east, the settlement of Tulun has faced its second massive evacuation in a month from flooding - while also suffering from wildfire smoke.
The Iya River is expected to use up to 10 metres above its normal level.

President Vladimir Putin has twice visited this area in Irkutsk region after the first wave of flooding.

With wildfires, almost 3 million hectares are now burning in Siberia and the Russian Far East.

Smoke pollution has eased in Kemerovo, Tomsk, Novosibirsk, and Altai regions - but is forecast to return with a change of wind direction.

Wildfires in Yakutia

Wildfires in Yakutia

Wildfires in Yakutia

Wildfires in Yakutia

Wildfires in Yakutia
Wildfires raging in Yakutia.
Out-of-control infernos are destroying permafrost by burning the tundra both north  and south of the Arctic Circle.

Elsewhere centuries-old boreal forests of cedar, pine and larch - known as the  lungs of the Northern Hemisphere - are turning to ashes. 

Concern in rising over health risks with locals complaining they are living in a “gas chamber”, while wild animals are “fried alive”.

Worst hit is Yakutia where 1.8 million hectares are now ablaze. 

Here the tundra is aflame on both sides on both sides of the Arctic Circle. 
Mir mine in normal weather

Mir mine in smoke
Famous Mir mine in thew city of Mirny, Yakutia, in normal weather and covered witrh the smoke. 
In Krasnoyarsk, just short of one million hectares are on fire. 
Here, an Emergencies Ministry pilot said that he has been waiting to fly his water-spraying plane on burning forests but no order was given. 
'Every day I and the whole team are on duty. There are four aircraft,' he revealed. 
'Since the beginning of the fires, not a single specialised Be-200 has been lifted into the air. 
'Yet all around everything is burning and in the smoke.'
Flood in Amur region

Flood in Amur region

Flood in Amur region

Flood in Amur region

Flood in Amur region

Flood in Amur region

Flood in Amur region

Flood in Amur region
Some 2,000 have been evacuated in major flooding in Amur region in the Russian Far East. Pictures: Amurskaya Pravda, @tim0n050
Like many locals he attacked the authorities for turning a blind eye to fires in remote locations where few live.

They say it is expensive to extinguish and if part of the forest burns down - it is not scary.,’ he said. 'I think this is absurd.

The forest burns and does not stop - the fire spreads in dry and windy weather.

Of course, now, probably it will be expensive to extinguish everything that burns.

But why was there no order to fly out earlier, when the fire had just begun to spread. Everything was under control then?

'I have been living in the North for a long time - there have been fires before, but I have not seen one like this year.

Yes, the fire is far from people, for example, in Vanavara, but there is such smoke there! And no-one thinks about the people who are there.’
Smoke in Kirensk, Irkutsk region

Smoke in Kirensk, Irkutsk region

Smoke in Kirensk, Irkutsk region

Smoke in Ust-Ilimsk

More than 100 settlements in Irkutsk region are covered with the smoke too. Piuctured: Kirensk, Ust-Ilimsk, Ust-Kut towns.
Postings from people hit by fires have been dramatic.

Our children are suffocating,’ one woman posted.

We are right next to the epicentres of wildfires, and we struggle to breathe,’ complained mother Marina in Evenkia, in the north of Krasnoyarsk region, one of the worst-hit.

Olga from Tura, in the same region, said: ‘We see bears coming out of the taiga one after the other, deer, too, and smaller animals - but mainly bears.

Planes stopped coming because they can’t land in thick smog.

People walk around the village in masks but they are no real help as even with a mask on it hurts to breathe.'

More than 1,500 km further west, Valeria Glukhova from the city of Omsk, said: ‘I  was at a bus stop and I felt like I was locked inside a gas chamber. 

Every time I inhaled the air burnt my lungs. I returned home with awful headache  and soon started vomiting.

My husband called an ambulance. 

My head is aching, my throat is hurting, my eyes are itchy. 

I had to walk for about ten minutes, and now hair smells of smoke so badly, as if I  was sitting all night long by a campfire. 

I saw many teenagers and children wearing medical masks, but I am pretty sure  they are not enough, you literally need a gas mask.’




Vanavara settlement is covered with the smoke, but the head of the village denies any threat to people's health.
In badly-hit Vanavara locals have posted pictures which have been disputed by local administration chief Alexander Zarubin who accused them in exaggeration, using photoshop or filters, which they deny. 

In this settlement a child was shown wearing a mask because of the pollution.

Locals accuse Zarubin of talking ‘nonsense’.

A senior regional official denied that the situation was as serious as resdients and  the media had claimed. 'This is a common natural phenomenon, it is meaningless to fight with this, and sometimes it can be even harmful. If we have a snowstorm in winter 

in cold weather, no one comes up with the idea to drown icebergs so that we have  a warmer weather.’ said Krasnoyarsk governor Alexander Uss.


Today Russia declared a state of emergency over wildfires in Krasnoyarsk and  Irkutsk regions and parts of Sakha (Yakutia) and Buryatia republics.

Talking to Siberian Times, an emergency pilot in Krasnoyarski Krai said he had 

spent days waiting to fly his firefighting plane, but received no order to do so.

"Every day the whole team and I are on duty. There are four aircraft," he said in 
an article published on Monday.

"Since the beginning of the fires, not a single specialized [plane] has been lifted into the air."

"They say it is expensive to extinguish and if part of the forest burns down — it is 
not scary," the unnamed pilot said.

Greenpeace steps in

Separately, the region's officials said that cost of the firefighting effort is 
sometimes "ten times larger than the possible damage" cause by the fire.

But the pilot slammed the calculation as "absurd."

"Of course, now, probably it will be expensive to extinguish everything that burns," he said.

"But why was there no order to fly out earlier, when the fire had just begun to 

The Russian charter of Greenpeace had launched a petition to force the 
government to move against wildfires in Siberia, which was signed by some 
245,000 by Tuesday evening.

The wildfires "have long stopped being a local problem" and have "transformed 
into an ecological disaster with consequences for the entire country," Greenpeace said.

Greenpeace expert Grigory Kuksin said the soot and ashes accelerate the 
melting of the Arctic ice and permafrost, which in turns releases even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

"It is comparable to the emissions of major cities," he told the AFP news agency. 
"The more fires affect the climate, the more conditions are created for new 
dangerous fires."

The group said almost 12 million hectares have already burned this year, 
destroying forests that absorb carbon dioxide.

Siberia was almost 10 degrees Celsius (18 Fahrenheit) warmer than the 
ong-term average in June, according to World Meteorological Organization.