Archive for the ‘natural disasters’ Category

Weird weather

Posted: February 2, 2011 in natural disasters, Uncategorized

Colossal Winter Storm Roars Across U.S.
FoxNews online
2 Feb 2011

CHICAGO — A massive storm billed as the worst in decades barreled northeast thorough U.S. states on Wednesday, leaving vast swaths from Chicago to New York paralyzed by snow and ice. Hundreds of motorists were stranded overnight, and airports and schools were forced to close.

Chicago had 19.5 inches (49.53 centimeters) of snow, ranking the storm the third-largest on record to hit the city — and still more snow was possible. As much as 18 inches (46 centimeters) fell in Missouri, more than a foot (30 centimeters) dropped on northern Indiana and southeast Kansas, and Oklahoma saw up to a foot.

New York City was expected to get up to three-quarters of an inch (2 centimeters) of ice by midday before the mix of sleet and freezing rain warms up to rain.

Forecasters warned ice accumulations could knock down some tree limbs and power lines across the storm’s more than 2,000-mile (3,220-kilometer) path. Ice also could affect transit service.

The storm was, if not unprecedented, extraordinarily rare, National Weather Service meteorologist Thomas Spriggs said. “A storm that produces a swath of 20-inch snow is really something we’d see once every 50 years — maybe,” Spriggs said.

In Chicago, the city closed public schools for the first time in 12 years and shut down Lake Shore Drive, where hundreds of motorists were stranded for 12 hours after multiple car accidents on the iconic roadway. Bulldozers moved snow away from an estimated hundreds of cars that remained buried up to their roofs Wednesday morning, after drivers had been rescued. Only then could tow trucks move in.

Not only was driving dicey, but flying in and out of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport — a major U.S. hub — won’t be possible until Thursday. The decision by O’Hare-based airlines to cancel all their flights for a day and a half was certain to have ripple effects, said transportation expert Joseph Schwieterman.

More than 5,300 flights were canceled nationwide, according to flight tracking service FlightAware. That came a day after airlines grounded 12,630 flights due to the storm.

More than 200,000 homes and businesses in Ohio began Wednesday without power, while in excess of 100,000 customers had no electricity in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which were hit with mostly freezing rain and ice.

Rolling blackouts were in Texas.

In Oklahoma, rescue crews and the National Guard searched overnight for any motorists who might be stranded along its major highways after whiteouts shut down Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

The storm’s powerful punch came from cold air that swept down from Canada, clashing with warm, moist air coming up from the south, explained National Weather Service meteorologist Gino Izzo.


‘Monster’ Cyclone Yasi Strikes Oz Coast
SkyNews online 2 Feb 2011

A huge storm has crashed into northeastern Australia, ripping roofs from buildings and cutting-off power to thousands of homes. Officials have said Cyclone Yasi is likely to cause destruction on a huge scale and probably some deaths.

It has been measured as a category five storm – putting it on a par with Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.

The destructive core of the storm swept in from the Pacific before hitting land at about midnight local time (2pm in the UK). Experts say it will be several hours before the winds ease.

The massive weather system is 310 miles (500km) across, with the eye alone measuring some 60 miles (100km) across. Gusts of almost 190mph (300kmh) are expected.

Then there’s this:

Flights delayed as Japan volcano erupts
ABC news online
2 Feb 2011

Volcanic lightning strikes above Shinmoedake peak as it erupts (Reuters: Minami-Nippon Shimbun)

A volcanic eruption in southern Japan has delayed international flights and shattered windows more than 10 kilometres away. The 1,400-metre Shinmoedake volcano has been belching out smoke and ash since last week, the start of its first major eruption for 52 years. But the eruptions have grown more intense in the last 24 hours, with one gigantic blast shattering windows 12 kilometres away….

Japanese volcano awakens with a vengeance
Earlier story, 31 Jan 2011

Officials in southern Japan have urged more than 1,000 residents of a town near an erupting volcano to evacuate amid reports of large rocks falling in the area.

Mount Shinmoe’s first major eruption in almost 200 years is sending plumes of ash and rocks kilometres into the sky. The eruption, on the southern island of Kyushu, has disrupted flights and train services and sparked warnings about another, even more powerful blast.

Vulcanologists say a giant lava dome on the volcano has now grown to more than 500 metres in diameter. For some people living near the volcano it is nothing more than a nuisance, but for others it is like a biblical curse.

From many sources 13 January 2011 come news of floods, severe snow and ice storms, a new eruption from a very old active volcano – as well as political uprisings in several nations. The most interesting of those to me is the government falling in Lebanon. Here are links to the various stories just from one day…

More floods:



Sri Lanka:

Snow and ice storms across the United States:

Mt. Etna erupts again:

Lebanon government falls:

And the President of Tunisia has left the country due to massive protests in that North African nation:

Stay tuned.

Blood Red Moon and “The Day of the Lord”
(Title quoted from Joel Rosenberg’s webblog, 21 Dec 2010)

This was the first total lunar eclipse – a startling blood red moon – during the Winter solstice since 1638. The next one like this doesn’t occur until December 21, 2094. It’s particularly interesting in light of two Bible prophecies:

  • “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.” (Joel 2:31)
  • “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars.” (Luke 21:25)

It’s also interesting considering the enormous number of natural disasters that have occurred this year, including devastating earthquakes, volcanoes, blizzards and floods.

The following is excerpted from an AP article in the Salt Lake Tribune 19 December 2010:

2010’s world gone wild: Quakes, floods, blizzards

This was the year the Earth struck back. More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters in 2010 than have been killed in terrorist attacks in the past 40 years combined.

Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010 — the deadliest year in more than a generation.

“It just seemed like it was back-to-back and it came in waves,” said Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. It handled a record number of disasters in 2010. “The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year.”

Even though many catastrophes have the ring of random chance, the hand of man made this a particularly deadly, costly, extreme and weird year for everything from wild weather to earthquakes.

Poor construction and development practices conspire to make earthquakes more deadly than they need be. More people live in poverty in vulnerable buildings in crowded cities. That means that when the ground shakes, the river breaches, or the tropical cyclone hits, more people die.

Disasters from the Earth, such as earthquakes and volcanoes “are pretty much constant,” said Andreas Schraft, vice president of catastrophic perils for the Geneva-based insurance giant Swiss Re. “All the change that’s made is man-made.”

In the summer, one weather system caused oppressive heat in Russia, while farther south it caused flooding in Pakistan that inundated 62,000 square miles, about the size of Wisconsin. That single heat-and-storm system killed almost 17,000 people, more people than all the worldwide airplane crashes in the past 15 years combined.

Preliminary data show that 18 countries broke their records for the hottest day ever. “The Earth strikes back in cahoots with bad human decision-making,” said a weary Debarati Guha Sapir, director for the World Health Organization’s Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.

“It’s almost as if the policies, the government policies and development policies, are helping the Earth strike back instead of protecting from it. We’ve created conditions where the slightest thing the Earth does is really going to have a disproportionate impact.”

Here’s a quick tour of an anything but normal 2010:

While the Haitian earthquake, Russian heat wave, and Pakistani flooding were the biggest killers, deadly quakes also struck Chile, Turkey, China and Indonesia in one of the most active seismic years in decades. Through mid-December there have been 20 earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or higher, compared to the normal 16.

Flooding alone this year killed more than 6,300 people in 59 nations through September. Inundated countries include China, Italy, India, Colombia and Chad.

Super Typhoon Megi with winds of more than 200 mph devastated the Philippines and parts of China.

Through Nov. 30, nearly 260,000 people died in natural disasters in 2010, compared to 15,000 in 2009, according to Swiss Re. By comparison, deaths from terrorism from 1968 to 2009 were less than 115,000, according to reports by the U.S. State Department and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

After strong early year blizzards — nicknamed Snowmageddon — paralyzed the U.S. mid-Atlantic and record snowfalls hit Russia and China, the temperature turned to broil.

The year may go down as the hottest on record worldwide or at the very least in the top three, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The average global temperature through the end of October was 58.53 degrees, a shade over the previous record of 2005, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

Los Angeles had its hottest day in recorded history on Sept. 27: 113 degrees. In May, 129 set a record for Pakistan and may have been the hottest temperature recorded in an inhabited location.

In the U.S. Southeast, the year began with freezes in Florida that had cold-blooded iguanas becoming comatose and falling off trees. Then it became the hottest summer on record for the region. As the year ended, unusually cold weather was back in force.

Northern Australia had the wettest May-October on record, while the southwestern part of that country had its driest spell on record. And parts of the Amazon River basin struck by drought hit their lowest water levels in recorded history.

Disasters caused $222 billion in economic losses in 2010 — more than Hong Kong’s economy — according to Swiss Re.

A volcano in Iceland paralyzed air traffic for days in Europe, disrupting travel for more than 7 million people. Other volcanoes in the Congo, Guatemala, Ecuador, the Philippines and Indonesia sent people scurrying for safety. New York City had a rare tornado.

A nearly 2-pound hailstone that was 8 inches in diameter fell in South Dakota in July to set a U.S. record. The storm that produced it was one of seven declared disasters for that state this year.

There was not much snow to start the Winter Olympics in a relatively balmy Vancouver, British Columbia, while the U.S. East Coast was snowbound.

In a 24-hour period in October, Indonesia got the trifecta of terra terror: a deadly magnitude 7.7 earthquake, a tsunami that killed more than 500 people and a volcano that caused more than 390,000 people to flee. That’s after flooding, landslides and more quakes killed hundreds earlier in the year.

Even the extremes were extreme. This year started with a good sized El Nino weather oscillation that causes all sorts of extremes worldwide. Then later in the year, the world got the mirror image weather system with a strong La Nina, which causes a different set of extremes. Having a year with both a strong El Nino and La Nina is unusual.

And in the United States, FEMA declared a record number of major disasters, 79 as of Dec. 14. The average year has 34. A list of day-by-day disasters in 2010 compiled by the AP runs 64 printed pages long.

“The extremes are changed in an extreme fashion,” said Greg Holland, director of the earth system laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

For example, even though it sounds counterintuitive, global warming likely played a bit of a role in “Snowmageddon” earlier this year, Holland said. That’s because with a warmer climate, there’s more moisture in the air, which makes storms including blizzards, more intense, he said.

It was also a year of man-made technological catastrophes. BP’s busted oil well caused 172 million gallons to gush into the Gulf of Mexico.

Sky News online October 02, 2010

Farmers in Australia are preparing for the worst invasion of locusts for up to 75 years, with fears millions of pounds worth of crops could be destroyed.

In the past few days, aircraft have begun spraying farmland with insecticides to try to slow the march of billions of the insects before they mature and begin to fly.

Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are all affected, with hundreds of farmers reporting that locust eggs have begun hatching on their land.

A record number were laid in autumn, and the conditions have been perfect for them to thrive, with the country enduring its wettest September on record after years of drought.

The weather is also helping the farmers but their hopes of a best-in-a-decade harvest are now threatened by the locust invasion.

Steve Wahn, the primary industries minister in the New South Wales government visited a site near Bourke this week to see for himself the tiny insects which are infesting fields.

He calls it “a plague of biblical proportions”.

“We are seeing survival rates of 80% or more from the locusts, whereas in a normal year you’d only get 20% or so which could survive. This is a huge challenge for us,” he said.

“We’ve got potentially our best crop in a decade but potentially the worst locust plague in 30 years.”

There is now a race against time to spray the insects before they begin to fly.

For the first few weeks of their life the tiny nymphs or “hoppers” are relatively easy to deal with, even though they begin to form huge bands which can travel 100 miles a day.

Aircraft can spray the fields and as the bugs travel through the insecticide they die.

But those which survive will eventually form huge fast moving clouds which can cover a wide area and devour entire crops within days.

Simon Oliver, the state’s deputy plague locust commissioner, says he has been shocked by how rapidly the insects have already increased in number.

“If we don’t get them in the next 10 days we may lose them as this temperature heats up they’ll start to fledge and fly.

“Once they swarm it’s virtually impossible to control them. They’re highly mobile and they’ll move right across the state.”

Farmer Scott Mitchell found signs of infestation in the land where he grazes his sheep.

He and his neighbours have been looking forward to some relief after several years of drought conditions.

“We’ve just come out of one natural disaster and this is just something else we have to put up with,” he said.

Wheat farmers in the area could be hit hard.

“They’re looking at the best crop they’ve had in a long time and they need their crop to get out of financial trouble so if they get down and wreck that it’s going to be probably a bigger disaster than we’ve had in this whole drought really,” Mr Mitchell added.

China flood toll reaches 1072
Sify News online
5 Aug 2010

The toll in floods triggered by torrential rains in China this year has reached 1,072, while 619 people are still missing. The floods have affected over 140 million people in 28 provinces and caused economic losses estimated at almost 210 billion yuan, said Shu Qingpeng, deputy director of the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief.

Floods also destroyed over 1.1 million homes and damaged 9.72 million hectares of farmland, Xinhua reported. Rivers like the Yangtze, the Yellow and the Songhua were all swollen to danger levels after heavy rains. Authorities have evacuated 10.42 million people this year from areas at risk of flooding, he said.

President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice Premier Hui Liangyu were concerned about the relief and rescue work, he said, adding that the central government has allocated more than 2.1 billion yuan for the purpose.


Severe floods in China threaten to block Three Gorges Dam with waste
Recycle news online
August 4th, 2010 by Sarah Flanagan

Intense flooding from the Yangtze River in China is threatening the Three Gorges Dam as thick layers of waste are brought down the river. According to the state media in a report on Monday, the rubbish could pose a threat to the gates of the dam by blocking them. Dam official Chen Lei said that the large mass of waste accumulating in the area could cause the miter gate to jam. Although it was not detailed what the effects of a jam would be for the dam operations.

Mr Chen has said that unusually large amounts of waste are being pushed downstream by the heavy rain such as branches, domestic waste, and plastic bottles. So far, almost 3,000 tonnes of rubbish has been pooling at the base of the dam per day. The heart of the issue, according to Chen, is that there is a lack of resources in manpower and equipment to clear enough of the waste in time.

Currently, the layer of refuse covers more than 50,000 square meters and is almost 60 centimeters deep. The pile, according to the government, first began to form in early July, the start of China’s rainy season. So far, 150,000 to 200,000 cubic meters have been cleared costing nearly 10 million yuan ($1.5 million dollars). Over 150 million people live close to the dam, but cities are unprepared to handle the sheer amount of waste accumulating at its base.

The dam is the world’s biggest hydropower project and was touted as an ideal solution to ending centuries of flooding at the basin of the Yangtze River. Environmental groups have previously protested against the dam’s environmental impact, which displaced over 1.4 million people to be constructed.

BBC news online 5 Aug 2010

“People say they are not getting help from the army or the government.”

Pakistan’s worst flooding in nearly a century has now affected more than four million people and left at least 1,600 dead, says the UN. While floods in the north-west began to recede, the vast body of water has been moving down the country into new parts of Punjab and menacing Sindh province. All wells have been contaminated and water-borne diseases have been spreading, officials say. The region is midway through monsoon season and more rain is forecast.

The number of affected districts in Punjab has reached seven, while 350,000 people have been moved from neighbouring Sindh province, most of which is on high alert, the United Nations said.

Manuel Bessler, who heads the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Pakistan, told a news conference in Geneva: “What we are facing now is a major catastrophe.” He added: “We are only in the middle of the monsoon season, there is more rain expected. We are afraid it will get worse.”

With crops, homes, roads and bridges washed away, the human exodus continued on Thursday as yet more torrential rain fell. In the worst-affected areas, houses, shops, petrol pumps and small villages have been submerged. Fleeing villagers have waded barefoot through water up to their necks and chests, carrying belongings on their heads…

About 10,000 homeless people have gathered on an open area of ground in front of a technical college in the town. They are living in tents donated by an Islamic organisation, but in conditions of overwhelming squalor and filth. Doctors, helping out under a tarpaulin to give them some protection from the fierce sun, say growing numbers of people, particularly children, are suffering from diarrhoea, skin diseases and malnutrition. Every day that passes, the situation gets worse.

Meanwhile, forecasters warned of further downpours for the north-west, which has not seen such flooding since 1929. “The flood water is increasing at different points and we are expecting more rain in the next 24 hours,” Hazrat Mir, chief meteorologist for Punjab, told news agency AFP.

Government and civilian agencies have been struggling to get supplies to the worst affected areas. Victims have bitterly accused the authorities of failing to come to their rescue and provide sufficient relief.

Particular scorn has been poured on President Asif Ali Zardari because he pressed ahead with a visit to Europe. Mr Zardari is due to launch his son’s political career on Saturday in the British city of Birmingham.

Flames travel along the floor of the forest near the town of Voronezh: AP/Mikhail Metzel

Reuters Africa online, 1 August 2010:

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill asked Russians to pray for rain on Sunday as wildfires raged across the European parts of the vast country, sweltering since June in an unprecedented heatwave.

The hottest weather since records began 130 years ago has withered crops and pushed thousands of farmers to the verge of bankruptcy.

“Grief has come to our nation, human lives have been lost, hundreds have lost shelter and thousands have been left without sustenance, including many children,” national media quoted Patriarch Kirill as saying in a prayer during a visit to the Nizhny Novgorod region, one of the worst hit by fires.

“I call upon everyone to unite in a prayer for rain to descend on our earth.”

At least 28 people have died in wildfires in European Russia in the last few days, the Emergencies Ministry said, adding that by Sunday morning a total of 774 fires had been registered, including 369 ones that occurred since Saturday.

More than 5,200 people have been evacuated from disaster-stricken regions, it said.

“The threat of new fires has increased sharply due to unfavourable weather in a number of regions in the Central and Volga federal districts, with temperatures soaring to up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and winds of up to 20 metres per second,” the Emergencies Ministry said.

The drought in Russia, one of the world’s biggest wheat exporters, has sent global prices soaring to year highs. U.S. wheat futures rose more than 5 percent on Friday and posted the biggest monthly percentage gain since at least 1959.(emphasis added)

Around 240,000 people were battling the flames, the Emergencies Ministry said. Army units, including elite paratroops, were taking part in the fight. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to allocate 5 billion roubles (105.2 million pounds) to help fire victims.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Reuters 29 July 2010

Photo: People walk along Red Square, with St. Basil’s Cathedral seen through heavy smog caused by peat fires in out-of-city forests, in Moscow, July 26, 2010.

NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia (Reuters) – A leading politician said hundreds of people could die as smog from peat fires blanketed a sweltering Moscow for a second day on Tuesday.

Moscow region chief Boris Gromov asked Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to allocate 25 billion rubles ($827 million) to fight the fires smoldering in the forests around Moscow.

Alexei Yablokov, a leading biologist who heads Russia’s Green Party, said air pollution caused by the smog’s high amount of carbon dioxide could kill hundreds more people than usual in the Moscow region.

“There will be at least 100 additional deaths per day this time round,” Yablokov told Reuters, referring to the last such smog cloud in 2002 in which he calculated 600 people had died each week.

The Moscow government agency overseeing air pollution, Mosekonomonitoring, said the levels of carbon monoxide in the air on Tuesday shot up by 20-30 percent more than normal levels.

Russia’s senior public health official suggested on Tuesday employers free their staff while the thick smog and record-breaking heat in the Russian capital surged.

“Employers, if there is a possibility, could allow people to not come to work,” Gennady Onishchenko, head of Russia’s health protection agency, told Interfax news agency.

Peat, used in the past to produce heat and electricity, smoulders deep underground in winters and summers. Gromov said the only solution to the fires was to pour water over deposits.

“According to preliminary estimates, only in one district where fires are now most severe, over 4.5 billion roubles is needed. We have five such districts,” Gromov told Putin during an emergency video conference.

Putin said he would ask the emergency and economy ministries to examine the request. The emergencies ministry said that in the last 24 hours there had appeared 58 new fires in the Moscow region, 30 of them at peat deposits.

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service
Commodity Intelligence Report June 10, 2010

Agricultural scientists at the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) and the International Center for Agricultural Research for the Dry Areas (ICARDA) have reported that a major outbreak of a virulent new strain of yellow (stripe) rust has been identified in prime Middle Eastern wheat growing regions. The outbreak has reached epidemic proportions in Syria’s major grain producing provinces bordering Turkey and Iraq, with significant national crop losses expected.

Outbreaks have also been reported in central and southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, north, west and southern Iran, and in Lebanon. Outside the Middle East, yellow rust outbreaks have also been identified in Morocco, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan this year.

The current outbreak is primarily affecting soft bread wheat varieties, which form the backbone of the regions wheat crop. Hard wheat’s such as Durum are also grown in the region, but these varieties are a minority of total acreage. Scientists report that the new strain of yellow rust has plagued soft wheat crops that were previously resistant to the fungus owing to the incorporation of the gene Yr27. This implies that the majority of soft wheat grown in the region is under threat until newer resistant varieties are developed. The last major outbreak of yellow rust in the region was reported in the late 1980’s, resulting in a 21 percent reduction in regional wheat production.

Prior to the announcement of the current rust epidemic, wheat production in the Middle East was expected to rebound from several years of drought to a level of 41.1 million tons (an increase of 12 percent). The generally favorable environmental conditions which prevailed during the current winter growing season which would normally create bumper crop production potential, including above normal rainfall, mild winter temperatures, and lush crop growth, also apparently contributed to enhancing the spread of yellow rust and the severity of infection this season. Ideal meteorological conditions encouraged rapid development of yellow rust infections, massive spore production, and a lengthy period of time to infect regional crops.

Image acquired June 26, 2010 – July 11, 2010. “The drought affects more than Russian farmers. Russia is the world’s fourth largest wheat exporter. If Russia isn’t able to supply as much wheat, the world’s overall wheat supply will drop. With less wheat on the market, wheat prices will go up. As of July 23, wheat futures (the current price for wheat that will be harvested and delivered in September) had risen for four consecutive weeks because of the expected drop in supply of Russian wheat, reported Bloomberg.”

Severe and persistent drought held southern Russia in its grip in June and July 2010. Low rainfall and hot temperatures damaged 32 percent of the country’s grain crops, said Russian Agriculture Minister, Yelena Skrynnik on July 23.

This satellite vegetation index image, made from data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite, shows the damage done to plants throughout southern Russia.

Largely as a result of the drought, the USDA expected Russia’s overall wheat crop to be 14 percent smaller than in 2009.