Fires in Australia create dangerous weather conditions

January 8, 2020 by  
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Authorities warn that the unprecedented ferocity of Australia’s wildfires can produce extreme  weather  systems — dangerous and unpredictable conditions known as cumulonimbus flammagenitus, or pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) clouds. These pyroCb are associated with fire clouds, ember attacks, fire-driven tornadoes and lightning storms that could create further wildfires. Australia’s Climate Council advisory says that these occurrences are likely to become more common as  climate change  persists and  greenhouse gas emissions  increase. Even more worrisome, pyroCb can make firefighting efforts more difficult. “A fire-generated thunderstorm has formed over the Currowan fire on the northern edge of the fire near Nowra. This is a very dangerous situation. Monitor the conditions around you and take appropriate action,” the New South Wales Rural Fires Service (NSW RFS) recently shared via social media. Related: Half a billion Australian animals, even 30% of koala population, likely lost to wildfires NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons brought attention to the situation when an RFS firefighter died because of the wildfire-associated bizarre weather phenomena. “That extraordinary event resulted in a cyclonic-type base flipping over a 10-tonne truck. That is the volatility and danger that exists,” Fitzsimmons explained. According to a  Climate and Atmospheric Science journal study, wildfire-triggered thunderstorms, or pyroCb, have been observed before in other regions of our planet and were first discovered in the early 2000s. They were originally thought to have been precipitated by volcanic eruptions until they were reclassified as being wildfire -induced. The study of wildfire-associated pyroCb is still a nascent science, yet to be systematically researched. In recent years, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s  Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) has monitored pyroCb in cooperation with both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). CIMSS classifies pyroCb as a “deep convective cloud…generated by a large/hot fire.” CIMSS has been monitoring the pyroCb formations above Australia as the wildfires continued to grow in quantity and magnitude. Several factors make pyroCb a formidable atmospheric force. The speed at which they form and change, coupled with heat from wildfires, can cause rapid, massive temperature swings. In turn, this fosters unpredictably severe winds that exacerbate wildfire intensity. The dynamics of pyroCb and their destructive power can, therefore, put the lives of both firefighters and the public at risk. “PyroCb storms are feared by firefighters for the violent and unpredictable conditions they create on the ground,”  The Guardian  reported. Not only are pyroCbs capable of creating lightning strikes and hail, but they can also engender embers that are “hot enough to start new fires…at distances of 30km from the main fire.” Dr Andrew Dowdy, a meteorologist at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology,  adds that the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the resultant  climate crisis facing our planet makes conditions favorable for pyroCb. As Simon Heemstra, manager of planning and predictive services at NSW RFS, said, “What’s happening now is that we are noticing an increase in incidence of these sorts of events. With a changing and heating climate, you are going to expect these effects.” Via Reuters , HuffPost , The Guardian Images via Harry Stranger and Rob Russell

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Fires in Australia create dangerous weather conditions

EPA lifts ban on pesticide proven to be toxic to honeybees

July 17, 2019 by  
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has re-approved a pesticide for use throughout the country despite its known toxicity to honeybee populations. The chemical , sulfoxaflor, is produced by DowDupont, a major chemical company that contributed $1 million to President Trump’s campaign. Sulfoxaflor was originally approved for use by the EPA in 2013, but the approval was adamantly opposed and challenged by beekeepers and environmentalists. In 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to discontinue the chemical’s approval since DowDupont could not provide enough evidence proving their product is not harmful to bee populations. Despite this ruling, the government continued to offer “emergency approvals” of its use and now has officially re-approved its use on over 190 million acres of crops. Their product is now approved for use on corn, strawberries, citrus, pumpkins, pineapples and soybeans. Related: Native bees are going extinct without much buzz Although the EPA’s own studies provide evidence that the substance is “highly toxic to honeybees at all life stages” and similarly toxic to native bee populations, the EPA announced it was thrilled to lift the ban on such a highly effective agricultural product. “Scientists have long said pesticides like sulfoxaflor are the cause of the unprecedented colony collapse. Letting sulfoxaflor back on the market is dangerous for our food system, economy and environment, ” says a legal representative from Earthjustice. Both honey bees and native bees have seen a rapid decline in their numbers over the past few decades. This winter, beekeepers reportedly lost over 35 percent of their colonies. Since 1947, the population of honeybees has dropped from 6 million to under 2.4 million. “The Trump EPA’s reckless approval of this bee-killing pesticide across 200 million acres of crops like strawberries and watermelon without any public process is a terrible blow to imperiled pollinators,” says the director of the Center for Biological Diversity. Via Huff Post Image via Johann Piber

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EPA lifts ban on pesticide proven to be toxic to honeybees

Louisiana residents hit by flooding say weather advisories weren’t urgent enough

August 22, 2016 by  
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Last week’s flood in southern Louisiana is being called the worst natural disaster in the United States since Hurricane Sandy , but as recovery efforts continue, it’s become apparent that some residents ignored flash flood warnings. NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday revealed interviews with locals who say they willfully ignored the flash flood warnings . Their neighbors told them it never flooded there—weather forecasts are notoriously unreliable, after all—so they chose not to evacuate. When the flood came, they had to make a quick getaway, and at least 13 people lost their lives trying to flee the rising water. It’s true that the area of Louisiana stretching from Baton Rouge to Lafayette has rarely flooded , despite being just slightly above sea level. The intense storms that caused rivers to overflow just over a week ago were unseasonably heavy, and although the National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings for the area, evacuation was not mandatory. This combination of facts caused many local residents to be skeptical of the warnings, thinking that since many storms had come and gone without major incident, this one might as well. Unfortunately, that was far from the truth. Related: Unprecedented Louisiana flooding forced tens of thousands to evacuate Residents interviewed by NPR suggested that the lack of mandatory evacuation orders, as well as being under threat from an unnamed storm , contributed to the widespread underestimation of the storm’s potential to wreak havoc in their communities. When tropical storms and hurricanes are named, the threat seems more real, many said. The storm that caused this unprecedented flood, though, was neither a tropical storm or a hurricane, so it didn’t get a name. Climate change has contributed to the frequency and severity of inland storms, though. As a result of the tragedy in Louisiana, where recovery efforts are still underway, many are now arguing that weather agencies and government officials have a responsibility to adjust their procedures to adapt to these changing threats. It’s unlikely that residents of Baton Rouge will ignore future flash flood warnings , but the next heavy rainstorm that causes massive flooding is likely to hit a community that has, like Baton Rouge, never before experienced a weather event like this. Via NPR Images via Louisiana National Guard and  National Weather Service

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Louisiana residents hit by flooding say weather advisories weren’t urgent enough

Inhabitat spends the night in a Harvard-designed tiny cabin in the woods

August 22, 2016 by  
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For our first Getaway excursion we spent a night in the Maisie , a 160-square-foot mobile cabin built for two to three dwellers. Prior to our visit were told that the cabin would be in the general vicinity of New York’s Catskills, but were purposefully not given the exact address until the day of our arrival for extra adventurous appeal. The cabin was easily discoverable by GPS and we shared a campsite with two other Getaway cabins, though each was set apart with enough room to still feel quite secluded. We were immediately impressed by the cabin’s minimalist and functional design. Its light timber interior was complimented by cozy bean bag chairs, a bed with fresh white linens, a fully stocked kitchen, ample lighting, and large tree-filled windows. We were especially surprised by the fact that the kitchen was filled with all the sundries one might need; pots, pans, cooking utensils, a hot plate, olive oil, a provisions box with snacks for purchase, and a delightful assortment of books and games. We made dinner on a pint-sized grill by the campfire, basked under a starry sky, and finished the night with a rousing game of Shut the Box . It was everything we’d hope it would be – a comfortable and magical summer night’s escape. RELATED: Harvard student startup lets you test-drive tiny house living for just $99 a night A Getaway experience is one level above glamping with a hot shower, electric toilet and a mini fridge. While these luxurious amenities are available, guests should remain mindful of their water and electric usage and note to conserve flushes of the electric toilet — 15 flushes were allotted. As in any tent or house, you’ll also want to keep the doors and windows closed and the bugs out (even so, we did wake up with a few bites). So, would we stay in a Getaway cabin again? We’re still big fans of the old fashioned tent, but having a little taste of off-grid living made us feel right at home. If you’ve ever wanted to live in a tiny home, this is a great way to test it out without taking the plunge. Getaway currently offers four different-sized models in New York and three in Boston . + Getaway Images by Laura Mordas-Schenkein for Inhabitat and by Getaway

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Inhabitat spends the night in a Harvard-designed tiny cabin in the woods

It’s time for CEOs and mayors to join forces on climate

August 10, 2015 by  
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Both public and private sector leaders are realizing the unprecedented stakes of climate issues. How will they respond?

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It’s time for CEOs and mayors to join forces on climate

Drought Could Overtake Much of World by 2030, Rise to Unprecedented Levels by 2100

October 19, 2010 by  
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photo: Bert K.

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Drought Could Overtake Much of World by 2030, Rise to Unprecedented Levels by 2100

When it Comes to Food, Concern is Good – But Action is Better

November 19, 2009 by  
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The Union of Concerned Scientists ( UCS ) has developed a career-long role that entails finding issues to worry about and writing about them.

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When it Comes to Food, Concern is Good – But Action is Better

Viewing the world as a system will help us establish sustainability

November 19, 2009 by  
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Paul Hawken was the keynote speaker at the Sustainable Industries Economic Forum in San Francisco on Thursday. He had some inspiring talking points (the forum’s goal was to ‘reinspire the inspired’), but one of the key takeaways was in how we should be viewing sustainability.  He started by saying that sustainability should be viewed as a easily defineable.  Sustainability means we survive.  Living unsustainably means we don’t.  But it was how he suggested we view this that was really interesting.  Read more of this story »

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Viewing the world as a system will help us establish sustainability

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