News

United States Extreme Weather Event

Drought in the State of California

Since 2012, California has suffered from a drought that reached its peak in the years 2014-2017. Characterized as an extended dry period caused by lack of precipitation and/or reduction in groundwater, the drought came at a tremendous cost to California and other surrounding states. In 2015 alone, it is estimated that the drought cost the state US$2.7 billion, largely in lost agricultural productivity and employment. Additionally, the drought increased the severity of wildfires and floods, destroying millions of trees and billions of dollars worth of property. As of early 2017, the drought has largely ended in northern California, but parts remain under extreme drought conditions in southern California.

While it is difficult to link individual weather events to climate change, researchers at Stanford University have suggested reduced atmospheric pressure—and subsequent reduced precipitation—as the root cause of the drought. They suggest that such a severe drought would not have occurred to the same extent without global climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Another study connected increased global average temperatures from climate change with greater soil moisture evaporation, which increased the severity of the drought.

While the drought emergency has not yet been lifted by governor Jerry Brown, it is expected to be lifted within the next six weeks. Despite the hardship the state endured over the past five years, water policy has not improved as much as necessary to protect the state in the event of another drought like this one. However, water usage in the state remains greatly reduced from pre-drought levels, and monitoring and reporting practices are in the process of being made permanent fixtures of California law.

Learn More

Costs of the drought in 2015:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2015/08/19/california-drought-cost-27-billion-2015/32007967/

Studies linking drought and climate change:
http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/september/drought-climate-change-092914.html
https://thinkprogress.org/how-much-of-californias-drought-was-caused-by-climate-change-scientists-now-have-the-answer-56ae9e33555f#.amp1gp8nh

Post-drought outlook for California:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/10/us/california-drought-snowpack.html?_r=0

United Kingdom Extreme Weather Event

2015-2016 UK Floods

December 2015 in the UK was the second wettest December there since records began. A complete lack of frost, and a temperature that was 4.1 degrees above average, resulted in huge amounts of rainfall being dropped within a 24-hour window. Large swathes of the north of England and Scotland received on average 5.9 inches of rainfall – with some areas of Cumbria even recording 13.4 inches. Gusts of up to 115 mph were frequent, and two more storms quickly followed: both depositing even heavier rainfall on already-saturated landscapes. Multiple rivers broke their banks, a bridge collapsed and gas pipes were ruptured.  Over 16,000 homes and businesses were flooded, many more suffered prolonged power-cuts, and dozens of rescue missions had to be undertaken by boat to save stranded residents.

It is clear that these storms, and the subsequent flooding, were weather events far outside the normal reaches of the British climate, and it is highly probable that it was influenced by climate change. Climate change has caused a rise in global temperatures that has resulted in the air within the Pacific and Atlantic jet streams being warmer. This in turn has enabled the air streams to hold more water vapor and thus increase the likelihood of extreme rainfall and flooding when they hit land. Dame Silgo, chief scientist at the Met Office, stated that just ‘from a basic physical understanding of weather systems, it is entirely plausible that climate change has exacerbated what has been a period of very wet and stormy weather.’

The sitting Conservative government received a lot of criticism for not heeding previous flood warnings and for cutting flood defense spending when it was most needed. In 2014, the Met Office advised the government that Britain was in line for more heavy rainfall events due to climate change, and that funding cuts would leave 240,000 households at greater risk of flood damage within 20 years. Nevertheless, with deficit reduction being prioritized over addressing climate change-related risks, the promised £400m per year for flood defense spending was cut sharply each year: £360m in 2010-11, to less than £270m in 2012-13. Funding was, on average, 37% lower than the funds provided by the previous government.

Following the storms, a raft of policies was announced to mitigate the immediate impacts, and to ensure long-term flood protection. Government figures state that over £200 million has been spent in extra investment for storm recovery. Local authorities were provided with £500 for each household affected, and £2,500 for each business. Households were provided with grants of up to £5,000 to install flood barriers, replace doors and windows with water-resistant alternatives and to move electricity sockets to safer levels. Flood affected communities would be exempt from Council Tax and business rate bills while they were out of their properties, and farmers could get grants of up to £20,000 to help restore damaged agricultural land. £40 million was pledged to help repair flood-damaged roads and bridges, and an additional £10 million was given to the Environmental Agency to repair and improve flood defenses. The government agreed to match every donation made by the public to support flood efforts up to £2 million, as well as pledging to invest a total of £2.3 billion in flood defenses over the next 6 years.

Opposition parties criticized this reaction as a ‘sticking-plaster response’, noting that the proposals mainly included funding that was already destined for such projects, and that the total earmarked was not enough to fully prepare for, and adapt to, future climate-change related extreme weather events.

Learn More

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/uk-weather-why-the-recent-devastating-floods-will-become-the-new-normal-a6793291.html

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/30/experts-criticise-george-osborne-over-flood-protection-funding

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/north-west-england-floods-2015-government-response

Turkey Extreme Weather Event

Extreme Rainfall in the Black Sea Region

In June 2016, Ordu, a coastal city in the Black Sea Region of Turkey, faced an extreme weather condition. A heavy rainfall of 300 kg per square meter resulted in a terrible disaster and loss of life. Landslides occurred in 16 regions that caused the destruction of many houses and bridges. Coastal roads were also closed to traffic due to landslides.

While deforestation increased the catastrophic consequences, improper construction techniques played a major role in this specific disaster. An old bridge built in 1940 was not demolished, but the bridge that was built ten years ago together with new retaining walls was demolished.  Several newly built houses were submerged. The main reason for this is that the new buildings and bridges have been constructed on the waterway without a proper soil survey. Also when agriculture was common in the region, the cultivated areas had waterways that resulted in a gradual flow. As agricultural activities decreased, these waterways could not find an offset such as street gutter.

After the incident, the construction permits in the risky areas have been revoked. However the existing buildings have not been evacuated yet which paves the way for similar disasters occurring in the future. The precautions to be taken in the region as well as the improvements made after the catastrophe are insufficient. After almost a year, the demolished bridges and retaining walls have not yet been repaired. It is necessary to take action without losing time in order to prevent similar incidents in the Black Sea Region.

Thailand Extreme Weather Event

Extreme Rainfall and Flooding

A recent example of climate change related extreme weather in Thailand happened in December 2016. Twelve of Thailand’s 14 southern provinces experienced heavy rainfall that lasted for several days. The excessive rainfall led to massive flooding and devastation in these provinces and other regions including central Thailand, areas of the Malay Peninsula, and northern Indonesia. Narathiwat, the southernmost province in Thailand experienced around 226 mm (almost 9 inches) of rainfall in the first two days of December. This flooding event led to significant disruption in rail services in the surrounding area. It damaged around 2,400 hectares of farmlands and more than 360,000 people were severely affected, and approximately 14 deaths occurred. In response to the widespread flooding, the Governor of Thailand’s Surat Thani province identified 16 of the province’s 19 disaster areas; and small boats and vessels were warned not to venture to sea. Heavy rainfall still continued for several days, which increased the risks of landslides and flash floods.

Government policy-makers have expressed an urgent need for the implementation of disaster management policies, which incorporates flood management. However, residents from flood-prone communities have strongly opposed the manner through which these flood management measures has been proposed by the Thai government. One such flood management measure is the construction of flood protection walls, which is associated with growing debates from both sides. To address the necessity of constructing the flood protection walls, Pattanan Thongsawad, a demonstrator and local resident of Thailand’s flood prone village Yucharoen, argued, “We want more concrete walls all the way around our community. That is the only way I’ll feel secure. There will be more rain and more floods and we cannot rely on the government to deal with them”. In contrast, Gernot Laganda, a climate specialist at the United Nations Development Program Office in Bangkok highlighted the cons of building a flood protection wall by arguing, “It will be more important to build strong monitoring systems and to start building climate flexible systems. Instead of building high walls and river defenses today, it will make more sense to strengthen the foundations of existing structures so they can be raised as and when risks become more apparent.” Similarly, Surajit Chirawate, who sits on the senate environmental committee, argues about the cons of constructing a flood protection wall by saying, “People should not fight with the water. They should let it through. That is how we dealt with floods in the past. That is why Bangkok has so many canals. But now rich city dwellers are too distant from nature. What they are doing with their flood protection walls is actually increasing the level of the water”. Such debates are leading to increased uncertainties about the effectiveness of policies in place with respect to flood management measures. Therefore, Thailand still has a long road ahead for implementing an effective natural disaster management and flood control policy that will be successful in the long-run. Developing such policies will require a more transparent process, which can be achieved through joint collaboration between the residents from vulnerable flood-prone communities, citizens, Thai Government, policymakers, environmental planners and concerned stakeholders.

Learn More

To learn more about the recent flooding event in Thailand, which occurred in December 2016, please visit http://www.air-worldwide.com/Blog/Floods-in-Thailand-Are-Regular-Natural-Disasters/

To learn more about the 2011 flooding in Thailand, the flood management measures proposed by the government post-2011 flooding and the growing debates associated with these measures, please visit http://www.climatecentral.org/news/partner-news/thailand-seeks-flood-prevention-plan-as-bangkok-clean-up-operation-con

Spain Extreme Weather Event

Extreme Droughts and Floods in Eastern and Southern Spain

Extreme weather has ravaged Spain in the last couple of years. Torrential rains and deadly floods plagued eastern and southern Spain in December of 2016 resulting in ten fatalities, school and highway closures, and massive amounts of damage. Conversely, Spain experienced extreme droughts in 2016 and 2014, where rainfall was only 25% of its normal levels. In June 2015, Spain experienced heat waves with some provinces reaching record temperatures. With such chaotic weather patterns, Spain’s economy has suffered, its population is uneasy, and the government has struggled to keep up with remedial measures.

While Spain frequently experiences dry spells, extended periods of drought have become more frequent and more severe. In recent years, Spain’s reservoirs have fallen to half or even 25% of their normal levels. The droughts have negatively impacted Spain’s economy since they hinder the ability to grow crops or raise livestock and deter tourism, which are some of Spain’s leading sources of income. Furthermore, Spain may find itself in a similar situation as it was during the drought of 2008, which was so severe that Spain was forced to import fresh water from France.

In December 2016, extreme flooding ravaged southern and eastern Spain. The region experienced days of endless rainfall that caused damage to buildings, infrastructure, and cars. The flooding claimed the lives of ten people, including one man who was swept out to sea. These floods led to speculation that rising sea levels due to global warming may have exacerbated the flood conditions.

As a result of the flooding, the Spanish government will be providing financial assistance to aid in reparations. While this measure will benefit many citizens who suffered damages in the floods, it does nothing to prevent future flooding. Additionally, the Spanish government is still recovering from its recent economic crisis. Providing this financial assistance will pose a further financial burden on the government. The reservoirs and dams that exist in Spain today were built during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco roughly half a century ago. The Spanish government may find that investing in the creation of new dams and reservoirs could prevent future flooding while also providing more sources of fresh water during periods of drought.

Learn More

http://www.thelocal.es/20161219/emergency-measures-in-place-as-torrential-rain-makes-spanish-rivers-overflow

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/spains-drought-a-glimpse-of-our-future-833587.html

http://www.theolivepress.es/spain-news/2014/05/25/worst-drought-in-150-years-hits-spain/

South Korea Extreme Weather Event

2016 Extreme Heat Wave

The recent extreme heat wave in 2016 caused extensive damage to people, the environment and to the country as a whole. The damage can be seen in the agricultural sector, the maritime-fisheries sector, the environment/energy sector and on people’s health.

Damage to the agricultural sector included death of livestock and plants because of the high temperatures that were above 32 degrees Celsius. The repair costs for these damages were over 2,000 million KRW. The government tried to deal with these agricultural sector problems by introducing policies and actions such as providing information on the analysis of agricultural climate characteristics, climate damage by agro-climatic zones, and forecasting each region’s soil moisture status (167 cities and counties).

The most significant damage to the maritime-fisheries sector was that aquaculture species died as a result of the high-water temperatures that cost 50 billion KRW. The government issued warnings and breaking news on low/high water temperatures to help the aquaculture industry prevent the massive death of fish (this was also a reaction from the cold waves in 2015 and 2016).

Due to these heat waves in Seoul, which lasted for 24 days, including 32 days of tropical nights, national ozone warnings were issued on a regular basis. During this period, electricity consumption reached its peak, 8,370,000 kW. This high demand for electricity resulted in the rapid increase of sales of air conditioners (160% increase), dehumidifiers (245% increase), and electric fans (92% increase). As a policy response, the National Institute of Environmental Research and NASA developed a joint air quality investigation.

The heat waves also affected people’s health. In 2016, the number of patients with thermal problems (heat stroke) doubled. In order to monitor such health issues, the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now provides the current status of health damages and releases news on the rapid increase in the number of patients with thermal conditions/problems.

South Africa Extreme Weather Event

Severe Country-Wide Drought

The current drought, which started in the summer of 2014, is the third-driest for South Africa as a whole since the early 1930s when the country was hit by a historic drought in the midst of the Great Depression. The severity of the current drought has been aggravated by an El Nino, a weather pattern which decreases moisture in the sub-Saharan region.

Many financial hubs in the country, including Cape Town and Johannesburg, had to impose water restrictions on residents. Dry conditions last year cut South Africa’s maize crop by a third. South African livestock farmers were urged by the government to cut the size of their herds as drought conditions suck moisture out of grazing land.

Response

The continued low rainfall resulted in very dry conditions with drought being reported in all nine provinces of the country. As a result, eight of the provinces were declared as disaster areas, thereby authorising the release of crucial funds to assist farmers. However, it recently came to light in Parliament that more than R380 million (about US$28.6 million) which could have been used to assist farmers during the drought, has not been spent. This is due to mismanagement by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, which had not informed any stakeholders that the money was still available.

Other support provided to affected communities and farmers included the identification of land for relocation of livestock‚ revitalisation of feedlots‚ auction sales of livestock‚ provision of feed and water for livestock‚ support to small-holder farmers and sugar cane farmers and the creation of firebreaks. Fodder banks were established in rural areas and animal feed was delivered to farmers as part of efforts to maintain livestock.

On March 5, 2017, the mayor declared the City of Cape Town a disaster area, in order to respond more rapidly by mobilising staff and resources to deal with the crisis. The city’s dwindling water supply is predicted to run out in little more than 100 days if dam levels and water consumption remain unchanged. The critically low water supply was further put under pressure by wildfires in the Western Cape area, caused by the dry and windy summer season.

Future Actions

South Africa is a water-stressed country and is on an economic growth pathway that is very water intensive. In order to meet the increased water and food demands of a growing population, a collective effort by government, farmers and private industry is required. We have to learn best-practices from other drought-challenged countries in adapting to the ever-worsening weather conditions.

Learn More

For ongoing updates on the current drought in South Africa, see: http://www.droughtsa.org.za/faq.html

The South African Water Research Commission supports sustainable water development:
http://www.wrc.org.za/

The Weather Service provides information on the types of droughts that South Africa experiences: http://www.weathersa.co.za/learning/climate-questions/36-what-kind-of-droughts-does-south-africa-experience

To understand more about the impact of the current drought on the South African economy, see:
http://www.businessleadership.org.za/newsletter-content/The-impact-of-the-current-drought-on-the-South-African-economy/index.html?&re=1

Saudi Arabia Extreme Weather Event

Extreme Rainfall and Flash Flooding in Jeddah City

In 2009 and 2011, Jeddah City in the middle of the western region of Saudi Arabia experienced short, but intense rainfall events with rainfall precipitation values of 70 mml and 110 mml that led to flash floods. The World Bank climate adaptation expert, Balgis Osman-Elasha, defines an extreme rainfall event as one with “an intense rainfall and high quantities of rain (more than 90 millimeters) over a short span of time (four hours) over an area that normally receives 45 millimeters per year.” These flash floods had catastrophic consequences resulting in the death of 113 people in 2009 and damage to 10,000 houses and to 17,000 vehicles.

When analyzing the factors that led to the flash floods, rainfall and climate change factors played a major role contributing to the worsening of the flood disaster. Youssef et al.’s study in 2015 indicates a direct correlation between the magnitude and frequency of intense rainfall events and climate change. This result was reached by conducting a frequency analysis in which the maximum daily rainfall amount corresponding to a set of return periods of 25, 50, 100, and 200 years were calculated for the Jeddah city to determine the temporal effect of climate change on rainfall characteristics. These effects can include an increase or decrease in precipitation. A study using time-series data and descriptive statistics were used to determine the temporal trend in rainfall data and found a trend slope of 0.35, with a Pearson’s correlation coefficient (r) of 0.16, with a p-value of 0.36. These results indicate a moderate positive correlation of the annual maximum rainfall with increasing time. Based on this result, the precipitation was increased by about 27.8%. Thus, the study showed that the rainfall values changes and the increasing number of rainfall events are consequences of climatic changes. Many of the policy changes are in the form of recommendations such as conducting a detailed hydrological study of the recently-constructed human settlements that are along watercourses and at outlets downstream of wadis (valleys), and establishing a flash flood warning system for all areas that are subjected to flash floods.

Learn More

Climate Change to hit Saudi’s Agriculture, Water
http://www.scidev.net/global/desert-science/news/climate-change-to-hit-saudi-s-agriculture-water.html

Ahmed M. Youssef, Saleh A. Sefry, Biswajeet Pradhan & Emad Abu Alfadail (2016) Analysis on causes of flash flood in Jeddah city (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) of 2009 and 2011 using multi-sensor remote sensing data and GIS, Geomatics, Natural Hazards and Risk, 7:3, 1018-1042, DOI:
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/19475705.2015.1012750

Russia Extreme Weather Event

Upward Trend in Dangerous Climate Events

In Russia, the forecast and monitoring of dangerous weather or climate events are a part of the state monitoring and reporting system. On an annual basis, the Federal Service of Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring develops and issues a Report on Climate Peculiarities on the Territory of the Russian Federation with a brief analysis of the extreme and dangerous events.

The number of dangerous events (DEs) for the last 9 years is presented in the table below.

The figure below demonstrates the quantity of the dangerous events and complexes of events (including the hydrological and agrometeorological events) that caused significant damage to the economy and the population. The columns marked red shows the quantity of unexpected, unpredicted events. The overall trend line of the significant dangerous events is going strongly upward.


The most frequent dangerous events are heavy rainfalls and floods, forest and peat fires, and strong winds that help spread the fires. Most extreme weather events happen from May to August/ September each year, due to atmospheric peculiarities.

Weather events that have caused the most damage in the last 3 years include: In 2015, the extremely strong wind in the Republic of Khakasiya (up to 31 m/s) in a dry hot season led to extensive damage to grids, trees and some property, as well as fires in 1,371 private houses in which 23 persons died. In 2016, a heavy rain event in Rostov-on-Don led to a flood in the streets, washed out roads and sinkholes up to 5m2 and damage to 2 bridges. This caused severe damage to power grids and resulted in 6 victims hurt and1 death.

In order to ensure the safety of the population and territories against natural and technogenic emergency situations at the local, regional and national levels, the special centralized Unified Emergency Prevention & Response State System (RSChS) was created in Russia in 1992. The main objectives of the RSChS system are forecasting of emergencies; preparing the population to act in emergencies; elimination of emergencies and mitigation of their socio-economic impacts; and reserving  financial and material resources for emergency response.

Nigeria Extreme Weather Event

The Worst Flood in 40 Years

Heavy tropical rains during the wet season in Nigeria, often followed by seasonal flash floods, sometimes lead to death especially in rural areas and overcrowded suburbs due to poor or non-existent drainage (Reuters, 2012). In 2012, Nigeria experienced what has been termed its worst flood in 40 years. The National Emergency Management Agency estimated that the flood of July 2012 killed over 400 persons and displaced over 1 million people. The flood, which affected 30 out of Nigeria’s 36 states, disrupted petroleum production in the oil rich Niger Delta by about 500,000 barrels per day–more than a fifth of the country’s daily output and caused an estimated loss of 2.5 trillion Naira (more than 7 billion US dollars).

Mitigation Measures

In March 2012, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) forecast heavy rainfall and resulting floods in many parts of the country. The agency warned governments of southern states to be prepared and residents of coastal areas to temporarily relocate from high-risk spots. Further, NIMET produced a manual to prepare for disaster that may arise from a possible failure of the Lake Nyos Dam which was feared could lead to severe flooding in most parts of Northern Nigeria. Some state governments heeded the warning by NIMET and took steps to keep drainage channels clear in towns and cities that significantly reduced the impact of the floods. In most places however, the warnings were largely ignored leading to heavy tolls in lost lives and damaged property.

Disaster relief committees and groups were organized in the wake of the flood at federal, state and local levels to evacuate affected residents, provide temporary shelter, food, and healthcare services for displaced persons and organize rehabilitation efforts.

Preparing for the Future

Following the 2012 floods, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) produced a Post-Disaster Needs Assessment report that included actions necessary to care for affected persons and rehabilitate impacted areas. Workshops were organized for dissemination of early warning messages from the agency. Community consultation and mobilization as well as awareness programs were also implemented at the grassroots level across various communities. The agency also conducted a flood vulnerability mapping project to identify communities at risk of flooding. Contingency plans have been prepared including firming up agreements with local and international stakeholders in disaster management agencies such as the National Orientation Agency, National Environmental Standards Regulations and Enforcement Agency (NESREA), and the United States of America African Command (USAFRICOM).

Learn More

The following link provides information on flooding in Nigeria http://www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-floods-idUSBRE8880D320120909

The following link provides information on the death toll due to the flood http://www.irinnews.org/news/2012/10/10-0

More information on the economic impact of the flooding is available at http://www.channelstv.com/2012/11/05/nigerias-worse-flood-kills-363-displaces-2-1-million-people-nema/

More information on the economic impact of the flooding is available at http://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/217043-nigeria-managed-flood-better-2016-leading-less-deaths-destruction-nema.html

More information on the warning by NIMET is available at http://www.vanguardngr.com/2012/10/2012-year-of-flood-fury-a-disaster-foretold-but-ignored/

The following link provides information on measures taken by NEMA to mitigate the impact from future flooding events http://nema.gov.ng/how-nema-manages-disasters