Deal: Report will play a key role in future winter storm response
Source: Georgia Office of the Governor
Gov. Nathan Deal today received the internal review and action plan he ordered from state agency heads involved in emergency response during the winter storm of Jan. 26-30.
“Our state experienced two severe winter storms in two weeks, events that tested the resilience and preparedness of all Georgians,” Deal said. “Following the first storm, I implemented immediate action items as well as initiated an internal review by state agency heads. The action items paid off. Our state for the second storm was more informed and prepared through the cellphones alerts, emails to school superintendents and consultations with local meteorologists. The safety of our citizens is of the utmost importance, and this report will play a key role in shaping the way our state government agencies prepare for and prevent dangerous winter weather situations.”
State agency heads from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation met to examine the events of the winter storm, which was found to be an extremely unusual circumstance based on data from the National Weather Service.
The report includes short- and long-term solutions, some of which have already been successfully implemented.
2013-2014 Winter Heating Costs for Older and Low-Income Households
Source: AARP Public Policy Institute
Record breaking cold weather this heating season will leave many older American households facing higher heating costs than last year. While heating costs continue to be higher for households heating with fuel oil than those heating with natural gas or electricity, costs to heat with natural gas, electricity, and propane have risen for many households across the United States.
This report analyzes data from the 2009 Residential Energy Consumption Surveys and the February 2014 Short-Term Energy Outlook. It examines heating-related energy consumption and expenditures among consumers age 65 and older based on income, heating fuel used, and geographic location. Winter heating costs are likely to be a greater burden on older low-income households than on similarly aged higher-income households, even though low-income households tend to use less heating fuel than other groups. This report will be updated monthly through March 2014 as new data are released.
January Global Temperature Fourth Highest on Record
According to NOAA scientists, the globally-averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for January 2014 was the highest since 2007 and the fourth highest for January since reliable record keeping began in 1880. It also marked the 38th consecutive January and 347th consecutive month (almost 29 years) with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last below-average January global temperature was January 1976 and the last below-average global temperature for any month was February 1985.
Most areas of the world experienced warmer-than-average monthly temperatures, with the most notable warmth across Alaska, western Canada, southern Greenland, south-central Russia, Mongolia, and northern China. Parts of southeastern Brazil and central and southern Africa experienced record warmth, contributing to the warmest January Southern Hemisphere land temperature departure on record at 2.03°F (1.13°C) above the 20th century average. Temperature departures were below the long-term average across the eastern half of the contiguous U.S, Mexico, and much of Russia. However, no regions of the globe were record cold.
Agricultural Disaster Assistance (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)
The U.S. Department of Agricult ure (USDA) offers several permanently authorized programs to help farmers recover financially from a natural disaster, including federal crop insurance, the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP ), and emergency disaster loans. The federal crop insurance program is designed to protect crop producers from unavoidable risks associated with adverse weather, and weather-related plant diseases and insect infestations. Producers who grow a crop that is currently ineligible for cr op insurance may be eligible for a payment under NAP. Under the emergency disaster (EM) loan program, when a county has been declared a disaster area by either the President or the Secret ary of Agriculture, agricultural producers in that county may become eligible for low-interest loans.
Amidst Bitter Cold and Rising Energy Costs, New Concerns About Energy Insecurity
Source: Columbia University (Mailman School of Public Health)
With many regions of the country facing an unrelenting cold snap, the problem of energy insecurity continues to go unreported despite its toll on the most vulnerable. In a new brief, researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health paint a picture of the families most impacted by this problem and suggest recommendations to alleviate its chokehold on millions of struggling Americans. The authors note that government programs to address energy insecurity are coming up short, despite rising energy costs.
Energy Insecurity (EI) is measured by the proportion of household energy expenditures relative to household income. Lower-income families are more likely to experience EI because they tend to live in housing that has not benefited from the structural improvements that wealthier Americans can afford.
Climate change effects on human health: projections of temperature-related mortality for the UK during the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s
Climate change effects on human health: projections of temperature-related mortality for the UK during the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s (PDF)
Source: Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health
The most direct way in which climate change is expected to affect public health relates to changes in mortality rates associated with exposure to ambient temperature. Many countries worldwide experience annual heat-related and cold-related deaths associated with current weather patterns. Future changes in climate may alter such risks. Estimates of the likely future health impacts of such changes are needed to inform public health policy on climate change in the UK and elsewhere.
Time-series regression analysis was used to characterise current temperature-mortality relationships by region and age group. These were then applied to the local climate and population projections to estimate temperature-related deaths for the UK by the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s. Greater variability in future temperatures as well as changes in mean levels was modelled.
A signiﬁcantly raised risk of heat-related and cold-related mortality was observed in all regions. The elderly were most at risk. In the absence of any adaptation of the population, heat-related deaths would be expected to rise by around 257% by the 2050s from a current annual baseline of around 2000 deaths, and cold-related mortality would decline by 2% from a baseline of around 41 000 deaths. The cold burden remained higher than the heat burden in all periods. The increased number of future temperature-related deaths was partly driven by projected population growth and ageing.
Health protection from hot weather will become increasingly necessary, and measures to reduce cold impacts will also remain important in the UK. The demographic changes expected this century mean that the health protection of the elderly will be vital.
The chronic gap between the incomes of the richest and poorest citizens is seen as the risk that is most likely to cause serious damage globally in the coming decade, according to over 700 global experts that contributed to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2014 report, released today.
Taking a 10-year outlook, the report assesses 31 risks that are global in nature and have the potential to cause significant negative impact across entire countries and industries if they take place. The risks are grouped under five classifications – economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological – and measured in terms of their likelihood and potential impact.
Most likely global risks: After income disparity, experts see extreme weather events as the global risk next most likely to cause systemic shock on a global scale. This is followed by unemployment and underemployment, climate change and cyberattacks.
Most potentially impactful global risks: Fiscal crises feature as the global risk that experts believe has the potential to have the biggest impact on systems and countries over the course of the next 10 years. This economic risk is followed by two environmental risks – climate change and water crises – then unemployment and underemployment, and then critical information infrastructure breakdown, a technological risk.
Source: Insurance Information Institute
Winter storms caused $1.9 billion in insured losses in 2013, up dramatically from $38 million in 2012, according to reports from Munich Re. From 1993 to 2012 winter storms resulted in about $28 billion in insured catastrophe losses (in 2012 dollars), or more than $1 billion a year on average, according to Property Claim Services (PCS).
EURO-CORDEX: new high-resolution climate change projections for European impact research
Source: Regional Environmental Change
A new high-resolution regional climate change ensemble has been established for Europe within the World Climate Research Program Coordinated Regional Downscaling Experiment (EURO-CORDEX) initiative. The first set of simulations with a horizontal resolution of 12.5 km was completed for the new emission scenarios RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 with more simulations expected to follow. The aim of this paper is to present this data set to the different communities active in regional climate modelling, impact assessment and adaptation. The EURO-CORDEX ensemble results have been compared to the SRES A1B simulation results achieved within the ENSEMBLES project. The large-scale patterns of changes in mean temperature and precipitation are similar in all three scenarios, but they differ in regional details, which can partly be related to the higher resolution in EURO-CORDEX. The results strengthen those obtained in ENSEMBLES, but need further investigations. The analysis of impact indices shows that for RCP8.5, there is a substantially larger change projected for temperature-based indices than for RCP4.5. The difference is less pronounced for precipitation-based indices. Two effects of the increased resolution can be regarded as an added value of regional climate simulations. Regional climate model simulations provide higher daily precipitation intensities, which are completely missing in the global climate model simulations, and they provide a significantly different climate change of daily precipitation intensities resulting in a smoother shift from weak to moderate and high intensities.
NOAA: Slow Atlantic hurricane season coming to a close
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially ends on Saturday, Nov. 30, had the fewest number of hurricanes since 1982, thanks in large part to persistent, unfavorable atmospheric conditions over the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and tropical Atlantic Ocean. This year is expected to rank as the sixth-least-active Atlantic hurricane season since 1950, in terms of the collective strength and duration of named storms and hurricanes.
U.S.-Mexico Water Sharing: Background and Recent Developments (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The United States and Mexico share the Colorado River and Rio Grande pursuant to binational agreements. Compliance with these agreements becomes more complicated and controversial as water demands near or exceed available supplies and when drought and high heat further reduce availability and increase demand.
Protecting Snow and Ice Critical for Development, Climate
Source: World Bank
Each year, the snow line on the Himalayan and Andean mountain slopes continues to creep up, exposing brown dirt where 50 years ago there was always snow. Communities downstream from those majestic peaks now watch as big lakes formed by melting glaciers cause catastrophic floods in some areas, while lack of snow melt lead to crippling drought in others.
At the same time, 4 million people perish each year from the smoke they inhale from open-fire cooking – soot that also rises into the atmosphere and speeds up the melting of ice and snow.
Pollution from open fires and diesel engines (known as black carbon), and methane gas released from livestock, landfills and mining operations; are some of the pollutants scientists say must quickly be curtailed to protect human welfare and tackle climate change.
A new scientific report shows that by moving rapidly to reduce such short-lived climate pollutants (SLCP), we could slow the warming in critical snow and ice-covered regions with multiple benefits as a result.
Model projections of atmospheric steering of Sandy-like superstorms
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Superstorm Sandy ravaged the eastern seaboard of the United States, costing a great number of lives and billions of dollars in damage. Whether events like Sandy will become more frequent as anthropogenic greenhouse gases continue to increase remains an open and complex question. Here we consider whether the persistent large-scale atmospheric patterns that steered Sandy onto the coast will become more frequent in the coming decades. Using the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project, phase 5 multimodel ensemble, we demonstrate that climate models consistently project a decrease in the frequency and persistence of the westward flow that led to Sandy’s unprecedented track, implying that future atmospheric conditions are less likely than at present to propel storms westward into the coast.
New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Polar Weather Satellites: NOAA Identified Ways to Mitigate Data Gaps, but Contingency Plans and Schedules Require Further Attention. GAO-13-676, September 11.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657778.pdf
2. Geostationary Weather Satellites: Progress Made, but Weaknesses in Scheduling, Contingency Planning, and Communicating with Users Need to Be Addressed. GAO-13-597, September 9.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657517.pdf
3. Climate Change: State Should Further Improve Its Reporting on Financial Support to Developing Countries to Meet Future Requirements and Guidelines. GAO-13-829, September 19.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657986.pdf
1. Environmental Satellites: Focused Attention Needed to Improve Mitigation Strategies for Satellite Coverage Gaps, by David A. Powner, director, information technology management issues, before the Subcommittees on Environment and Oversight, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. GAO-13-865T, September 19.
2. Homeland Security: Observations on DHS’s Oversight of Major Acquisitions and Efforts to Match Resources to Needs, by Michele Mackin, director, acquisition and sourcing management, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-13-846T, September 19.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657970.pdf
1. GAO Announces Chair and Vice Chair of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Board of Governors, September 19.
Mapping climate change in European temperature distributions
Source: Environmental Research Letters
Climate change poses challenges for decision makers across society, not just in preparing for the climate of the future but even when planning for the climate of the present day. When making climate sensitive decisions, policy makers and adaptation planners would benefit from information on local scales and for user-specific quantiles (e.g. the hottest/coldest 5% of days) and thresholds (e.g. days above 28 ° C), not just mean changes. Here, we translate observations of weather into observations of climate change, providing maps of the changing shape of climatic temperature distributions across Europe since 1950. The provision of such information from observations is valuable to support decisions designed to be robust in today’s climate, while also providing data against which climate forecasting methods can be judged and interpreted. The general statement that the hottest summer days are warming faster than the coolest is made decision relevant by exposing how the regions of greatest warming are quantile and threshold dependent. In a band from Northern France to Denmark, where the response is greatest, the hottest days in the temperature distribution have seen changes of at least 2 ° C, over four times the global mean change over the same period. In winter the coldest nights are warming fastest, particularly in Scandinavia.
State of the Climate 2012 (PDF)
Source: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (via NOAA)
For the first time in several years, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation did not dominate regional climate conditions around the globe. A weak La Niña dissipated to ENSOneutral conditions by spring, and while El Niño appeared to be emerging during summer, this phase never fully developed as sea surface temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific uncharacteristically returned to neutral conditions. Nevertheless, other large-scale climate patterns and extreme weather events impacted various regions during the year. A negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation from mid-January to early February contributed to frigid conditions in parts of northern Africa, eastern Europe, and western Asia. A lack of rain during the 2012 wet season led to the worst drought in at least the past three decades for northeastern Brazil. Central North America also experienced one of its most severe droughts on record. The Caribbean observed a very wet dry season and it was the Sahel’s wettest rainy season in 50 years.
Overall, the 2012 average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces ranked among the 10 warmest years on record. The global land surface temperature alone was also among the 10 warmest on record. In the upper atmosphere, the average stratospheric temperature was record or near-record cold, depending on the dataset. After a 30-year warming trend from 1970 to 1999 for global sea surface temperatures, the period 2000–12 had little further trend. This may be linked to the prevalence of La Niña-like conditions during the 21st century. Heat content in the upper 700 m of the ocean remained near record high levels in 2012. Net increases from 2011 to 2012 were observed at 700-m to 2000-m depth and even in the abyssal ocean below. Following sharp decreases in global sea level in the first half of 2011 that were linked to the effects of La Niña, sea levels rebounded to reach records highs in 2012. The increased hydrological cycle seen in recent years continued, with more evaporation in drier locations and more precipitation in rainy areas. In a pattern that has held since 2004, salty areas of the ocean surfaces and subsurfaces were anomalously salty on average, while fresher areas were anomalously fresh.
Global tropical cyclone activity during 2012 was near average, with a total of 84 storms compared with the 1981–2010 average of 89. Similar to 2010 and 2011, the North Atlantic was the only hurricane basin that experienced above-normal activity. In this basin, Sandy brought devastation to Cuba and parts of the eastern North American seaboard. All other basins experienced either near- or below-normal tropical cyclone activity. Only three tropical cyclones reached Category 5 intensity–all in the Western North Pacific basin. Of these, Super Typhoon Bopha became the only storm in the historical record to produce winds greater than 130 kt south of 7°N. It was also the costliest storm to affect the Philippines and killed more than 1000 residents.
Minimum Arctic sea ice extent in September and Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent in June both reached new record lows.
Urban Forestry: Toward an Ecosystem Services Research Agenda: A Workshop Summary (2013)
Source: National Research Council
Much of the ecological research in the past decades has focused on rural or wilderness areas. Today, however, ecological research has been taking place in our cities, where our everyday decisions can have profound effects on our environment. This research, or urban ecology, includes an important element, trees. Trees have had a variety of environmental benefits for our environment including the sequestering carbon, reducing urban heat island effects, providing vital habitat for wildlife, and making nature accessible. These benefits have important impacts on the physical, socio-economic, and mental health of humans as well. Being exposed to trees has been shown to enhance social cohesion, improve health and recreational opportunities, and increase real estate values.
In order to gain more knowledge into this urban forestry, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) held a workshop February 25-26, 2013. The workshop brought together more than 100 people with various interests in urban forestry research to share information and perspectives, foster communication across specific areas of ecosystem service research, and consider integrated approaches that cut across these realms. The workshop specifically examined current capabilities to characterize and quantify the benefits, key gaps in our understanding, the challenges of planning urban forests in a way that optimizes multiple ecosystem services and more.
Urban Forestry: Toward an Ecosystem Services Research Agenda: A Workshop Summary presents an overview of the issues discussed by the workshop’s breakout groups; summarizes presentations from the four panels which included Biophysical Services of the Urban Forest; and context for the study with introductory material from the workshop.
Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction
Source: United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
The third edition of the United Nations Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction warns that the worst is yet to come.
This worrying news follows three consecutive years in which direct economic losses from disasters have soared past $100 billion. If uninsured losses were included, the figure would be even more staggering.
Based on a new state-of-the art global risk model, the report’s findings should raise concern among policymakers and businesses. In a world of ongoing population growth, rapid urbanization, climate change and an approach to investment that discounts disaster risk, the potential for future losses is enormous. The global community continues to mix a destructive ‘cocktail of disaster risk’ despite catastrophic losses in recent years from the Japan earthquake and tsunami, floods in Pakistan and Thailand and the destructive Super Storm Sandy.
At the same time, the report documents encouraging signs of progress. Public-private partnerships in risk management have proven their worth during several disasters, including the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Disaster risk management reduces uncertainty, builds confidence, cuts costs and creates value. More private sector senior executives are coming to recognize this. But growing recognition must be translated into a more systematic approach to disaster risk management that will make tomorrow’s world a safer place.
Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force Releases Rebuilding Strategy
Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, today released a rebuilding strategy to serve as a model for communities across the nation facing greater risks from extreme weather and to continue helping the Sandy-affected region rebuild. The Rebuilding Strategy contains 69 policy recommendations, many of which have already been adopted, that will help homeowners stay in and repair their homes, strengthen small businesses and revitalize local economies and ensure entire communities are better able to withstand and recover from future storms.
Among the recommendations that will have the greatest impact on Federal funding is a process to prioritize all large-scale infrastructure projects and map the connections and interdependencies between them, as well as guidelines to ensure all of those projects are built to withstand the impacts of climate change. The Strategy also explores how to harden energy infrastructure to minimize power outages and fuel shortages – and ensure continuation of cellular service – in the event of future storms.
The goal of these and other recommendations in the Strategy is to:
- Align federal funding with local rebuilding visions.
- Cut red tape and get assistance to families, businesses, and communities efficiently and effectively, with maximum accountability.
- Coordinate the efforts of the Federal, State, and local governments, with a region-wide approach to rebuilding.
- Ensure the region is rebuilt in a way that makes it more resilient – that is, better able to withstand future storms and other risks posed by a changing climate.