Thursday, March 29, 2012

2011 Natural Disasters Cost Insurers $110 Billion - Natural catastrophes cost the insurance industry $110 billion last year after record flooding and earthquake losses.

**People count up the faults of those who keep them waiting.**
French Proverb

This morning -

Yesterday -
3/28/12 -

New Zealand - Christchurch's 2011 earthquake was the third most expensive insured natural catastrophe in history.

Clintonville, Wisconsin residents shaken once again by booms - 3/27/12 - Dozens of booms rattled Clintonville again, reportedly louder and longer than before. Residents have been shaken by booms in the same part of the city where a small earthquake was recorded last week. Clintonville police say they received 65 calls Tuesday night between 10:35 and 11:40 from people reporting three or four loud booms. Some said it was a series of up to three booms, and some reported a stronger rumble than those felt last week. No damage was reported.

In the Pacific -
Tropical depression 02w was located approximately 340 nm east of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

Tropical Storm Threat to Vietnam - A tropical storm could form over the South China Sea out of low pressure gathering east of southern Vietnam. Torrential rain and high winds could reach the south-central coast of Vietnam by Saturday, with a tropical storm forecast to strike Vietnam at about 00:00 GMT on 1 April.

Tropical storm could hit New Zealand next week - A tropical low forming 2000km north of New Zealand is set to track towards the North Island and could strengthen into a tropical cyclone before its predicted arrival in New Zealand.

[And now the other side of the story - ]
A United Nations report is being called an early warning that the world will face more deadly extreme weather events unless it tackles global warming. An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released overnight states that global warming is leading to such severe storms, droughts and heatwaves that nations should prepare for an UNPRECEDENTED onslaught of dangerous and costly weather disasters.
In the past, the IPCC, founded in 1988 by the UN, has focused on the slow inexorable rise of temperatures and oceans as part of global warming. The latest report is the first to look at the less common but far more noticeable extreme weather changes which recently have cost on average about $77 billion a year in damage.
"It's showing us, for the first time, that we can see the fingerprints of the human-driven warming in some of the extreme events that we've seen. This is an early warning sign that if we don't get this underlying warming trend under control there's going to be a lot more heatwaves, droughts and intense rainfall events."
A climate scientist at the Australian National University says Australia is one of the most vulnerable continents when it comes to extreme weather events. The IPCC report suggests that in Australia there will almost certainly be an increase in days over 35 or 40 degrees Celsius. Heatwaves are likely to become more frequent and last longer. Dry spells also are likely to last longer in southern Australia, and when it does rain there'll be more extreme precipitation. The strength of cyclones will probably increase and they may come further south, even if there are fewer of them. Earlier in March, the commission warned Australians not to fooled into thinking the world wasn't warming just because much of the country experienced a relatively wet and cool summer.
A commission report stated it was wrong to be blinded to the long-term trend by year-to-year variability and suggested recent heavy rainfall and flooding could have been caused by climate change. "The rather modest changes in average temperature and average rainfall that we've seen so far really manifest themselves in terms of things that matter for people in terms of these extreme events." Examples include killer heatwaves in central Europe in 2003 and southern Australia in 2009 "that led to more deaths in Melbourne than the Black Saturday bushfires". There was also "little doubt" that recent flooding in southeastern Australia was made worse by sea temperature warming and higher evaporation rates. The 594-page IPCC report blames the scale of recent and future disasters on a combination of man-made climate change, population shifts and poverty.

Recent years have seen an EXCEPTIONALLY large number of record-breaking and destructive heatwaves in many parts of the world and research suggests that many or even most of these would not have happened without global warming. Currently, nearly twice as many record hot days as record cold days are being observed both in the United States and Australia, the length of summer heatwaves in western Europe has almost doubled and the frequency of hot days has almost tripled over the period from 1880 to 2005. Extremely hot summers are now observed in about 10 percent of the global land area, compared with only about 0.1-0.2 percent for the period 1951 to 1980, a study says.
Scientists at Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Research used physics, statistical analysis and computer simulations to link extreme rainfall and heat waves to global warming. The link between warming and storms was less clear. "It is very likely that several of the unprecedented extremes of the past decade would not have occurred without anthropogenic global warming." The past decade was probably the warmest globally for at least a millennium. Last year was the eleventh hottest on record.
Extreme weather events were devastating in their impacts and affected nearly all regions of the globe. They included severe floods and record hot summers in Europe; a record number of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic in 2005; the hottest Russian summer 500 years in 2010 and the worst flooding in Pakistan's history. Last year alone, the United States suffered 14 weather events which caused losses of over $1 billion each. The high amount of extremes is not normal, the study said. Even between March 13 and 19 this year, historical heat records were exceeded in more than 1,000 places in North America.
"Single weather extremes are often related to regional processes, like a blocking high pressure system or natural phenomena like El Nino. These are complex processes that we are investigating further. But now these processes unfold against the background of climatic warming. That can turn an extreme event into a record-breaking event." The link between storms and hurricanes and global warming is less conclusive but at least some of recent rainfall extremes can be attributed to human influences on the climate.

[This was missing from Monday's update where it should have been.]
Drought spreads to Brazil, crop yields hit - Drought has spread from Argentina and Paraguay to Brazil and is hitting soy yields at a time of growing concerns that regional growth may suffer as pressures mount on commodity prices.
Early-planted Argentine corn hit by Dec-Jan drought - Rains have relieved the Pampas after the December - January drought but early-planted corn was pummeled. Last week the exchange cut its estimate for Argentina's 2011/12 corn harvest to 20.8 million tonnes, from a previous 21.3 million tonnes, due to the drought. Argentina is the No. 2 global exporter of corn.


Influenza experts say global flu surveillance — especially in poultry and swine — is sorely lacking and needs a major overhaul to make it more sustained, timely, and representative. Experts make the case that current surveillance efforts are far too sparse, erratic, and crisis-driven and that they suffer from a geographic imbalance. "Imagine a global weather and climate forecasting system that collects data regularly in just a handful of countries, and takes measurements elsewhere only during extreme weather events. That is what today's global flu-surveillance system mostly looks like."
The gaps in flu surveillance are well known, but they are getting renewed attention following the creation in labs of H5N1 strains that can spread in mammals. Flu surveillance is important not only for detecting pandemic threats, but also for spotting outbreaks, monitoring viral evolution, understanding factors that enable viruses to spread, and maintaining the effectiveness of animal vaccines and diagnostics. To summarize the "dire state" of animal flu surveillance, the world had 21 billion poultry in 2010, but only about 1,000 flu sequences from 400 avian virus isolates were collected, and many countries that have billions of poultry contributed few or none of those sequences. The number of avian sequences deposited in the database generally rose between 2003 and 2010, but then sagged. Meanwhile, the number of pig sequences stayed fairly flat from 2003 to 2010 before surging last year.
An additional problem is that years can pass between the collection and sequencing of isolates. Reasons include lack of funding and the disinclination of many researchers to share their sequences before publishing their findings. Almost all sequences come from "a handful" of countries, led by the United States and China.
"From 2003 to 2011, most countries collected few or no sequences, and genetic surveillance of flu in pigs was and is almost non-existent." Flu experts say the situation could be rapidly improved by setting up, in the countries and regions at highest risk, a network of sentinel sites to collect viruses and sequence them quickly. But international leadership is needed, and no global body has overall responsibility for flu surveillance.
One way to improve flu surveillance is to move a share of the relevant expertise and technology from the developed world to the developing countries that are most threatened by H5N1 and other emerging diseases. "It would require a transfer of technology, prolonged exchange of scientists and a sustained commitment to investment and training locally — along with an equitable sharing of the benefits of the research." Today, 8 years after Vietnam's first human H5N1 case, too few H5N1-endemic countries have access to vaccines or intravenous antiviral drugs.