Foretaste of what Australia may see next summer?

Is this the beginning of the kind of multi-year drought that caused the US ‘dust bowl‘, famine and social disruption in the 1930s?

Concatenating catastrophes, where two different disasters join to make even worse chaos. NOAA/NASA via the New York Times

by Maggie Astor, 0v/05/2022 in New York Times

Smoke and Sandstorm, Seen From Space: A time-lapse image of smoke from wildfires in New Mexico and dust from a storm in Colorado illustrates the scope of Western catastrophe.

The video is mesmerizing: As three whitish-gray geysers gush eastward from the mountains of New Mexico, a sheet of brown spills down from the north like swash on a beach.

What it represents is far more destructive.

The image, a time-lapse captured by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite, shows two devastating events happening [at the same time] in the Western United States. The first is a wildfire outbreak in northern New Mexico that started last month and has intensified in the past two weeks, fueled by extreme drought and high winds. The second is a dust storm caused by violent winds in Colorado.

Both are examples of the sorts of natural disasters that are becoming more severe and frequent as a result of climate change.

Read thee complete article….

Featured Image: A dust storm approaching Spearman. In: Monthly Weather Review, Volume 63, April 1935, p. 148. Date: 1935 April 14 Location: Texas, Spearman …an excellent view of a dust storm that occurred at Spearman, Tex., on April 14, 1935. The photograph was submitted by the official in charge, Houston, Tex., and was taken by F. W. Brandt, cooperative observer at Spearman, Tex. Credit: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service / Public Domain / Wikipedia

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Bad outlook for our next El Niño fire season

Global Ecology and Biogeography journal article forecasts that extreme/widespread fire events under 2 °C will likely exceed anything yet seen

Representative day-of-burning maps for two fires that occurred in 2020, Cameron Peak and Holiday Farm. / From the article

by Coop et al., 19/03/2022 in Global Ecology and Biogeography

Extreme fire spread events and area burned under recent and future climate in the western USA

Results: Extreme single-day fire spread events >1,100 ha (the top 16%, >1 SD) accounted for 70% of the cumulative area burned over the period of analysis. The variation in annual area burned was closely tied to the number and mean size of spread events and distributional skewness towards more large events. For example, we identified 441 extreme events in 2020 that together burned 2.2 million ha across our study area, in contrast to an average of 168 per year that burned 0.5 million ha annually between 2002 and 2019. Fire season climate variables were correlated with the annual number of extreme events and area burned. Our models predicted that the annual number of extreme fire spread events more than double under a 2°C warming scenario, with an attendant doubling in the area burned.

Conclusions: Exceptional fire seasons like 2020 will become more likely, and wildfire activity under future extremes is predicted to exceed anything yet witnessed. Safeguarding human communities and supporting resilient ecosystems will require new lines of scientific inquiry, new land management approaches and accelerated climate mitigation efforts.

Read the complete article….

Featured Image: Hypothetical distribution of daily fire spread events during normal and extreme fire years. Increases in the annual area burned could potentially be accounted for by more fire spread events (number), larger event size (mean) and/or more large events (right skewness) / From the article

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Rising crescendos: clusters of climate catastrophes

In a warming climate extreme weather events may encourage other extreme events to closely follow, e.g., fires followed by floods & landslides

Debris from a mudslide covers a home on January 10, 2018 in Montecito, California. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images / from the article.

by Andrea Thompson, on 01/04/2022 in Scientific American

Double Disaster: Wildfires Followed by Extreme Rainfall Are More Likely with Climate Change: These events can cause devastating landslides and flash floods

At 3:30 A.M. on January 9, 2018, half an inch of rain poured down on the charred slopes of the Santa Ynez Mountains in coastal southern California. The flames of the Thomas Fire—at the time the largest wildfire in state history—had swept through the previous month, leaving the soil and vegetation scorched and unable to soak up the onslaught of water. The destabilized ground gave way in a devastating landslide. Boulders crashed into houses in the town of Montecito, Calif., and a highway was buried under several feet of mud. The disaster killed 23 people and caused an estimate of around $200 million in damage.

Read the complete article….

See the scientific report that is the source of this article: Touma et al., 01/04/2022, Climate change increases risk of extreme rainfall following wildfire in the western United States in Science Advances

Featured Image: This image from a rescue helicopter records the burn scar from the Thomas Fire, as well as the path of a deadly mudslide in Montecito, Calif., in January 2018. Credit: California National Guard, CC BY 2.0 / from No Relief from Rain: Climate Change Fuels Compound Disasters: Climate change is increasing the risk of fire-rain events, raising mudslide concerns in fire-prone communities. by Leah Campbell, 12/12/2021 in EOS.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

More wildfires in sub-arctic forests heat up our Earth

conditions conducive to higher frequency fires. In the coniferous boreal forest, the world’s largest terrestrial biome, fires are historically common but relatively infrequent. Post-fire, regenerating forests are generally resistant to burning (strong fire self-regulation), favoring millennial coniferous resilience. However, short intervals between fires are associated with rapid, threshold-like losses of resilience and changes to broadleaf or shrub communities, impacting carbon content, habitat, and other ecosystem services.

by Buma et al., 22/03/2022 in Scientific Reports

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Wildfire smoke drives global temperatures higher

Brown carbon’ from burning forests, tundra, and peat soils drives temperatures higher in positive feedback loop with increasing global temps

Taken by NASA’s Aqua satellite on January 4, 2021, this image shows smoke from fires burning in southeastern Australia. NASA says it is likely that some of the white patches above the smoke are pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which resemble violent thunderstorms and can form above intense fires. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens. Picture via Australia’s “firenadoes” summon images of Hiroshima, atomic bombs By Dawn Stover | January 14, 2020 in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Source: Cell Press, 18/03/2022 in Science News

Wildfires devastate the land they burn, and they are also warming the planet: The 2021 wildfire season broke records globally, leaving land charred from California to Siberia. The risk of fire is growing, and a recent report warned that wildfires are on track to increase 50% by 2050. These fires destroy homes, plant life, and animals as they burn, but the risk doesn’t stop there. Researchers detail how the brown carbon released by burning biomass in the northern hemisphere is accelerating warming in the Arctic and warn that this could lead to even more wildfires in the future.

Editor’s note: the source article, by Yue et al., 18/03/2022, Brown carbon from biomass burning imposes strong circum-Arctic warming can be downloaded from One Earth.

Featured Image: Several wildfires in the Sakha Republic, in and around the Arctic Circle, Russia (Lat: 66.88913, Long: 150.72075) – July 20, 2020 – Enhanced natural colors with IR overlay – Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data [2020], processed by Pierre Markuse – Image is about 77 km wide. / Downloaded from Flikr

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

As Earth warms climate catastrophes begin to cascade

A case in the Florida Panhandle demonstrates how damages from increasingly frequent extreme weather events can overlap to increase damages

Satellites captured the tree loss from Hurricane Michael in 2018. This is where fires were burning in 2022. Forwarn/USDA Forest Service

by David Godwin. 11/03/2022 in The Conversation

How a hurricane fueled wildfires in the Florida Panhandle: The wildfires that broke out in the Florida Panhandle in early March 2022 were the nightmare fire managers had feared since the day Hurricane Michael flattened millions of trees there in 2018. It might sound odd – hurricanes helping to fuel wildfires

. But Michael’s 160 mph winds left tangles of dead trees that were ready to burn.

Featured image:Using satellites, the Florida Forest Service mapped the damage to timber in the Panhandle. Florida Forest Service / via The Conversation article.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Catastrophic risks are bad news for your insurance

There is no good news in the IPCC’s AR6 pt II report on impacts of ongoing global warming. If frequent, catastrophic risks will be uninsurable.

The problem with most extreme weather events like wildfire, floods, droughts, cyclones, etc., is that their catastrophic effects normally cover large areas.

Insurance companies are only profitable if premium payments produce more income than is paid out on claims for losses over the number of customers. If only a small proportion of insured people make claims, the company can still profitably sell the policies for a small fraction of the average payout, such that people can expect full payouts on the claims made, even though the premium paid is only a fraction of the payout.

Even in the case of widespread catastrophes, if such catastrophes are rare enough over the world, a retail insurance company can insure themselves against a huge payoff by buying re-insurance from a specialist company betting that the total number of catastrophic risk events will be small relative to the policies they sell. Both the retail insurer and the reinsurer can still make a profit to stay in business.

However, if catastrophic loss events become too common, to stay profitable insurers have to charge premium fees that become such a large fraction of the cost of the possible loss that customers simply can no longer afford to pay the premium cost, as many people and businesses located in areas such as flood planes, bush lots in fire prone regions, and low-lying coastal area susceptible to cyclones and rising sea-levels deemed to be at high risk of catastrophic losses.

Thanks to rising rates and ferocities of wildfires and intense flooding many people are discovering that their catastrophic risks of total loss in such events are no longer insurable at an affordable cost — even assuming they can find someone willing to sell them such a policy.

As explored in the attached news items, the just released IPCC report tells the insurance industry that the frequency of catastrophic risk events is likely to continue rising, at an accelerating rate as the world continues to warm. This will undoubtedly mean that many more people and businesses will no longer be able to find insurance against total loss in the event of a climate catastrophe.

The likelihood of East Coast flooding and its costs

Jason O’Brien/AAP in The Conversation

by Antonia Settle, 03/03/2022 in The Conversation

After the floods comes underinsurance: we need a better plan: The floods affecting Australia’s eastern seaboard are a “1 in 1,000-year event”, according to New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet. But that’s not what science, or the insurance industry, suggests…

Mapbox/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

by K.I. Booth, 27/02/2022 in The Conversation

Is your neighbourhood underinsured? Search our map to find out:

Underinsurance is more common than many realise. And if you live in an area where most people don’t have enough home and/or contents insurance, the financial and social catastrophe that follows a disaster can be community-wide. Even if you’re well covered, your neighbourhood may struggle long after the dust has settled, as houses lie derelict, people struggle to bounce back and social cohesion frays….

AAP /Jason O’Brien in The Conversation

by A. King, et al., 02/03/2022 in The Conversation

‘One of the most extreme disasters in colonial Australian history’: climate scientists on the floods and our future risk: …So how does this compare to Australia’s previous floods, such as in 2011? And can we expect more frequent floods at this scale under climate change?…

Gympie flooding 26/02/2022 AAP Image/Supplied by Brett’s Drone Photography

by K Reid & A King, 27/02/2022 in The Conversation

Like rivers in the sky: the weather system bringing floods to Queensland will become more likely under climate change: …We research a weather system called “atmospheric rivers”, which is causing this inundation. Indeed, atmospheric rivers triggered many of the world’s floods in 2021, including the devastating floods across eastern Australia in March which killed two people and saw 24,000 evacuate….

AAP image via DFS/Nikki Woods

by K.I. Booth et al, 04/03/2022 in The Conversation

Underinsurance is entrenching poverty as the vulnerable are hit hardest by disasters: More than 70 homes were destroyed by bushfires in Western Australia this week, leaving those affected facing enormous costs. After disasters like these, insurance is not always there as needed — or as expected….

‘It’s a day-by-day proposition’: Frank Cooper lost all his possessions in the Lismore floods. Photograph: Christine Tondorf

by C. Tondorf, 06/03/2022 in The Guardian

‘Worse than 2017’: Lismore faces mammoth rebuild after flood as community inundated by loss: …“How can anything upset me after this?” laughs Ken Matheson, a Lismore resident aged 65 years who lost all his possessions on Sunday night.

…Even though his house has never before had water through it, he couldn’t get flood insurance, explaining “no one will do it, no one would give it to me”.

“Hardened by a history of floods, residents are ‘getting on’ with the clean-up while waiting for politicians to address climate change” Guardian

In Australia, the political context and implications are also crystal clear. For years our LNP COALition Government has been owned and controlled by mindlessly greedy fossil fuel special interests. Both work to deny the science that shows us the world is warming at an accelerating rate from the continued burning of fossil carbon and to fill the thought space with endlessly distracting humbug and blather. The COALition’s priorities are clear in their lack of interest in using any of their Emergency Response Funds for mitigation or recovery. Burning coal clearly comes first!

As I have noted many times previously in my Climate Sentinel posts, even a child can still draw reasonable conclusions from the kinds of facts that the IPCC has exhaustively documented. Too bad for us all that the COALition are blinded to the reality of what they are doing.

greta-act-as-if-the-house-was-on-fire
Listen to Greta’s speech live at the World Economic forum in Davos 2019. Except for her reliance on the IPCC’s overoptimistic idea that there is a ‘safe’ emissions budget, everything else Greta says is spot on: even she, as a child, can understand the alternatives and what has to happen.

In other words, wake up! smell the smoke! see the grimly frightful reality, and fight the fire that is burning up our only planet so we can give our offspring a hopeful future. This is the only issue that matters. Even the IPCC’s hyperconservative Report that looks at climate change’s global and regional impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity, and human communities makes it clear we are headed for climate catastrophe if we don’t stop the warming process.

We’ll be having a Federal Election in a couple of months. Now is our chance to rid ourselves of the dead hands of this puppet government and replace the puppets with sensible people who have committed themselves to prioritizing action on the climate emergency on the top of their agendas if elected to Parliament. Our Traffic Light Voting System can help you use our preferential voting system to its best advantage towards meeting this goal.

Help us work towards insuring our kids have a future life.
Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Too late already? The frozen Arctic is burning now!

The sensational title describes reality. World’s largest carbon store, peat covering permafrost, is now burning year-round through midwinter

The featured graphic above shows a false-color picture of an active fire burning on a forested area of permafrost in the drainage of the Lena River not far from Yakutsk, capital of the Sakha Republic in Siberia. The video below, from the Siberian Times, documents that the Arctic is burning, even through the entire winter under snow cover in the peat layer covering permafrost. This is only one of many reports (e.g., see Burning the High Arctic: 2020 Spring and Summer Fire Season in Sakha Republic. A Precursor of Fire Seasons to Come?) in this source of the escalating frequency, area, and ferocity of the wildfires burning forests, tundra, and peaty organic soils covering permafrost in the Arctic (Alaska, Canada, and Eurasia (mostly Russia/Siberia). This is also a phenomenon I personally studied extensively last year using freely available access to NASA and European Space Agency satellite monitoring: “Portents for the Future – 2020 Wildfires on the Siberian Permafrost“.

At least where the burning Arctic in Siberia is concerned, peaty soils covering permafrost are susceptible to prolonged burning from the the margins of the Arctic Ocean to the southern boundaries of the permanently frozen soils as just reported in the journal article here that matches ground truth reporting with the satellite monitoring results.

Figure 1. The study areas.

by Kuklina et al, 23/02/2022 in Land

Fires on Ice: Emerging Permafrost Peatlands Fire Regimes in Russia’s Subarctic Taiga

Abstract

Wildfires in permafrost areas, including smoldering fires (e.g., “zombie fires”), have increasingly become a concern in the Arctic and subarctic. Their detection is difficult and requires ground truthing. Local and Indigenous knowledge are becoming useful sources of information that could guide future research and wildfire management. This paper focuses on permafrost peatland fires in the Siberian subarctic taiga linked to local communities and their infrastructure. It presents the results of field studies in Evenki and old-settler communities of Tokma and Khanda in the Irkutsk region of Russia in conjunction with concurrent remote sensing data analysis. The study areas located in the discontinuous permafrost zone allow examination of the dynamics of wildfires in permafrost peatlands and adjacent forested areas. Interviews revealed an unusual prevalence and witness-observed characteristics of smoldering peatland fires over permafrost, such as longer than expected fire risk periods, impacts on community infrastructure, changes in migration of wild animals, and an increasing number of smoldering wildfires including overwintering “zombie fires” in the last five years. The analysis of concurrent satellite remote sensing data confirmed observations from communities, but demonstrated a limited capacity of satellite imagery to accurately capture changing wildfire activity in permafrost peatlands, which may have significant implications for global climate.

Keywords: smoldering fires; zombie fires; boreal forest; permafrost; Evenki; subarctic

Read the complete article….

What do I mean by “Too late already”? for a burning Arctic

It is still early days for an exact quantification of the amount of organic carbon sequestered in the Arctic and subarctic region (e.g., as organic matter in the form of living things, peaty soils, and frozen CO₂ and methane hydrates on, in and under the permafrost). However, our best estimate is that the permafrost region currently holds probably at least two times the total mass of carbon in Earth’s atmosphere. This is not the fossil carbon being released by human industries. According to the US NOAA Arctic Report Card article for 2019 on Permafrost and the Global Carbon Cycle by T. Schuur:

  • Northern permafrost region soils contain 1,460-1,600 billion metric tons of organic carbon, about twice as much as currently contained in the atmosphere.
  • This pool of organic carbon is climate-sensitive. Warming conditions promote microbial conversion of permafrost carbon into the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane that are released to the atmosphere in an accelerating feedback to climate warming.
  • New regional and winter season measurements of ecosystem carbon dioxide flux independently indicate that permafrost region ecosystems are releasing net carbon (potentially 0.3 to 0.6 Pg C per year) to the atmosphere. These observations signify that the feedback to accelerating climate change may already be underway. [my emphasis].

Note that (1) positive feedbacks can grow exponentially (i.e., into ‘explosions’), and (2) a significant proportion of the permafrost carbon is sequestered in the form of frozen methane hydrates. Methane in the hydrate form is inert, but under heating it ‘melts’ and decomposes into water and methane gas – where for the first 20 years of its life in the atmosphere is around 85 TIMES more potent per molecule than CO₂. Even after 100 years is more than 20x potent (IPCC AR5 via Wikipedia). Thus, if global warming triggers an abrupt thawing of Arctic permafrost the rapidly increasing greenhouse could drive global temperatures substantially higher than if CO₂ was the only concern.

To me, the bulk of the evidence in my 2021 Portents for the Future graphical essay as placed in context in my subsequent January 2022 essay “Some fundamental issues relating to the science underlying climate policy: The IPCC and COP26 couldn’t help but get it wrong” suggest that our planet has already passed tipping points where the “natural” positive feedbacks will continue warming the Earth even if we instantly stopped human generated carbon emissions. Note stopping our emissions should at least slow the rate of warming to give us some more time to actually stop the warming – so this remains a vital task! In other words not only do we have to stop carbon emissions from human activities, but we have to implement global scale projects to stop and reduce global heating, e.g., by capturing and sequestering atmospheric carbon by fertilizing and farming ocean deserts. In any event, if we don’t stop the warming feedbacks while we still have the possibility, we will soon pass the point of no return where near term global mass extinction becomes virtually certain.

I am not a near-term climate ‘doomer‘, although I see doom as inevitable if we don’t stop warming. Based on more than a decade studies of the co-evolution of the human species and our technological capabilities, I think if it took us 150 years to burn enough fossil carbon to trigger runaway global warming, we should be smart and capable enough to put that carbon back into safe storage before it kills us. The conclusion of that study in 2016 led me to where I am now rather than trying to finish the book for an audience that probably would not be there to ever read it.

William Hall, 2016

The deep cultural change needed to reach a sustainable future can only be achieved by political action to replace our puppet governments protecting their greedy puppet masters

The puppets show and tell
Captain Humbug showing the parliamentary puppet troop what it is all about. ““Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you. It’s coal.” With these words Australia’s Treasurer Scott Morrison taunted the Opposition, attempting to ridicule its commitment to renewable energy.” – The Conversation (15-02-2017)
Fossil fuel donations keep puppets in government.
See also Katherine Murphy in The Guardian on 09/02/2017 for the live video — “Scott Morrison brings coal to question time: what fresh idiocy is this? What a bunch of clowns, hamming it up – while out in the real world an ominous and oppressive heat just won’t let up.”

In Australia the puppets, fools and knaves forming our LNP COALition government continue working assiduously to protect the fossil fuel and related industries’ abilities to burn fossil carbon and emit methane for unimaginable profits by doing everything they can to deny, delay, block, confuse, distract any effective action to stop these greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, to begin effective solutions for the climate emergency we must clearly recognize and act on the need to replace this government with capable and trustworthy representatives who if elected will put action on the climate emergency at the top of their Parliamentary agendas.

To do this we have to accept the facts that are enough to make any sane person panic. However, in the incredibly wise words of a 16 year old autistic child, Greta Thunberg, we need to recognize that the panic can be answered with prompt action.

greta-act-as-if-the-house-was-on-fire
Listen to Greta’s speech live at the World Economic forum in Davos 2019. Except for her reliance on the IPCC’s overoptimistic emissions budget, everything she says is spot on that even she, as a child, can understand the alternatives and what has to happen.

In other words, wake up, smell the smoke, see the reality, and fight the fire that is burning up our only planet so we can give our offspring a hopeful future. This is the only issue that matters. All Capt. Humbug and his troop of wooden-headed puppets are doing is rearranging the furniture in the burning house to be incinerated along with anything and everyone we may care about. In Greta’s words, “even a small child can understand [this]”. People hope for their children’s futures. She doesn’t want your hope. She wants you to panic enough to wake up and fight the fire…. so our offspring can have some hope for their future. Vote Climate One’s Traffic Light Voting System will help you use your preferential votes wisely on behalf of our offsprings’ futures.

Help give them the bright future they hope for!
Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Look out! More and worse wildfires are coming for us

UN’s “Spreading like Wildfire: The Rising Threat of Extraordinary Landscape Fires” warns positive feedbacks will accelerate warming and impacts

by Bob Berwyn, 23/02/2022 in Inside Climate News
Global Wildfire Activity to Surge in Coming Years: A new U.N. report says communities need to prepare for the growing threat by refocusing on prevention, rather than just reacting to fires as they happen.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.

Insane Gov’t stops replacing of burnt community hall

COALition Gov’t bureaucracy blocks grant to cover costs to replace Sarsfield (Vic) Community Centre incinerated in Black Summer

by Jedda Costa, 21/02/2022 in ABC News (Gippsland)
Bushfire-ravaged Sarsfield misses out on recovery grant due to ABN issue

The bushfire ravaged town of Sarsfield in eastern Victoria’s Gippsland region has missed out on a $3.6 million recovery grant to build a new community hall at a recreation reserve.

Views expressed in this post are those of its author(s), not necessarily all Vote Climate One members.