Grist:

Spring flooding happens nearly every year in the upper Midwest, but current flooding has far surpassed previous all-time records on Nebraska’s major waterways. Climate change means springtime temperatures are arriving earlierwith more intense early-season rains, worsening the risk of damaging floods. In one location, the Missouri River broke its previous record by nearly four feet.

The most spectacular flooding resulted from the failure of the 90-year-old Spencer Dam on the Niobrara River in north-central Nebraska when it unleashed an 11-foot wall of water on Thursday. Before the flood gauge on the river failed, “it looked like something incredible was happening that we couldn’t believe,” Jason Lambrecht, a Nebraska-based hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey told the Lincoln Journal-Star. “And suddenly, everything went dark.”

The flash flood destroyed roads, homes, and bridges before emptying into the Missouri River and joining with meltwater from South Dakota and Iowa. On Saturday, two levees breached on the Platte River, cutting off the town of Fremont, Nebraska — the state’s sixth-largest city. A volunteer airlift has been supplying the city over the weekend and performing rescues.

As of Monday, water levels have crested in most of the state, though major flooding will continue for several days. Offutt Air Force base near Omaha — the home of U.S. Strategic Command — remains inundated, a poignant sign of climate change as a national security risk. There are dozens of road closures across the area.

Eastern Nebraska is just the worst-hit region: Major flooding is currently underway in parts of seven states in the upper Midwest, with near-record flooding expected to spread northward into Minnesota and North Dakota in the coming weeks. In Minnesota, officials expect a greater than 95 percent chance of major flooding, possibly rivaling all-time records.

New York Times:

VERDIGRE, Neb. — Ice chunks the size of small cars ripped through barns and farmhouses. Baby calves were swept into freezing floodwaters, washing up dead along the banks of swollen rivers. Farm fields were now lakes.

The record floods that have pummeled the Midwest are inflicting a devastating toll on farmers and ranchers at a moment when they can least afford it, raising fears that this natural disaster will become a breaking point for farms weighed down by falling incomes, rising bankruptcies and the fallout from President Trump’s trade policies.

“When you’re losing money to start with, how do you take on extra losses?” asked Clint Pischel, 23, of Niobrara, Neb., whose lowland fields were flooded by the ice-filled Niobrara River after a dam failed. He spent Monday gathering 30 dead baby calves from his family’s ranch in this northern region of the state, finding their bodies under huge chunks of ice.

“There’s no harder business to be in,” Mr. Pischel added. “But with death and everything else, you’ve got to answer to bankers. It’s not our choice.”

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trumporb

The man that told you Obama was born in Kenya, he did not pay hush money to that stripper, there is no climate change, and Mexico would pay for his wall, has some new news about renewable energy.

Newsweek:

Scientists responded angrily to President Donald Trump’s anti-renewable energy claim that people would have to turn off their TV sets if there wasn’t enough wind to power turbines.

Addressing an audience at an Army tank factory in Lima, Ohio, on Wednesday afternoon, the president appeared to confuse windmills with wind turbines in his speech repeatedly. Taking on the persona of a man watching TV with his partner, Trump said, “When the wind doesn’t blow, just turn off the television darling, please. There’s no wind, please turn off the television quickly.”

The president also joked “solar’s wonderful too, but it’s not strong enough, and it’s very very expensive.” He did not elaborate on what he meant by “strong.”

Trump took a second swipe at wind power when he argued that building wind turbines near homes would affect property prices.

This is the president’s latest attack on renewable energy. Last year, he claimed wind turbines “kill so many birds,” and he has fought to keep the structures away from his golf courses in Scotland. 

US Fish and Wildlife page comparing threats to birds from many sources, including turbines – example, Vehicles = 214,500,000 kills, Kitty Cats = 2,400,000,000, vs Wind Turbines = 234,012

“Disgust” was the word Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University, used when asked by Newsweek for his initial reaction to Trump’s comments.

“Trump is a clown, but a dangerous, evil clown. He would happily mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren for the short-term profit of those,” he told Newsweek.

“There’s no evidence that being in sight of a windmill decreases property values,” Mann said.

See Lawrence Berkeley Lab extensive peer reviewed study, finding no loss in Values for US homeowners due to wind farms

“But you know what does decrease property values?” asked the professor. “Unprecedented floods, wildfires and inundation by sea level rise and more ferocious tropical storms, all of which are exacerbated by human-caused climate change which, in turn, is caused by our reliance on fossil fuels.”

Philip Eames, a professor of renewable energy at Loughborough University in the U.K., argued that Trump’s comments on renewable energy were in line with his questionable attitudes toward global warming. 

“The denial of man-made climate change, the attitude of ‘live for today and not care about tomorrow’ is a characteristic of all of Trump’s statements in relation to renewables. He only cares about money and votes today, and is not seeing the long-term risks in his policies for future generations,” he said.

Ajay Gambhir, a senior research fellow with the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, echoed Mann’s concerns. He told Newsweek, “The claims made by Trump are tired and out of date.”

Gambhir pointed to the fact that almost half of Denmark’s electricity came from wind power, “much of it offshore and out of sight.” Denmark hopes to be powered exclusively by renewable energy sources such as wind by 2035.

Read the rest of this entry »

buttigieg

Got a dental cleaning today. My dentist is a pretty conservative guy who seems to have awakened to the reality of climate change relatively recently.

He sometimes feels me out on politics when he’s checking my fillings.
“Some political changes going on – are you on board with kill all the cows and no more flying?”

I explained there was some oversimplification in play there.

Mayor Pete Buttiegeig strikes the right tone, I think, here. Excerpt from l

Esquire:

What’s the single best plank in the congressional version of the Green New Deal and the single worst plank?

To me what’s really important about the Green New Deal isn’t like one of the elements of it, it’s the concept. It’s the concept that we have a national emergency commensurate with a depression or a war. And then the second part of it, the concept that, in rising to meet that challenge, there’s a ton of economic opportunity. To me, that’s what’s really appealing about it. Also, the Green New Deal today is a set of goals, not a fully articulated plan. Which is fine.

Obviously some of the rhetoric around the Green New Deal has gotten a little silly about farting cows and abolishing airplanes, and that sort of thing. But fundamentally I think it’s a sound framework, and it creates the right sense of urgency in that we can kind of luxuriate in a debate over what the right gear might be to do carbon targets, but scientifically the right time to do it was yesterday.

Is there anything that is considered a conservative idea that you wish Democrats owned?

A big part of my political vocabulary is about this because I think Democrats should own freedom. I think conservatives have gotten hung up on this very narrow view of freedom because they’ve forgotten that the government’s not the only thing that can make you unfree. And that’s why I talk about access to healthcare as a source of freedom. I remind everybody that freedom to marry is a pretty important one that matters more for a lot of us in our lives than freedom from this or that obscure regulation. And I think if we succeed people will understand freedom as something that is secured by good government, just as much as it is damaged by bad government.

On the flip side, is there anything that is considered right now a progressive idea and that the Democrats are associated with that you wish the Democrats would ditch?

I think a lot of it is tonal. You just gotta make sure that even as we demonstrate we can fight those in power right now—stand up to them and reject everything that’s wrong and correct everything that’s false—but we don’t have to be assholes about it.

Between Trump tariffs and Trump climate denial, farmers getting crushed across the Grain Belt.

Meanwhile, can infrastructure keep up with Climate extremes? Dams built on the Missouri were designed, literally, for different planet.

New York Times:

There were no good choices for John Remus, yet he had to choose.

Should he try to hold back the surging Missouri River but risk destroying a major dam, potentially releasing a 45-foot wall of water? Or should he relieve the pressure by opening the spillway, purposefully adding to the flooding of towns, homes and farmland for hundreds of miles.

Mr. Remus controls an extraordinary machine — the dams built decades ago to tame a river system that drains parts of 10 states and two Canadian provinces. But it was designed for a different era, a time before climate change and the extreme weather it can bring.

“It’s human nature to think we are masters of our environment, the lords of creation,” said Mr. Remus, who works for the United States Army Corps of Engineers. But there are limits, he said. And the storm last week that caused him so much trouble was beyond what his network of dams can control.

“It was not designed to handle this,” he said.

The storm, the “bomb cyclone” that struck the upper Midwest, dumped its rain onto frozen soil, which acted less like dirt and more like concrete. Instead of being absorbed, water from the rain and melted snow raced straight into the Missouri River and its tributaries.

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nebraska19

New Statesman:

In November, as wildfires ripped through California, Kim Kardashian hired a squad of private firefighters to protect her $50m estate in Calabasas. During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Blackwater security guards defended the houses of the hyper rich against feared hordes of looters while their occupants were quietly helicoptered to safety.

Elsewhere, the hyper rich make plans to flee the planet altogether. From Elon Musk’s SpaceX programme to the would-be citizens of space-based micro nation Asgardia, venture capitalist space exploration is being packaged as humanity’s pioneering attempt to save itself from destruction.

These are not anomalies. Private insurance companies like AIG and Chubb have boasted about their increased provisions against the rapidly increasing numbers of natural disasters like wildfires. Others are scrambling to offset their exposure to the gathering effects of climate chaos. As the waters rise, the rich are readying their arks – quietly preparing themselves for climate chaos. If history teaches us anything, it’s that elites build their castles high above the filth.

A small handful of companies are responsible for the overwhelming majority of fossil fuel emissions. Their effects are visited worst upon the poor. Repeated studies have shown that the global poor – left without stockpiles, without armies of private firefighters – are the most exposed to the immediate effects of climate change. If capitalism’s accumulated wealth does not successfully trickle down, its climate miseries certainly do.

Guardian:

Insurers have warned that climate change could make cover for ordinary people unaffordable after the world’s largest reinsurance firm blamed global warming for $24bn (£18bn) of losses in the Californian wildfires.

Ernst Rauch, Munich Re’s chief climatologist, told the Guardian that the costs could soon be widely felt, with premium rises already under discussion with clients holding asset concentrations in vulnerable parts of the state.

“If the risk from wildfires, flooding, storms or hail is increasing then the only sustainable option we have is to adjust our risk prices accordingly. In the long run it might become a social issue,” he said after Munich Re published a report into climate change’s impact on wildfires. “Affordability is so critical [because] some people on low and average incomes in some regions will no longer be able to buy insurance.”

The lion’s share of California’s 20 worst forest blazes since the 1930s have occurred this millennium, in years characterised by abnormally high summer temperatures and “exceptional dryness” between May and October, according to a new analysis by Munich Re.

Wetter and more humid winters spurred new forest growth which became tinder dry in heatwave conditions that preceded the wildfires, the report’s authors said.

After comparing observational data spanning several decades with climate models, the report concluded that the wildfires, which killed 85 people, were “broadly consistent with climate change”.

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Africa’s Katrina

March 21, 2019

mozambique-flood-extent

It’s going to be a long century.

Jeff Masters in Weather Underground:

Over 400 are dead and countless more are at grave risk, huddled on rooftops or clinging to trees, in the horrifying aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Idai in Mozambique. In scenes reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, aerial survey teams photographed thousands of marooned people in the “inland ocean” up to 30 miles wide that heavy rains from Idai have created in central Mozambique.

mozamb_precip-idai

Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall on Thursday evening as a Category 2 storm with 110 mph winds just north of Beira, Mozambique (population 530,000) near the time of high tide, driving a devastating storm surge into the city. The cyclone also caused enormous wind damage, ripping off hundreds of roofs in Mozambique’s fourth largest city. Since the cyclone was large and moving slowly at landfall, near 6 mph, it was a prodigious rainmaker, with satellite-estimated rainfall amounts in excess of 2 feet in much of central Mozambique. Idai stalled and died over the high terrain along the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border on Saturday, but Idai’s remains hovered over the region through Tuesday, bringing additional heavy rains–over a foot in eastern Zimbabwe. Runoff from these rains have submerged huge portions of central Mozambique. Damage to improverished Mozambique, whose GDP is just $12 billion, will be many billions of dollars and take more than five years to recover from.

Over 400 deaths have been officially attributed to the storm, including the 122 deaths that occurred in northern Mozambique and southern Malawi in early March from the tropical disturbance that eventually became Idai. The subsequent landfall of Idai is being blamed for 202 deaths in Mozambique, 102 deaths in Zimbabwe, 7 in South Africa, and 3 in Madagascar. President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique said he expects the toll to exceed 1000 in that nation, which would make it their deadliest storm on record.

Officials in Zimbabwe said they expect the death toll to reach 350 there. According to EM-DAT, this would be the deadliest flood on record for Zimbabwe, exceeding the toll of 251 in January 2017 from Tropical Cyclone Dineo.

mozambique1-gty-ml-190321

ABC:

Thousands of people, some seen clinging to rooftops and tree branches, still await rescue from rising floodwaters in Mozambique, one week after an intense tropical cyclone walloped the southeast African nation.

Nearly 350,000 others are at risk of becoming trapped in the coming days as remnants of tropical cyclone Idai dump rain over low-lying areas already inundated with swelling rivers and bulging dams.

Some 100,000 people may need to be rescued from the town of Buzi alone, according to a spokesman for Mozambique’s Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development.

“We have a critical situation in Buzi,” the spokesman, who asked not to be named, told ABC News via telephone Thursday. “If the rainfall increases, then those 100,000 need to be rescued. Levels of the dam are going high.”

The heavy rain let up in Buzi and the hard-hit port city of Beira on Thursday, but showers are expected to return in the coming hours and days. Aid agencies worry additional rainfall will impede rescue missions.

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A western Nor’Easter.

Nothing to see here.

By the way, what the heck is a bomb cyclone? Two takes.

The new word I learned from this one wasn’t “bombogenesis” – but “Kentuckiana”.

With the 20 year anniversary of the publication of the hockey stick graph, time for a review.

Above, a history of science denial, from tobacco to climate change, finds that the same characters keep showing up.

Below, in recent years, the attacks on science have become more focused and threatening, as fossil fuel interests have leaned hard on their allies in congress to pursue and intimidate scientists.

From C-Span, if you have not seen Michael Mann’s testimony before the House Science Committee in defense of the original Hockey Stick, do give this a look. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hockey Stick at 20

March 21, 2019

tarhockey3

Replicated now many times, the Hockey Stick graph of global temperatures has withstood the test of time.  Only dead enders argue about it any more.

But the war on science and fact that followed climate findings like this has deeply degraded our public dialogue, one of the most toxic and tragic legacies of climate denial, and a threat to democracy that we see playing out every day.

Dan Satterfield for AGU Blogs:

That graph that would become known as the hockey stick. It was published in a paper by Dr. Michael Mann et. al on 15 March 1999 in the AGU Journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The stick was a powerful image showing how fast our planet’s temperature was rising compared to the stable climate of the past 1000 years. In 1999, there were a large number of people who insisted that the planet was not warming at all, and some even insisted that a new ice age was looming! The hockey stick showed clearly that we were indeed warming, and that something bad was happening to our stable climate.

Twenty years have passed, and the hockey stick has stood up against the firestorm of criticism it elicited.  (Read this.) Most of that was from people with no background in science. Those who talk about any science quickly learn that when you show someone information that conflicts with their worldview, they will often dismiss it and or get angry, and accuse you of showing them fake data. This includes people who do not believe in vaccines and others who DO believe in chemtrails, UFO’s, or that pro-wrestling is real.

All of this happened to Dr. Mann after that paper was published, and all of it fell by the wayside as others did what science requires: replication. Read the rest of this entry »

oilsunset

Don’t pop the Champaign yet, but this new court ruling might be part of a trend.

AP via CBS:

BILLINGS, Mont. — A judge blocked oil and gas drilling across almost 500 square miles in Wyoming and said the U.S. government must consider climate change impacts more broadly as it leases huge swaths of public land for energy exploration.

The order marks the latest in a string of court rulings over the past decade — including one last month in Montana — that have faulted the U.S. for inadequate consideration of greenhouse gas emissions when approving oil, gas and coal projects on federal land.

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras in Washington appeared to go a step further than other judges in his order issued late Tuesday.

Previous rulings focused on individual lease sales or permits. But Contreras said that when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management auctions public lands for oil and gas leasing, officials must consider emissions from past, present and foreseeable future oil and gas leases nationwide.

“Given the national, cumulative nature of climate change, considering each individual drilling project in a vacuum deprives the agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land,” Contreras wrote.

The ruling coincides with an aggressive push by President Donald Trump’s administration to open more public lands to energy development.

It came in a lawsuit that challenged leases issued in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado in 2015 and 2016, during President Barack Obama’s administration.

Only the leases in Wyoming were immediately addressed in Contreras’ ruling. It blocks federal officials from issuing drilling permits until they conduct a new environmental review looking more closely at greenhouse gas emissions.

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