Adapting to Climate Change the Right Way - Faced with more frequent natural disasters caused largely by climate change, global and local decision-makers need to have greater foresight in their efforts to prevent and recover from future crises. Tropical Storm Irene brought that need home brutally to Vermont, where authorities reacted earnestly but in ways which may worsen damage from future severe weather events. The storm caused little harm in urban areas of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, so few expected the once-in-a-century flooding in rural upstate New York and Vermont that caused 56 deaths an estimated $10 billion to $15 billion in damage.
Although the damage was surprising, the causes behind it were not. For decades, scientists have warned that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and the climate change they induce would result in weather extremes that grow more numerous and more intense. Climate change adaptation - adjustments in natural or human systems in response to the impacts of climate change - has thus become an international priority. Such investments in adaptation make sense. Adaptation is necessary if communities and countries are to survive drastic changes in climate once environmental tipping points - such as acidification of ocean, alteration of the Gulf Stream, or thawing permafrost - are crossed.
In many developing countries, climate change adaptation efforts are being integrated into strategies to reduce poverty. The Asian Development Bank has estimated, for instance, that every $1 invested in adaptation now could yield as much as $40 in economic benefits by 2030. Global efforts are therefore underway to adapt in the face of droughts, rising sea levels, storms, and floods. The city of Perth in Western Australia, for example, is building a desalination plant to offset losses in water from declining precipitation. Planners in the Netherlands are constructing dikes, dams, and floating houses to cope with increased flooding and rises in sea level. Londoners are investing in a Thames River barrier system to better respond to floods.
Yet some of these interventions can have unintended, and dangerous, consequences. In Vermont, after Tropical Storm Irene, local and state officials allowed an unusual amount of dredging by heavy equipment in stream and riverbeds to collect gravel to help quickly repair roads. These actions, however, reduced the ability for ecosystems to lessen future flood surges, thus making those roads even more susceptible to storms and undermining the repair work itself. Vermont is not alone in pursuing adaptation methods with unexpected consequences. In the Maldives, nicknamed the "flattest country on earth," poor coastal protection measures such as dredging to create sandbars and erecting seawalls have unintentionally reduced the flow of nutrients to coral reefs, weakening a natural shield against storm swells and surges. Coastal communities there have also removed vegetation to expand settlements and resorts and have mined sand for use in construction. These activities have increased the exposure of the Maldives to rising sea levels and floods. In Uganda, national leaders have planted thousands of hectares of fast-growing eucalyptus and pine trees to "sink" large amounts of carbon and create a buffer against strong winds. Such efforts, however, have inadvertently eroded the vitality of native forest ecosystems and displaced hundreds of communities from their livelihoods and land, lowering overall social resilience.
These examples - and dozens more like them - illustrate that sometimes the best intentioned adaptation efforts can increase environmental, economic, or social vulnerability. Part of the explanation may be the ad hoc and frenetic way local, state, and national officials sometimes respond to disasters. Following Tropical Storm Irene, some Vermont state policymakers were so overwhelmed that one local senator publicly announced that "the state became lawless for several weeks." He argued that Vermont's emergency policy amounted to a de facto "Do what you have to do and we'll sort it out later." Economic incentives, some very understandable, can also play a role in the rush to action. The Ugandan tree planters mentioned above will receive millions of dollars for the carbon credits generated from their project. Vermont businesses, especially those involved in tourism, were anxious to see rapid road, bridge and other repairs completed before the fall foliage and winter ski seasons.
Good intentions, however, aren't enough. Climate change adaption efforts must meet the needs of the localities they intend to serve. The fact that such interventions are often done hastily should make us all the more diligent that they do not accelerate, rather than reduce, risk. Decisions made today on adaptation will greatly determine how vulnerable we are to future climate-induced events. Tropical Storm Irene was a powerful lesson that today's weather-related disaster can become tomorrow's humanitarian crisis. The challenge now is to ensure that crisis recovery efforts rebuild for long-term resilience. After all, poorly designed and implemented investments in adaptation are worse than none at all.
wonderful things can be achieved.**
LARGEST QUAKES -
This morning -
None 5.0 or higher.
7.1 EASTERN NEW GUINEA REG., P.N.G.
5.0 EASTERN HONSHU, JAPAN
Kolumbos submarine volcano (Santorini, Greece) - 3.2 magnitude earthquake. At 19h22 GMT (21h22 local time), a 3.2 earthquake occurred at the little-known submarine volcano Kolumbos ca. 8 km NE of Santorini, Island, Greece. This marks one of the largest events in recent months. The submarine volcano whose peak rises to just 18 m below sea level, is located on the tectonically active SW-NE fault system across Santorini which confines most volcanic vents of the Santorini volcanic complex in the past 500,000 years.
Kolumbus volcano last erupted in September 1650 following a year of frequent earthquakes. The eruption produced a large explosive pumice eruption, with ash fall recorded as far as Turkey, and built a temporary island. The main phase of the eruption triggered a devastating tsunami. Toxic gasses killed more than 25 people and hundreds of livestock on Santorini by suffocation. There is no reason to state that new activity from Santorini or Kolumbus is likely in a foreseeable future but on the other hand, there are very few data available, unfortunately, to judge the situation. We regret that the Greek monitoring institutes are not publishing more details about the ongoing activity. Access to important earthquake details such as as their depth, are not published (they are available for earthquakes in all the other regions in Greece, raising some suspect why not for Santorini.)
Is Hawaii's "gentle giant" volcano, Kilauea, a killer in waiting? - A new assessment of Kilauea's activity suggests that this "quietly erupting" volcano, on Hawaii's Big Island, may simply be in a lull between violent eruptions. "In fact, the volcano has erupted explosively about as often as Mount St. Helens," the report says, without specifying how often Mount St. Helens erupts. Carbon dating of the old eruptions is cited as an indication that "the volcano was explosive for 60 percent of the past 2,500 years. It just happens to be in one of its more peaceful, lava-flow stages at the moment." So peaceful, it seems, that Hawaiian authorities feel confident enough to allow the volcano's thousands of visitors each year to walk up close to the rivers of lava oozing down the volcano’s slopes, and often into the sea. There’s even a visitor center at the summit.
A geologist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has referred to Kilauea as a high-risk area. “Though the explosions may be smaller, there are a lot more people in the area, so the risk is very high. So we have to be very concerned." An eruption in 1790 that killed several hundred people makes Kilauea the deadliest volcano active in the United States today. When Mount St. Helens, in Washington State, erupted May 18, 1980, 57 people died and nearly 150 square miles of forest was blown over or left dead and standing."
For Kilauea, "the most dangerous part of the explosions is something that is probably least known to people, and that is fact that they can produce clouds that are a mixture of hot ash and gases that can move horizontally across the ground surface at very rapid speeds — hurricane velocity.” They are certain that this kind of surge will happen again, though it may likely be "preceded by a dramatic sinking of the crater at the volcano’s summit, which would unfold over the course of several days - providing time to evacuate. Only there could be no going back to the area for centuries.
TROPICAL STORMS -
In the Western Pacific -
Tropical Storm 27 was located approximately 100 nm east of Palau. As it moves closer to the Philippines, an improving upper level environment will allow it to intensify to weak typhoon strength.
Tropical storm Twentyseven is forecast to strike the Philippines as a typhoon at about 18:00 GMT on 16 December. The Provincial Disaster Management Division warned residents, especially those living along the river banks and waterways, to prepare for incoming Tropical Storm 'Sendong', which, unless it changes course, is expected to hit Negros Friday. 'Sendong' is gathering stronger winds in the next 24 hours and threatens not only Eastern Visayas but the entire Visayas region if it will not slow down or change direction. They are closely monitoring the movement of the tropical storm to issue a warning as soon as possible. Even if Sendong changes its course and hit Bicol Region instead, Negros will still be affected because of its wide diameter.
SPACE WEATHER -
Supermassive Milky Way black hole will 'eat' gas cloud - Simulations suggest that the cloud will be ripped to bits and partially swallowed by the black hole. Researchers have spotted a giant gas cloud spiralling into the supermassive black hole at our galaxy's centre. Though it is known that black holes draw in everything nearby, it will be the first chance to see one consume such a cloud. As it is torn apart, the turbulent area around the black hole will become unusually bright, giving astronomers a chance to learn more about it. The cloud should meet its end in 2013.
Researchers estimate that despite its size, the cloud has a total mass of only about three times that of Earth. They have plotted the cloud's squashed, oval-shaped path and estimate it has doubled its speed in the last seven years - to 2,350km per second. It should spiral in to within about 40 billion kilometres of the black hole in the middle of 2013. Reviews of existing pictures from the VLT show the cloud speeding up in recent years Our local supermassive black hole, dubbed Sagittarius A*, lies about 27,000 light-years away, and has a mass about four million times that of our Sun. As the name implies, beyond a certain threshold point - the event horizon - nothing can escape its pull, not even light itself. But outside that regime is a swirling mass of material, not unlike water circling a drain. In astronomical terms, is a relatively quiet zone about which little is known.
That looks set to change, though, as the gas cloud approaches.
It does not comprise enough matter to hold itself together under its own gravity, as a star might, so the cloud will begin to elongate as it meets its doom. "The idea of an astronaut close to a black hole being stretched out to resemble spaghetti is familiar from science fiction. But we can now see this happening for real to the newly discovered cloud. It is not going to survive the experience." It is likely that about half of the cloud will be swallowed up, with the remainder flung back out into space. But this violent process will literally shed light on the closest example we have of an enigmatic celestial object. The acceleration of the cloud's constituent material will create a shower of X-rays that will help astronomers learn more about our local black hole. (illustration)
STRANGE ANIMAL BEHAVIOR -
Thousands of birds make US crash landing - Thousands of migratory birds died on impact after apparently mistaking a Wal-Mart car park and other areas of southern Utah for bodies of water and plummeting to the ground in what one wildlife expert has called the worst downing she's ever seen. Crews went to work cleaning up the dead birds and rescuing the survivors after the creatures crash-landed in the St George area on Tuesday. By Wednesday, volunteers had rescued more than 2000 birds, releasing them into nearby bodies of water. "They're just everywhere. It's been non-stop. All our employees are driving around picking them up, and we've got so many people coming to our office and dropping them off."
Officials say stormy conditions probably confused the flock of grebes, a duck-like aquatic bird likely making its way to Mexico for the winter. The birds tried to land in a Cedar City Wal-Mart car park and elsewhere. "The storm clouds over the top of the city lights made it look like a nice, flat body of water. All the conditions were right. So the birds landed to rest but ended up slamming into the pavement." No human injuries or property damage have been reported.
Most downings are localised "but this was very widespread. I've been here 15 years and this was the worst downing I've seen." Officials said they were continuing the rescue effort. The surviving grebes were released into bodies of water in southern Utah's Washington County, including a pond near Hurricane. "If we can put them on a body of water that's not frozen over, they'll have a better chance of survival."