Thursday, February 17, 2011

Three billion-dollar disasters in U.S. last year - Extreme weather in the United States brings with it a high price tag, according to a new federal report. In the last three decades, 99 weather disasters have caused a billion or more dollars in damage across the 50 states. Recently released are the costs from disasters in 2010 — a year which escaped with a comparatively low number of billion-dollar disasters, as "we had no hurricanes in the mix." Unfortunately, for the three regions affected by billion-dollar weather disasters, 2010 was still a devastating year.
In March, heavy rainfall and flooding in the Northeast, including the worst in Rhode Island's history, caused more than $1.5 billion in damages and killed 11 people. Several days of flooding, hail, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms in late April and early May left a trail of destruction across many Southern states, causing $2.3 billion in damages and killing 32 people. Tennessee was hit the hardest, and flooding in Nashville alone contributed to more than $1 billion in losses. Finally, in mid-May of last year, a flurry of tornadoes and severe weather hit the middle of the country. Total losses exceeded $3 billion and three people died because of the storms. Oklahoma suffered the highest losses, with more than $1.5 billion in damages.
Across the United States since 1980, hurricanes and tropical storms were the costliest disasters by far, racking up $367.3 billion in the 30-year span, far outstripping the runner-up - heat waves and droughts - that accounted for $185.2 billion in losses. Hurricane Katrina made 2005 the most devastating year in the three decades studied. Katrina alone caused a whopping $133.8 billion in damage and killed 1,833 people. However, 2008 saw the highest number of costly disasters — nine separate weather events, including tornadoes, wildfires, flooding, drought and three hurricanes, each costing $1 billion or more, hit the United States that year.
The data don't reveal any particular trends in the frequency or location of extreme weather events across the United States. However, southern states, especially those in the path of hurricanes, make the list most often, and there are implications for the losses incurred in extreme weather as more people move to the coast and build more expensive homes there. "There are more people in harm's way, and there's more property in harm's way."
Looking ahead, it's impossible to know what 2011 will look like, but "I'd be surprised if we don't see a hurricane. We got spared last year, but I don't know how lucky we'll be this year." Whatever 2011 brings, the most important thing is to remain weather-wise. "Pay attention to watches and warnings issued in your area. You don't want to become a statistic on this list."

**Wise men talk because they have something to say.
Fools talk because they have to say something.**

This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.

Yesterday -
2/16/11 -

Cyclone BINGIZA was 653 nmi W of Saint Pierre, Reunion.

Cyclone CARLOS was 611 nmi ENE of Broome, Australia.
Cyclone DIANNE was 627 nmi W of Broome, Australia.

MADAGASCAR - A tropical cyclone that hit Madagascar on Monday has brought damage and flooding to towns and villages in the northeast of the country and killed at least six people. Relief workers are still assessing the damage but reports indicate that flooding to houses, roads and crops in the pre-harvest, so-called lean season, could lead to food shortages in the area.
Tropical Cyclone Bingiza struck the village of Vinanivao on the northeast coast of Madagascar around dawn on Monday morning. Authorities say there were winds of up to 180 kilometers per hour, and more than 600 homes were destroyed, leaving thousands without proper shelter. Damage to the bridge and road has left the small fishing village cut off from food markets The cyclone also damaged more than 200 other buildings and ruined about 500 hectares of rice just months away from harvest. Helicopter assessments of the worst hit areas surrounding Vinanivao show widespread damage, with houses crushed and missing roofs and crops battered by winds or floods.A lthough the category-two cyclone has not done as much structural damage as expected, flooding to rice paddies could mean food shortages this year. "If a cyclone hits at the beginning of the season, it is still possible with short cycle varieties to replant, but after the beginning of February it’s becoming almost impossible, because it’s not going to grow. It’s going to get cold before the plants produce grain, so there will be no harvest." The damage to short cycle crops and trees during the lean season, when supplies of food and money are at their lowest until the main harvest in April, could make the food shortages immediate. Things people live off during the lean season, like manioc, bananas, and fruits, have been knocked to the ground by the cyclone and they can't get them back immediately because it takes a year for a banana tree to regrow and manioc rots week by week so people aren't going to have much to eat. The only thing left for farmers whose rice harvest is destroyed is to use seeds from relief groups to plant corn, but those living off cash crops such as cloves, vanilla and coffee destroyed by strong coastal winds would be seriously affected.

Two cyclones in Australia’s north have caused storms and flooding, affecting mining and energy projects for companies. Tropical Cyclone Dianne was 385 kilometers (240 miles) northwest of the Western Australian town of Exmouth and near stationary at about 11 p.m. local time. The storm is forecast to intensify from Category 2 to Category 3 by 11 p.m. today as it moves southwest. Flood warnings are in place for some Pilbara and Mid West regions. A La Nina event has brought wet weather to Australia’s east and north and typically increases the number of cyclones during the November to April period.
In the Northern Territory, Ex-Tropical Cyclone Carlos has been downgraded to a tropical low after hitting Darwin with gale-force winds and RECORD RAINFALL. At 11 a.m. local time, Carlos was over land 115 kilometers southeast of Darwin, moving at 8 kilometers an hour. It’s forecast to re-intensify into a Category 1 cyclone by Feb. 19 as it heads toward the Western Australian town of Kununurra. Darwin has recorded more than 400 millimeters (16 inches) of rain since Carlos formed, triggering flash floods, blackouts and closing the city’s airport and schools.
Queensland state, on Australia’s east coast, was hit earlier this month by Tropical Cyclone Yasi, packing winds stronger than Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans. Yasi followed deadly flooding in January and record December rain.


Extreme rainstorms and snowfalls have grown substantially stronger, two studies suggest, with scientists for the first time finding the tell-tale fingerprints of man-made global warming on downpours that often cause deadly flooding. The wo studies link heavy rains to increases in greenhouse gases more than ever before. One group of researchers looked at the strongest rain and snow events of each year from 1951 to 1999 in the Northern Hemisphere and found that the more recent storms were 7 per cent wetter. That may not sound like much, but it adds up to be a substantial increase. The study didn't single out specific storms but examined worst-of-each-year events all over the Northern Hemisphere. While the study ended in 1999, the close of the decade when scientists say climate change kicked into a higher gear, the events examined were similar to more recent disasters: deluges that triggered last year's deadly floods in Pakistan and in Nashville, Tennessee, and this winter's paralysing blizzards in parts of the US. The change in severity was most apparent in North America, but that could be because that's where the most rain gauges are. Both studies should weaken the argument that climate change is a "victimless crime". "Extreme weather is what actually hurts people."
Not all the extreme rain and snow events the scientists studied cause flooding. But since 1950, flooding has killed more than 2.3 million people. The British study focused on flooding in England and Wales in the fall of 2000. The disaster cost more than $1.7 billion in insured damages and was the WETTEST AUTUMN FOR THE REGION IN MORE THAN 230 YEARS of record-keeping. Researchers found that global warming more than doubled the likelihood of that flood occurring. Similar studies are now under way to examine whether last year's deadly Russian heat wave and Pakistan floods - which were part of the same weather event - can be scientifically attributed to global warming. For years scientists, relying on basic physics and climate knowledge, have said global warming would likely cause extremes in temperatures and rainfall. But this is the first time researchers have been able to point to a demonstrable cause-and-effect by using the rigorous and scientifically accepted method of looking for the "fingerprints" of human-caused climate change.
Similar fingerprinting studies have found human-caused greenhouse gas emissions triggered changes in more than a dozen other ecological ways: temperatures on land, the ocean's surface, heat content in the depths of the oceans, temperature extremes, sea level pressure, humidity at ground level and higher in the air, general rainfall amounts, the extent of Arctic sea ice, snowpack levels and timing of runoff in the western United States, Atlantic Ocean salinity, wildfire damage, and the height of the lower atmosphere. All those signs say global warming is here. "It is affecting us in multiple directions."

The La Nina weather pattern responsible for delivering extreme weather to Australia over the past nine months is beginning to weaken. Weather models indicate the system has peaked and will end later this year.
“Temperature patterns across the Pacific Ocean are returning to figures below the La Nina threshold, trade winds are returning to normal configuration and cloud cover is also heading back to what we would expect across the tropical pacific." Due to the power of the weather system, the current La Nina is likely to linger longer than usual. Once weather patterns return to normal, Australia won’t experience an El Nino (dry period) on the back of the La Nina. “The national climate centre is indicating we should return to neutral conditions." The La Nina weather pattern is associated with the increased probability of wetter conditions, particularly in eastern Australia. The increase in wet weather is due to cooler than normal ocean temperatures across the Pacific Ocean, creating increased cloud over tropical Australia.


SOUTH KOREA - By mid-February 2011, snowfall extended along the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. The snow was heavy enough to collapse some homes. Residents along South Korea’s east coast were struggling to dig out from theHEAVIEST SNOWFALL IN MORE THAN A CENTURY. Hundreds of stranded motorists awaited rescue, and hundreds of homes collapsed under the weight of heavy snow. The South Korean government deployed 12,000 soldiers to assist and rescue residents. The port city of Samcheok recorded 100 centimeters (39 inches) of snowfall on February 11 and 12 - THE HEAVIEST SNOWFALL AMOUNT SINCE RECORDKEEPING BEGAN IN 1911. In the west, Seoul escaped heavy snow, although the Han River FROZE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN YEARS. The snow was expected to taper off for the east coast on February 14, although some snow might fall inland, including Seoul. The heavy snowfall arrived on the heels of South Korea’s COOLEST JANUARY SINCE THE 1960s. The UNUSUAL cold might have been driven at least partly by the Arctic Oscillation. A negative phase of the AO lowered temperatures in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere in January.


AURORA WATCH - A series of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) en route to Earth from sunspot 1158 will buffet our planet's magnetic field during the next 24-48 hours, with a 75% chance of M-Class flares and a 25% chance of Earth-directed X-Class flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a 45% chance of geomagnetic activity today. Less than a week ago, sunspot 1158 didn't exist. Now it is wider than the planet Jupiter and unleashing the strongest solar flares since December 2006. The December 2006 storm was powerful enough to disrupt GPS systems. Should the new storm prove as powerful, it could be a preview of what’s expected this year and in 2012, as the sun reaches an expected maximum in its natural cycle of activity.
Displays of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) have already been seen further south than usual in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the UK. And further activity is expected over the next few days. In 1972, a geomagnetic storm provoked by a solar flare knocked out long-distance telephone communication across the US state of Illinois. And in 1989, another storm plunged six million people into darkness across the Canadian province of Quebec.
The solar flare disrupted radio communications in southern China , according to the China Meteorological Administration. The solar flare, a huge explosion on the sun's surface caused by magnetic activity, affected transmissions in southern China on Tuesday. The US space administration NASA confirmed that Monday's solar flare was the largest in four years, and the event sparked predictions of heightened activity on the northern hemisphere of the sun. NASA also said the flare caused "sudden ionospheric disturbances" in the atmosphere above China and the CMA warned there was a high probability that large solar flares would appear over the next three days.
Monday's flare erupted in the sun's southern hemisphere, which has so far shown less flare activity than the northern hemisphere. It followed several smaller M-class and C-class flares in recent days. Solar flares are classified as A, B, C, M or X, with each class having a peak 10 times greater than the preceding one. "X-class flares are the most powerful of all solar events that can trigger radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms," disrupting telecommunications and electric grids. The flash is blasting toward Earth at about 560 miles per second (900 kilometers per second).


Monitoring killer mice from space - Rare but deadly hantavirus outbreaks can be predicted months in advance from space, simply by monitoring surges in vegetation that result in deer mouse population booms.