Friday, 15 December 2017

Climate change report held back until after elections

Even this extremely conservative report was suppressed by the previous Tory government

National held back advice on 1.9m sea rise until after election while new developments built

By Martyn Bradbury

the Daily Blog,

13 December, 2017

The National Government knew what the report said but held it going out before the election because it would demand they had an actual plan for climate change rather than the meaningless lip service they currently provide.

Let’s get this straight, the National Government held back a report showing no council should build near the sea because of a predicted 1.9m rise in sea levels and a new development got green lighted while they hid this report???

Drowning dreams: Billions at stake as Govt mulls sea level rules

Today, leading scientists recommend considering between double and quadruple that amount when planning new developments. The most up-to-date advice is codified in a new guide written by scientists and policy experts for the Ministry for the Environment.

That guide has no official status, but many councils know what it says, and the public learned of its contents when it was leaked earlier this year by the Green Party.

Based on the latest science, the guide says people should be planning for 1m of sea level rise for existing neighbourhoods, and 1.9m for “green-fields” developments or redevelopments that intensify land use in already built-up areas. The goal is to avoid adding lots of new housing to areas that might one day be flooded.

Yet, in the Coromandel alone, hundreds of new, permanent land titles have been created on low-lying coast in the past two years, after modelling at most 1m of sea level rise.

In 2015, Thames-Coromandel District Council approved a subdivision of 167 coastal sections after rejecting advice from flood experts at Waikato Regional Council to consider 2m higher seas. The district council factored in 1m, instead, noting in emails to the regional council that any updated government guidance wasn’t likely to arrive in time.

Two years later, the council allowed 72 new titles to be created along canals flowing from a harbour, again after modelling for a maximum of 1m higher seas.

These developments weren’t breaking any rules, or even going against best practice guidance, because the advice to factor in 1.9m higher seas was held back by the previous government until after the election.

The National Government knew what the report said but held it going out before the election because it would demand they had an actual plan for climate change rather than the meaningless lip service they currently provide.

That the National Government were prepared to damage so many peoples properties for such political gain is another ugly truth of the last 9 years under National.

Climate change needs planning now, councils warned, as Govt report reveals NZ's sea levels may rise by almost a metre by 2060

Local councils need to start planning now for dramatic sea level rise, a new report warns


15 December, 2017

The stark warning comes in Ministry for the Environment advice to local government on preparing for "coastal change", and it's coupled with an admission by Climate Minister James Shaw that New Zealand "currently lacks a coordinated plan on how to adapt to climate change."

Auckland underwater - sea level rise simulation shows areas worst hit by climate change

This simulation shows which parts of Auckland would be underwater at high tide if the sea were to rise by three metres.

The report, which was available to the previous government in May, says New Zealand lacks a coordinated plan to weather the storms to come.

According to Environment officials' projections, in a worst case scenario, sea levels could rise by almost a metre by 2060. Within a century (2120), that could be by as much as 1.36m.

Just over 133,000 people in coastal areas could be affected.

ONE News used Google Earth data to generate a simulation of which areas would be affected by a three metre sea level rise – the areas shown are approximate.

More than 68,000 buildings are at risk - and the total cost of replacing them is $19b dollars. That includes 382 "critical facility" buildings, five airports, more than 1500 jetties and wharves, 46km of railway and more than 2000km of roads.

The hardest hit areas are in Canterbury and Hawkes Bay - with Waikato having the greatest length of roads exposed.

Wastewater treatment plants, potable water supplies and stormwater and overland drainage systems will all be affected.

"Ongoing sea-level rise will lead to irreversible impacts at the coast ... because many land-use planning and asset and infrastructure decisions made today have long lifetimes because of the permanency of development (eg, subdivision, buildings and infrastructure), planning for adaptation at the coast needs to start now," the report reads.

It continues: "Over time, however, communities will be left increasingly exposed, with vulnerable assets and a stock of private and public investment (eg, buildings, roads, utility services, sea walls) for which difficult decisions will be required - remove, relocate or demolish, or invest substantially to protect.

"The places and environments valued by people will also be exposed to increasing impacts, and vulnerable groups and those without the capacity to move will be particularly affected.

"The likely scale, extent and impact of the evolving increase in coastal risk will be unprecedented across New Zealand."

The report also says sea levels are expected to keep rising for several centuries, even if global gas emissions are reduced, and we can expect more dramatic weather events causing high tides.

If the sea level rises by between 0.3 and 0.4 metres - possibly by 2050 - we can expect rare storm tide inundations to happen at least once per year.
"In New Zealand, by 2050-2070, extreme coastal water levels that are currently expected to be reached or exceeded only once every 100 years (on average) will occur at least once per year or more."

Climate Change minister James Shaw says the report shows "the size of the task to build New Zealand's resilience to rising sea levels, a warmer climate, extreme weather and other impacts of climate change".

"It's important that New Zealanders have a clear picture of the potential impacts of climate change so that communities, local and central government, business and other sectors of our economy can make well-informed decisions about how we build resilience and adapt," he said.

Mr Shaw says the country is "in the early stages of planning" but that it currently lacks a coordinated plan on how to adapt to climate change.

The Government's Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group will report back with recommendations on adapting to the impacts of climate change in March.

The melting Alps in Europe

The Big Melt

By Jeffrey Kluger | Photographs by Marco Zorzanello

13 December, 2017

It took a long time for the Earth to create the Alps—a lot longer than it’s taking humans to wreck them. The Alpine mountain range first rose an estimated 44 million years ago, when the great African plate began creeping northward, breaking and upthrusting the European plate. The newborn peaks did not stop growing until 9 million years ago, and it would be millions more years before the glaciers and snow that are their signature feature would be in place.
Humans have needed barely a century to make a mess of it all. Green and brown, it appears, are the new white across the southern European peaks as climate change, which historically has done its most noticeable damage closer to sea level, now reaches higher.
italy-alps-climate-change-winterThe northern town of Corvara during a recent winter
From 1960 to 2017, the Alpine snow season shortened by 38 days—starting an average of 12 days later and ending 26 days earlier than normal. Europe experienced its warmest-ever winter in the 2015–16 season, with snow cover in the southern French Alps just 20% of its typical depth.
Last December was the driest in 150 years of record keeping, and the flakes that did manage to fall didn’t stay around long. The snow line—the point on a slope at which it’s high enough and thus cold enough for snow to stick—is about 3,900 ft., which is a historic high in some areas. But worse lies ahead as scientists predict melt even at nearly 10,000 ft. by the end of the century.
All this is doing terrible things not just to Alpine beauty but to Alpine businesses—especially ski resorts. Globally, the ski industry generates up to $70 billion per year, and 44% of all skiers—and their dollars—flock to the Alps.
Imagine the Caribbean culture and economy without beaches and water; that’s the Alpine culture and economy without snow.
italy-alps-climate-change-winterSkiers ride a chairlift over snowless hills
italy-alps-climate-change-winterIn the Dolomites, it takes 4,700 snow-blowers to keep trails covered for skiing
The difference is that you can’t make an artificial ocean, but you can make artificial snow, and ski resorts all over the world rely on it. Nowhere is that reliance more urgent than in the Alps, and nowhere in the Alps is it more poignant than on the slopes of the Dolomites, an Alpine range of 18 peaks in northern Italy. In 2009, the Dolomites were named a World Heritage Site by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for their beauty, their complex geomorphology and their scientific significance.
But the Dolomites have changed—their snow quickly vanishing—and that transformation is what caught the eye of Italian photographer Marco Zorzanello. A onetime student of literature, he found himself growing less interested in the lit part of his education and more interested in the human part—particularly the damage humans as a whole are doing to ourselves and to our world through climate change.
“I was interested in the ways the changing environment is changing the appearance of the planet,” Zorzanello says. “We see all of these images, and we just get used to them. It’s like the pictures become an anesthetic.”
italy-alps-climate-change-winterA trail on a denuded mountain leads down to a lodge
Pictures of the Dolomites, he hoped, could once again cause us to feel the pain, and the portfolio he brought back from two winters of shooting on the range’s peaks do just that. The ski seasons go on as they always have, but the trails look unhappily out of place—wide white avenues of snow cut across a landscape of dead grass, dead scrub and pebbled paths.
The skiers themselves seem out of place too, ­relaxing in chaise longues on the dry ground beside the trails, or arriving at the slopes in ski pants and T-shirts, because why bundle up when the temperature is a balmy 50°F? “It was incredibly hot for that time of year,” says Zorzanello. “And this was 2,100 m [6,900 ft.] up the mountain.”
Just as jarring are the images of trucks dumping fresh snow on the trails and of useless snowmobiles that would normally be busy set aside and covered by tarps. And everywhere, up and down the trails, are the snowmaking machines—a technology that’s gotten more refined as the need has gotten greater.
italy-alps-climate-change-winterA snowless entrance to a chairlift
italy-alps-climate-change-winterA tourist couple embraces on the edge of a slope
It was in 1936 that Japanese physicist Ukichiro Nakaya created the first artificial snowflake in a sealed chamber in his laboratory at Hokkaido University. That was no small feat, since snow is much more than just frozen water falling from the sky. You could get that much from hail, which is nothing but wind-driven raindrops that combine and freeze at high altitudes.
A snowflake forms when water vapor condenses into infinitesimal micro-droplets and the droplets then find a nucleus—typically an even smaller grain of atmospheric dust—to which they attach and crystallize. More vapor collects on the crystal, producing a larger flake, which eventually grows big enough and heavy enough to fall to the ground.
Nakaya nucleated his first flakes on the fur of rabbits, inspired by a single flake he spotted on a single rabbit hair. One flake at a time, of course, is no way to make enough snow to cover a slope; what was needed was a way to manufacture the stuff in bulk.
The first snowmaking machine was developed in the 1940s, entirely by accident, when Canadian researchers were studying the way ice forms on jet engines. As part of their research, the researchers sprayed water into a refrigerated wind tunnel—and got an artificial snow squall for their efforts. In the 1950s, one of the first purpose-built snow machines was patented in the U.S., based on the technique the Canadians had stumbled across.
italy-alps-climate-change-winterA tunnel offers protection from wind but is less needed for the cold
A modern snowmaking machine combines the elegance of Hakaya’s work with the muscle of Connecticut-based Tey Manufacturing, which first brought the machines to market. The earliest iterations used microscopic dirt particles and, later, silver iodide as a nucleating agent. Increasingly,they use a protein extracted from a type of bacterium found on plant leaves. The protein causes water to crystallize at comparatively high wintertime temperatures, which is just what you want in the process of snowmaking.
Scientists thus developed a way to irradiate and sterilize it, and it’s now used as the preferred nucleating agent in the water used in snow blowers. Pumped at high pressure through an array of nozzles and fans, the water blasts into the sky as a fine mist. There it crystallizes and drifts to the ground as a reasonable approximation of snow.
italy-alps-climate-change-winterThe temperature in the Dolomites hovers near 50°F during winter
italy-alps-climate-change-winterWomen lounge near a slope with artificial snow
A reasonable approximation, of course, will never replace authentic snow—not the feel of it, the look of it or the behavior of it. And it surely won’t replace the enchantment of it, falling in proper flakes from proper clouds, covering the ground in an unbroken blanket, rather than in engineered trails crisscrossing a bleak brown landscape.
“The dream of skiing on Alpine snow is going to go away,” says Zorzanello. The loss of the beauty that once was the Alps is a just price for the damage wrought by humans—and might serve as a sufficient spur for us to begin to avoid doing more.
italy-alps-climate-change-winterSnow is laid with a truck in some areas to connect slopes

SoCal Thomas Fire update - 12/18/2017

Worsening Weather to Feed Monstrous Thomas Fire Through Sunday

14 December, 2017

It shouldn’t be happening in typically wetter, cooler December. But, due to human-forced climate change, it is.
The Thomas Fire, at 242,000 acres, is now the fourth largest fire in California history. Alone, it has destroyed 900 structures — a decent town’s worth gone up in smoke. And today it threatens pretty much all of Santa Barbara’s 62,000 buildings. For future days promise conditions that could expand the monstrous blaze into the largest fire ever seen for the state.

Dec 14 U.S. & Global Climate and Weather Report 1. High amplitude Jet Stream pattern continues for U.S. 2. Western ridge enhancing heat, drought, fire hazard. 3. Eastern trough bringing in Arctic air. 4. U.S. temps 0.37 C above average. 5. Global temps 0.6 C above average.

(Persistent western ridge formation is an expected upshot of sea ice retreat in the Arctic. A feature that will result in a drier, warmer, more fire prone California if the trend toward sea ice melt and global warming continues.)

Firefighters battling the blaze have faced insane odds to manage a herculean feat — achieving 35 percent containment as blowtorch like Santa Ana winds consistently billowed through the region over the past two weeks. These winds have been both abnormally strong and persistent. And they’re run over dry lands through a season that is typically known for its more prevalent rainfall — not the expanding drought we see today.

Given these presently very abnormal conditions, fire officials don’t expect to achieve full 100 percent containment for three more weeks. And that’s with over 8,144 firefighters on the ground assisted by 1,004 fire engines and 27 helicopters.
It's been more than 250 days since it rained in Southern California. The combination of extremely dry conditions, warm temps, strong winds, and lack of rain has produced an unprecedented potential for rapid fire growth in the middle of the rainy season.
(The 2012 to 2017 California drought was slaked by rains last winter. However, it appears to have returned in force with southern portions of the state again facing an extended dry period.)
Present weather conditions for California are extraordinary. A persistent ridge of high pressure has hovered over the region. And this high has helped to spike local temperatures, speed a re-emergence of drought, and drive very powerful Santa Ana winds through the region. The high formed as sea ice advance in the Chukchi and Bering Seas far to the north lagged. Open water that is usually ice covered at this time of year radiated more heat into the local atmosphere — providing a slot of warmer air that assisted this drought, heat, and wind-promoting high pressure ridge in forming.
The intensity of these highs, influenced by climate change, out west has consistently risen into the 1040+ hPa range. Highs that have been juxtapposed by a strong low further south near Mexico. And a steep pressure gradient between these two persistent weather systems has helped to drive the very strong, fire-fanning, Santa Ana winds through the region. As the Thomas Fire blossomed last week, fire conditions achieved extremes never before seen in state history as those hot, dry winds roared over hills and through valleys.
(GFS model runs show the fire fanning Santa Ana winds strengthening through Sunday. Hat tip to Dan Leonard.)

Unfortunately, weather models for the next few days show this Santa Ana wind producing pressure gradient either persisting or strengthening. Today, this gradient is producing winds with gusts of up to 55 mph. By Sunday, the high over the Pacific is predicted to face off against a low over Northwestern Mexico. And the gradient between these two systems may further intensify these fire fanning winds. Wind speed and fire hazard are not expected to be as extreme as last week. But the re-intensifying winds will do firefighters no favors.

In addition, and perhaps more importantly to the long range picture, there is not even a hint of rain in the forecast through at least the next week. Dry, warmer than normal weather is expected to remain in place at least through that period. And hope for wetter, cooler weather has only begun to emerge in the longer range, less certain forecast.