Scientists once again have confirmed that humankind’s actions have triggered ever-greater extremes of rainfall – and an ever-greater rise in disastrous flash floods. The study comes close on the heels of a warning by UN scientists of a dramatic increase in economic losses from climate-related disasters. Between 1998 and 2017, natural disasters cost the world’s nations direct losses of $2.9 trillion, and although earthquake and tsunami accounted for most deaths, floods, storms and other climate-related catastrophes accounted for 77% of the economic damage. Scientists and engineers from China and the US report in the journal Nature Communications that flash floods now cause more deaths as well as more property and agricultural losses than any other severe weather-related hazards. These losses have been increasing for the last 50 years and over the last decade worldwide have topped $30bn a year.
Climate News Network 9th Nov 2018 read more »
At 6:30 Thursday morning, a wildfire of astounding proportions and speed broke out in Northern California. Dubbed the Camp Fire, it covered 11 miles in its first 11 hours of life. A mile an hour might not seem fast in human terms, but it’s an extreme rate of speed as far as fires are concerned. At one point it was burning 80 acres a minute. When it hit the town of Paradise, home to 27,000 people, those buildings became yet more fuel to power the blaze. The town’s mayor says that 80 to 90 percent of homes have been destroyed—nearly 6,500 structures in addition to 620 commercial buildings. For perspective, the most destructive wildfire in state history, Tubbs Fire that raged through the city of Santa Rosa last year, destroyed 5,500 total structures. The death toll so far stands at 9. The fire is just 5 percent contained, with an estimated full containment date of Nov. 30. You’ve got hot, dry gusts of 40 or 50 miles per hour from the northeast pushing the fire, and the fire is itself creating wind, further accelerating the conflagration. As it moves along, embers fly out of the front of the fire. “As the fuels get drier, a smaller and smaller spark can leapfrog the fire through the landscape,” Lareau says. “That’s just another way this thing comes up and bites you.” “It’s hot, dry, and windy, are your ingredients,” he adds. “We checked off all three here.” North or south, the state is extremely dry already. But these warm winds ripping through the Sierras are only making matters worse, siphoning what little moisture California’s vegetation has left. While the winds will likely die down a bit over the next few days, they’re due to pick back up again Sunday, which could bring still more fires. This is what a climate change reckoning looks like. “All of it is embedded in the background trend of things getting warmer,” Lareau says. “The atmosphere as it gets warmer is thirstier.” Like a giant atmospheric mosquito, climate change is sucking California dry. The consequence is fires of unprecedented, almost unimaginable scale. California cities are no longer safe from fire, and with climate change, things are only bound to get worse from here.
Wired 9th Nov 2018 read more »