Thursday, December 1, 2011

2011: A year of extreme weather, and the 10th-hottest on record - The last 15 years have been the hottest on record and included all 10 of the warmest years, the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization announced Tuesday. This year so far has tied as the 10th-hottest year since records began in 1850, and is the warmest year while the La Nina phenomenon was present, a period when ocean temperatures are cooler.
Greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise and the world is fast approaching a global average temperature rise of 2 degrees to 2.4 degrees Celsius. World leaders have agreed in the past on the need for action to keep the rise in temperature beneath the 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) that scientists say represents a safe level. But there is pessimism about whether the ongoing conference in the city of Durban - a gathering known as COP 17, the 17th conference of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - can negotiate an extension to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the only treaty with binding reductions in greenhouse emissions, which expires next year. If the temperature rises more than 2 degrees Celsius, the world would see irreversible changes leading to mass extinctions and other catastrophic events, according to scientists.
The La Nina phenomenon this year has been associated with extreme weather across the globe. Drought in East Africa led to tens of thousands of people dying of starvation. There were droughts in the southern United States and Pacific region, catastrophic flooding in Thailand and Asia, southern Africa and eastern Australia, and one of the most active tornado seasons on record. Surface temperatures were higher than average in most parts of the world and were 4 degrees Celsius higher than average in northern Russia during much of the winter. Sea ice in the Arctic ocean was at its second lowest level on record.

Large payouts from natural disasters could lead to auto insurance rate rise - From earthquakes, fire and floods to tornadoes and tropical storms, the natural disasters that hit the nation this year broke records for the billions of dollars in damage they wreaked. And while catastrophic weather events cost many consumers their homes, cars and businesses, damaged property can be replaced - provided it is insured. But for the insurance providers who must make good on those policies, weather-related catastrophes translated into billions of dollars in losses for which there is no reimbursement.
Insurers are in the business of calculating risk, and with storms and other severe weather taking ever-greater bites out of company profits, experts say it is only logical to expect insurers to seek an increase in revenues to keep pace with skyrocketing catastrophe losses. Homeowner policies in areas at risk to hurricanes and other disasters have already seen significant rate increases in recent years. Now some experts say auto insurers may soon try to recoup some of their losses in the form of higher premiums. "This year has been particularly expensive for auto insurance companies. Natural disasters have hit residents of many regions extremely hard." Those storms have cost insurers dearly.
Disasters in the first six months of 2011 inflicted $17.3 billion in insured losses, a 162 percent increase from the same period last year. That caused after-tax net income for auto, home and business insurers during the first half of the year to fall to $4.8 billion from more than three times that amount in 2010. Overall profitability for those companies plummeted from 6.4 percent to 1.7 percent - the lowest for the first half of any year since ISO began quarterly recordkeeping a quarter-century ago. And those figures do not take into account the havoc wreaked by weather-related catastrophes since then - including flooding in the Midwest, wildfires in Texas and Tropical Storm Irene - caused billions of dollars more in damage. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration states that economic damages caused by catastrophes are already approaching $50 billion this year, thanks to 10 major disasters that each caused $1 billion or more in losses. Industry experts say insurers can expect to foot the bill for more damages before the year is out, as colder weather brings the threat of winter storms that cause cars to crash, roofs to collapse and other damages. Insured losses from winter storms last year totaled $2.6 billion. Winter storms caused $25 billion in private-sector insurer payouts from 1990 to 2009. "Snow and ice storms are the third-largest cause of U.S. catastrophe losses, behind only hurricanes and tornadoes." While auto insurers may be looking to hike premiums in order to counteract record-setting catastrophe losses, they must get the approval of regulators before they can legally implement rate increases in any state."Insurers for some time have recognized that rates in many ... states do not match the risk, and frequency and severity trends have to be included in the rate-making process."

**I hope we shall crush in its birth
the aristocracy of our monied corporations
which dare already to challenge our government
to a trial by strength,
and bid defiance to the laws of our country.**
Thomas Jefferson

This morning -

Yesterday -
11/30/11 -

Magnitude 5 quake hits eastern Turkey, causes panic — region already devastated by two powerful tremors. The quake hit early Wednesday and its epicenter was in the village of Kurubas.

First quakes, then sinkhole: Oklahomans wonder about a connection. A large sinkhole has opened up near Sayre, Okla., and people in the region are wondering if it's related to a string of small earthquakes shaking the region. The hole opened up a couple of days after one of the earthquakes about two weeks ago. "Kind of spooky. You don't want to mess with it today. Glad my house wasn't over it."
Geologists are dubious of a connection between the quakes and the sinkhole. Scientists at the Oklahoma Geological Survey said the sinkhole could have been caused by drought conditions, the dissolving of salt or rock formations, or draining of an old coal mine. Also, Sayre is across the state from the area where the quakes have been centered. That area, about 40 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, was struck on Nov. 5 by a magnitude 5.6 quake, the strongest ever recorded in the state. There had been a 4.7 quake earlier in the day. The big quake caused minor damage to buildings and roads in the area. And the shaking has continued since then. There have been a string of small quakes over the past week; the strongest was a 3.7 on Thanksgiving. There was a 2.7 on Tuesday morning.

No current tropical storms.

National Hurricane Center eyes last possible tropical storm - On Tuesday, a lone area of unsettled weather keep forecasters on alert as the last official day of the 2011 Atlantic basin hurricane season drew near. Chances were slim, only 10 percent, National Hurricane Center forecasters said Nov. 29, the eve of the season’s close, that a weak area of low pressure located about 200 miles northeast of the northern Leeward Islands would develop into a tropical or subtropical cyclone within the next 48 hours. “This system is producing a large area of disorganized showers and thunderstorms as it interacts with an upper-level low. Upper level winds are not currently favorable for significant development." Hurricane season in the Atlantic basis runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
So far, 19 tropical storms formed this year – the third highest total since recordkeeping began in 1851. The 2011 season tied with the years 1887, 1995 and 2010. The long-term seasonal average, 1944-2010, is 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Six hurricanes and three major hurricanes formed in 2011. The 2011 season made history being THE FIRST YEAR EVER THAT NONE OF THE FIRST EIGHT TROPICAL STORMS REACHED HURRICANE STATUS.
One of the three major hurricanes, Irene was the only one to hit the U.S. coast. It is the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States since 2008. Irene was the first hurricane to make landfall on the coast of New Jersey in 108 years. Fortunately, it was downgraded to a Category 2 prior to making landfall. Officials said it was the “most significant” to strike the northeast since Hurricane Bob in 1991. It’s been six years since a major hurricane, a Category 3 or above, has hit the U.S. coast. The last major hurricane to hit the coast was Wilma on Oct. 24, 2005.
Other significant 2011 storms include Hurricane Katia, which caused severe weather in Northern Ireland and Scotland and power blackouts as far east as Saint Petersburg in Russia. Tropical Storm Lee caused major flooding in Pennsylvania, New York and into the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The strongest storm of the season was Ophelia, which reached category four strength in the Atlantic Ocean east of Bermuda. (Season summary at link)


GROUND CURRENTS IN NORWAY - A solar wind stream is buffeting Earth's magnetic field and this is causing electrical currents to flow in the earth itself at high latitudes. From the Polarlightcenter in Lofoten, Norway: "Today, a magnetic disturbance began around 12.00 UTC. The [shaking of Earth's magnetic field] induced a ground current around our observatory. This is a good sign that we will see Northern Lights tonight."