The Environment

Extreme Weather and Climate Events of 2011

2011 showed the greatest weather extremes in our history – 56% of the country was either in drought or flood, which was no surprise since “climate change science predicts wet areas will tend to get wetter and dry areas will tend to get drier”. Indeed, the nation suffered 14 weather disasters, each causing $1 billion or more in damage, last year. (The old record was nine.) Masters again: “Watching the weather over the past two years has been like watching a famous baseball hitter on steroids.”

Extreme weather records broken across the United States in 2011 – Though the year isn’t yet over, 2011 proved to be rough when it came to extreme weather climate change is to blame. RECORDS FOR EXTREME HEAT AND EXTREME COLD WERE BROKEN IN ALL 50 U.S. STATES. The extremes at time have been disastrous, costing Americans an estimated overall $53 billion. In a conference Thursday, the Natural Resources Defense Council, an international nonprofit environmental organization, planned to release a map showing exactly how areas have been hit, including state-by-state analyses on weather extremes, record breakers, rainfall and snowfall.  What’s causing the changes? Perhaps climate change, according to the NRDC. A Special Report on Extreme Events from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has already concluded that the effects of climate change will intensify extreme heat, heavy precipitation, and maximum wind speeds of tropical storms.

Climate change ‘grave threat’ to security and health17 October 2011 Last updated at 12:27 ET Climate change poses “an immediate, growing and grave threat” to health and security around the world, according to an expert conference in London. Officers in the UK military warned that the price of goods such as fuel is likely to rise as conflict provoked by climate change increases. A statement from the meeting adds that humanitarian disasters will put more and more strain on military resources.


‘Weather bomb’ winds scour Scotland
– Winds in the Scottish Highlands were clocked at 165 mph Thursday as an UNUSUAL STORM battered much of northern Britain. The worst effects were felt in Scotland. The winds brought trees down, stripped Aberdeen of its Christmas decorations and left 60,000 people without power. The Met Office issued its FIRST-EVER “red alert” Wednesday. Such warnings are HIGHLY UNUSUAL. Meteorologists said the wind was caused by an “explosive deepening,” a sharp drop in atmospheric pressure within a span of 24 hours that is also known as a “weather bomb”. Police advised everyone to get off the roads in central Scotland, but many drivers ignored the advice. Overturned trucks were scattered along highways and all travel was disrupted – with ferry services canceled, Edinburgh Airport closed and train speed limits reduced. About 75 percent of the schools in Scotland were closed. The wind also caused problems in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Wind speeds were measured as high as 81 mph in Wales and Northwest England. Ferries from Northern Ireland were canceled or delayed and cross-Channel services to France were disrupted.

UN: Southeast Asian Floods Trigger Humanitarian Crisis,  October 18, 2011 – The United Nations says ongoing floods in Southeast Asia are triggering a humanitarian crisis. Floods and disasters in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines have killed more than 700 people and affected eight million others.

140-mph gusts cause damage, outages, delays in California – Wind gusts stronger than 140 mph — which would be equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane — have been measured on the Sierra Crest mountain ridge, according to the National Weather Service. It’s all part of a system the federal weather agency called “the strongest easterly wind event in the past several years.”

Glaciers in the French Alps have lost a quarter of their area in the past 40 years – In the late 1960s/early 1970s, the ice fields slipping down Mont Blanc and the surrounding mountains of the European range covered some 375 sq km. By the late 2000s, this area had fallen to about 275 sq km.

Arctic ‘hurricane’ slams Alaska – A winter storm of hurricane strength was slamming Alaska early Wednesday with winds of up to 100 mph, high seas and blizzard conditions. The National Weather Service called the storm moving into the state off the Bering Sea “a powerful and extremely dangerous storm of record or near-record magnitude.”

Europe: Trapped Between Droughts and Floods, Wednesday, June 08, 2011 – According to the German weather service (DWD), the drought during the spring of 2011 was the worst ever measured. ‘No spring since the beginning of the weather measuring in 1893 has had so little rain as this year’s,’ Uwe Kirsche, DWD spokesperson, told IPS.

Thailand – Worst Floods in 50 years– The floods have claimed more than 300 lives since July and shuttered more than 14,000 businesses in a country that makes about a quarter of the world’s hard-disk drives and serves as the Southeast Asian production hub for Japanese carmakers. While the government estimates damages of as much as 120 billion baht ($3.9 billion), disruptions to the global supply chain may be underestimated, according to BGC Partners Inc. Floodwaters that have spread across 61 of the country’s 77 provinces since late July have damaged 14 percent of the nation’s rice farms and threaten to swamp parts of inner Bangkok, the government said yesterday.

Asia: Extreme Weather Leaves More Than 600 Dead Or Missing – MANILA, Philippines — The second typhoon in a week battered the rain-soaked northern Philippines on Saturday, adding misery to thousands of people, some of whom still perched on rooftops while several other Asian nations also reeled from flooding.

More than 9,000 heat records broken or tied in July, 2011 (MAP)

Deadly China floods force mass evacuation – Over half a million people have been evacuated in southern China after four days of torrential rain flooded vast areas of seven provinces.

Deadly flash floods sweep central Europe

South Pacific water shortage hits Tokelau – A second South Pacific community is suffering a severe water shortage due to an ongoing drought crisis.

Texas city makes heat record – 100 days of 100s

Heat wave breaks daily records in Ontario, Quebec – Toronto hottest spot in Canada.  A scorching heat wave toppled daily temperature records in 12 cities in Ontario and another dozen communities in Quebec Thursday.

Severe drought leads to water crises across Central Java – The drought that has afflicted Central Java for the last three months has created domestic and irrigation water crises in several parts of the province.  During a recent visit, The Jakarta Post observed that many rice fields in the regencies of Cilacap, Banyumas, Purbalingga and Banjarnegara were left dry and uncultivated due to a lack of irrigation water.

Britain bakes on the hottest October day for 100 years – Hot on the heels of the warmest end to September on record, yesterday has officially been declared Britain’s most scorching October day in more than a century. Just four weeks before the clocks go back for winter, Britain is in the middle of an Indian summer like no other with sizzling temperatures expected to continue into early next week.

An Exhausting Year Of Weather Extremes – In the first six months of the year there have been 98 natural disasters in the United States, about double the average of the 1990s.

Dozens Dead, 4 Million Forced to Flee From Flooding in Pakistan Province, Sept 5, 2011 – Floods in Pakistan’s Sindh province left more than 80 people dead and forced at least 4 million more from their homes as rains that began Aug. 31 destroyed entire villages, the government said.

Torrential rains are continuing to cause misery in Europe.

Somalia Drought ‘One of the Largest Humanitarian Crises in Decades’ – The crisis has been brought on by a deadly combination of severe drought, with no rain in the region for two years, a huge spike in food prices and a brutal civil war in Somalia, where it is too dangerous for aid workers to operate.  Somalians are walking as far as 50 miles to reach the Dadaab complex in eastern Kenya, the largest refugee camp in the world. The trek can take weeks through punishing terrain, which is desolate except for the carcasses that litter the land.

2011: Year of billion-dollar disasters, CNN, August 20, 2011  – The United States has already seen nine weather disasters this year that have caused $1 billion or more in damage, tying the record set in 2008. The total for all the disasters is about $35 billion.  “The year 2011 has already established itself in the record books as a historic year for weather-related disasters, and it is not over — in fact, hurricane season is just getting under way,” NOAA Deputy Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan told the Senate Appropriations Committee in late July.

July 2011: Hottest Month on Record -The average temperature in each of these cities during July was hotter than any single calendar month on record.

Texas-sized drought worst in history (video)

 2011 equals deadliest U.S. tornado year on record – (Reuters) – The United States on Saturday equaled the record for deaths from tornadoes in a single year with 519 killed in 2011, and more than a month still to go in the tornado season, The National Weather Service said.

Record heat, drought, and flooding sweeps US; food supply to take a hit, Thursday, July 14, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer – The year 2011 is shaping up to be one of the most treacherous years in recent history, at least as far as the nation’s weather patterns are concerned. While much of the Midwestern US continues to get drenched by record rainfall and torrential flooding, the Southern US is experiencing tremendous heat and drought conditions that, combined with flood conditions to the north, will have devastating effects on the nation’s food supply.

Horn of Africa sees ‘worst drought in 60 years’ – Some parts of the Horn of Africa have been hit by the worst drought in 60 years, the UN says.  More than 10 million people are thought to be affected across the region. The UN now classifies large areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya as a crisis or an emergency.

Arizona wildfire is now largest in state history at a record-breaking 469,000 acres – The wildfire that has roared out of control for more than two weeks in Arizona is now the largest in state history, having consumed over 469,000 acres.

14 US States Currently Wracked by Crippling Droughts by – Fourteen U.S. states, from North Carolina to Arizona to Texas — where conditions are crushing records set in 1917 — are currently in the midst of devastating droughts.

Millions in Pakistan Struggle Against Record Floods – Much of Pakistan faces more storms in the coming days. Heavy rains have already caused more than two weeks of record flooding. Health officials worry about disease spreading because of a lack of clean drinking water. The United Nations wants four hundred sixty million dollars to provide immediate help to fourteen million people affected by the flooding. The appeal this week came as estimates put the number of dead at about one thousand six hundred.

Record Floods Test China’s Three Gorges Dam: Big Pic – July 20, 2010 — Torrential rains that have been dumping on China for weeks turned deadly as record-breaking floods show no signs of retreat. Reuters reported that “at least 37 people died and another 86 were missing after landslides and flooding in northwestern Shaanxi province and southwestern Sichuan since late last week.” Millions had to be evacuated from their homes as dikes strain against the water’s weight.

New Mexico joins Arizona and Texas with record breaking wildfire seasons – The Las Conchas wildfire burning along the western edge of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has grown to more than 103,800 acres (according to the Associated Press), making it the largest forest fire in New Mexico history.  This new record has been set less than a month after the Wallow fire in Arizona became the largest in state history, burning more than 470,000 acres. And firefighters have responded to nearly 1500 wildfires in Texas this year, which have burned a record 3.3 million acres. The old Texas record was 1.98 million acres in 2006 (records have been kept for 25 years) according to Amarillo.com.

Minot suffering record breaking flooding –  MINOT, N.D. — The city knew that with heavy rains and snow melt the river would be up this year, but it didn’t expect it to be anywhere near this high. The level has already broken a record set in the 1880s and it’s still on the rise.

Rapid Decline in Mountain Snowpack Bad News for Western U.S. Rivers, By Lauren Morello  | June 10, 2011, Published in Scientific American – Snowpack in the northern Rocky Mountains has shrunk at an unusually rapid pace during the past 30 years, according to a new study.  The decline is “almost unprecedented” over the past 800 years, say researchers who used tree rings to reconstruct a centuries-long record of snowpack throughout the entire Rocky Mountain range.  Their work, published yesterday in the journal Science, suggests that the plummeting snowpack could have serious consequences for more than 70 million people who depend on water from the runoff-fed Columbia, Colorado and Missouri rivers.

PBS – June 9, 2011 Ariz. Wildfire Spreads as Record-Breaking Heat Wave Grips Eastern U.S. A late-spring heat wave burned its way into the record books in the Eastern U.S. today, causing at least seven deaths. And in the West, an inferno of a different kind, an out-of-control wildfire, raged on.

Eastern Palm Beach County now in worst drought on record – After being in an “extreme drought” for weeks, National Weather Service officials announced Thursday that the area from West Palm Beach south through Broward County is now in an “exceptional drought” – the highest level of drought never before seen in South Florida. “It’s been dry for so long, exceptionally dry,” said Robert Molleda, warning coordination meteorologist. “These conditions just continued to get worse.”

 It’s only June: Record-breaking heat grips eastern half of US; forecasters say get used to it
The mercury climbed into the 90s across half the country Wednesday in a record-breaking blast of August-like heat, forcing schools with no air conditioning to let kids go home early and cities to open cooling centers. And scientists say we had better get used to it.  A new study from Stanford University predicts that global climate change will lead permanently to unusually hot summers by the middle of the century.

Despite better technology, 2011 set to be deadliest tornado year – Since 1875, the average number of deaths from tornadoes has actually decreased — from about 200 to 55 a year, Myers said. This year is a sharp anomaly.

Flooding in south U.S. to break records,  By John Afleck on May 4, 2011, 05 May 2011  – Meteorologists from AccuWeather predict that water levels along the Mississippi River from southern Illinois and southeastern Missouri to western Tennessee and Northeast Kansas are likely to be higher than the previous flood levels set in 1937. Hydrologists say that this was caused by the unusual weather patterns, including extreme amounts o rain over the southern part of the United States.

Arctic ice melt ‘alarming’ Ocean could be ice-free in summers within 40 years and sea levels could rise by 1.6 metres by 2100, says new study.

Somalia drought leaves one in four children hungry – UN – Children in Somalia are suffering some of the highest malnutrition rates in the world, says the United Nations as drought continues to affect the country.  An UN official told the BBC about two and a half million people had been affected. She said there had been complete crop failure in southern Somalia and that many had lost their livelihoods.

Cuba faces its worst drought for 50 years, 14 April 2011 – Cuba is facing its worst drought in half a century, with tens of thousands of families almost entirely reliant on water trucks for essential supplies. The drought started two years ago, and reservoirs are now down to a fifth of their normal levels.

 Japan’s tsunami waves top historic heights– Tsunami waves topped 60 feet or more as they broke onshore following Japan’s earthquake, according to some of the first surveys measuring the impact along the afflicted nation’s entire coast. Some waves grew to more than 100 feet high, breaking historic records, as they squeezed between fingers of land surrounding port towns.

Water shortages threaten the American West lifestyle, by Arnie Cooper – As Gleick points out in “Roadmap for Sustainable Water Resources in Southwestern North America,” it’s not land, energy, mining or climate, that is going to be most difficult issue to address in the Western United States — it’s water.

Colombia floods are ‘unprecedented tragedy’ – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos warned: “There are going to be a lot of needy people, there has never been a tragedy of this scale in our history.”

3.3.2011, February Ties Record-Low for Arctic Sea Ice – Even as the ice in the Arctic continues to form as part of the normal winter cycle, the cycle is continuing to show signs of anything but normalcy.

Mexico freeze kills 80-100 pct of crops; US food prices to soar

Multiple ocean stresses threaten “globally significant” marine extinction – LONDON, An international

panel of marine experts warns in a report released today that the world’socean is at high risk of entering a

phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history.

2011: Year of the flood. These major floods happened in the first 3 weeks of 2011 – Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog – Friday, January 21, 2011, 10:21 – The year 2010 was one the worst years in world history for high-impact floods. But just three weeks into the new year, 2011 has already had an entire year’s worth of mega-floods. I’ll recap here six remarkable floods that have already occurred this year.

  1. Brazil
    Brazil suffered its deadliest natural disaster in history last week, when torrential rains inundated a heavily populated, steep-sloped area about 40 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. Flash floods and mudslides from the heavy rains have claimed at least 772 lives, including 357 in Nova Friburgo and 323 in Teresópolis. The storm left 126 people missing, the Brazilian Health and Civil Defense Ministry said Thursday. Rainfall amounts of approximately 300 mm (12 inches) fell in just a few hours in the hardest-hit regions. Damage estimates are currently $1.2 billion, and 13,000 are homeless. Latest rainfall forecasts from the GFS model show the heaviest rains during the coming week staying well south of the Rio de Janeiro area, which will give the flood region time to dry out and recover.
  2. Australia Queensland
    Australia’s most expensive natural disaster in history is now the Queensland flood of 2010 – 2011, with a price tag now as high as $30 billion. At least 31 have been killed since December in the floods, and another 40 are missing. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, in 2010 Australia had its wettest spring (September – November) since records began 111 years ago, with some sections of coastal Queensland receiving over 4 feet (1200 mm) of rain. Rainfall in Queensland and all of eastern Australia in December was the greatest on record, and the year 2010 was the rainiest year on record for Queensland. Queensland typically has its rainiest years when La Niña events occur, due to the much warmer than average ocean temperatures that occur along the coast. The BOM noted, “Previous strong La Niña events, such as those of 1974 and 1955, have also been associated with widespread and severe flooding in eastern Australia. Sea surface temperatures off the Queensland coast in recent months have also been at or near record levels.” The BOM’s annual summary also reported, “Sea surface temperatures in the Australian region during 2010 were the warmest value on record for the Australian region. Individual high monthly sea surface temperature records were also set during 2010 in March, April, June, September, October, November and December. Along with favourable hemispheric circulation associated with the 2010 La Niña, very warm sea surface temperatures contributed to the record rainfall and very high humidity across eastern Australia during winter and spring.” Queensland has an area the size of Germany and France combined, and 3/4 of the region has been declared a disaster zone. The latest GFS precipitation forecast for the coming week shows new heavy rains of 3 – 5 inches can be expected over the extreme northern portion of Queensland, but the majority of the state will receive lesser rains that should not further aggravate the flooding situation.
  3. Australia Victoria
    From January 12 – 14, extremely heavy rains over the southern Australian state of Victoria caused major flooding that killed one person and caused hundreds of millions in damage. Kevin Parkyn, a senior forecaster with the Bureau of Meteorology said “Victoria is experiencing one of its worst flood events in its history” after “a week in which rainfall totals have been smashed in parts of Victoria”. Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Terry Ryan said “It’s the worst flood in western Victoria in their history as far as our records go in terms of the depth of water and the number of places affected.” According to atmospheric moisture expert Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, extratropical storm systems like the one that affected Victoria get 70% of their moisture from the surrounding atmosphere, and 30% due to evaporation from the surface. Since the airmass that supplied Victoria with its flooding rains traveled over the already-flooded portions of Queensland to the north before reaching Victoria, the moisture from the Queensland floods contributed significantly to the Victoria floods. Little rain is predicted over Victoria during the coming week, fortunately.
  4. 100-year flood in Sri Lanka
    The government’s Disaster Management Centre said more than 1 million people had been affected by the rains, with 325,000 made homeless.
  5. South Africa
    Heavy rains of up 345 mm (13.6″) have fallen in South Africa so far this month, resulting in deadly floods that have killed 40 people. Seven of the country’s nine provinces have been declared disaster zones. Agricultural damage alone from the floods is estimated at $145 million. Heavy rains and severe flooding have also affected neighboring Mozambique, where 13 people are dead and 13,000 homeless or suffering damaged homes. Neighboring Zimbabwe has seen its heaviest rains in 30 years in recent weeks, according to the nation’s Civil Protection Unit, but severe flooding has not yet hit that nation. La Niña events commonly cause heavy rains in southern Africa. Sea surface temperatures off the east coast of South Africa were 0.2 – 0.4°C above average during December 2010–nowhere near record levels, but warm enough to contribute to enhanced rainfall.
  6. Philippines
    Very heavy rains since late December have triggered a major flooding disaster in the Philippines, where 40 are dead, 453,000 people displaced, and 1.2 million people affected. The heavy rains were caused when a cold front moved over the eastern Philippines and lingered for many days. Heavy rains are common in the Philippines during La Niña events, as unusually warm waters accumulate by the islands. This winter, the waters in the central Philippines (10N to 15N, 120E to 130E) were at the warmest levels in history–1.0°C above average during December. The exceptionally warm waters allowed more moisture than usual to evaporate into the air, enhancing rainfall.

China’s 2011 DroughtEast China wheat basket braces for worst drought in 200 years

February 8 – Bloomberg: “Shandong province, one of China’s major grain producers, is facing its worst drought in 200 years if the eastern region doesn’t receive more precipitation by the end of this month, the official Xinhua News Agency reported… Shandong, which has received only 12 millimeters of rain since last September, is one of eight drought-ravaged provinces where the government has started a ‘grade II emergency response’ including 24-hour weather monitoring and daily damage reports… The four-month drought affected 35% of wheat in the eight regions…”

February 8 – Bloomberg (James Poole): “A severe drought in the North China Plain, the country’s main winter wheat-producing area, may threaten production, according to the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization. Rainfall has been substantially below normal since October, with diminished snow cover reducing the protection of dormant plants against frost… The drought is ‘potentially a serious problem,’ it said.”

USA: Blizzard of 2011 ‘a storm of historic proportions’ – “We are experiencing a storm of historic proportions . . . the likes of which we really haven’t seen in 20 or 30 years,” said Ray Orozco, Mayor Daley’s chief of staff.

Worst Ever Monster Cyclone Hits Australia – A terrifying top-strength cyclone slammed into Australia’s populous northeast coast on Thursday, which could be one of the most lethal storms in the nation’s history. Howling winds whipped up by Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi with speeds of up to 290 kilometres (181 miles) per hour ripped off roofs, felled trees and cut power supplies as the storm crossed the Queensland coast. Bloomberg (Wendy Pugh): “World sugar output will probably fall short of demand, said Rabobank, after a cyclone with winds stronger than Hurricane Katrina destroyed homes and smashed crops in Australia, driving prices to 30-year highs. Tropical Cyclone Yasi ripped through northern Queensland, a region growing a third of the country’s cane, cutting output potential in the area by about 50%…”

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About Kim Martindale

Mother of two, wife of one, home manager, gardener, student of health and wellness, world traveler, nature lover, researcher, Jesus follower, community builder. I'm seeking to become resilient and to live sustainably. I desire to give back and share what I'm learning with others.

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