EVACUATIONS are under way as communities along the coast prepare for a cyclone that has stunned experienced weather watchers with its size and force. Live updates will be posted here as they come to hand.

Live coverage: Cyclone Yasi bears down on Queensland coast

Aerial view of flooded houses in Australia, 14 January 2011. Note the solar panels on rooftops at left. amazingonly.com

By Jane Cowan
Tuesday, February 1, 2011

ELEANOR HALL: It was with a touch of irony that Australia's ambassador to the United States, Kim Beazley, opened a World Bank drought conference today.

Mr Beazley admitted it was a tough job selling Australia's expertise on drought with so much of the country under water.

But he urged the audience not to be fooled by the recent floods, which he said would do little to ease Australia's long term problems with drought.

North America correspondent Jane Cowan went along to the summit in Washington.

JANE COWAN: Kim Beazley found himself in the odd position of spruiking Australia's water credentials just weeks after floods of biblical proportions devastated huge swathes of the country.

KIM BEAZLEY: We are at the moment not a convincing advocate of the problems of dry continents. I've, it's been pointed out to me once or twice that I no longer represent a continent, I represent an archipelago.

JANE COWAN: But, as a West Australian, Kim Beazley pointed out much of Australia is still in the grip of drought and that the current flood disaster in no way marked the end of Australia's broader water shortage.

KIM BEAZLEY: One thing we do know - that when these floods have passed as they will do - then the natural nature of the continent will reassert itself and we will be in trouble again. Our vulnerability to environmental crises has been exposed by the events of the past decade.

Our response has been dictated by necessity and this battle continues. …

Floods make drought a hard sell

A weather satellite image obtained from the Japan Meteorological Agency shows tropical cyclone Yasi in the Coral Sea approaching the coast of Australia on February 1, 2011. Japan Meteorological Agency / MTSAT, Handout

By Rob Taylor, Reuters
January 31, 2011 10:01 PM

CANBERRA - Australia evacuated northeast coastal cities on Tuesday as a cyclone rivaling the strength of Hurricane Katrina bore down on tourism, sugar and coal mining areas and threatened areas already devastated by floods far inland.

Cyclone Yasi is expected to generate winds of up to 280 kph when it hits the Queensland state coast early on Thursday (9 a.m. Wednesday ET) matching the strength of Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.

With a strong monsoon feeding Yasi's 650 km-wide front, the storm was also expected to maintain its intensity long after crossing the coast and could sweep inland as far as the outback mining city of Mt Isa.

"This storm is huge and life threatening," Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told reporters, warning the storm was intensifying and picking up speed on its path from the Coral Sea, and destructive gales would begin from Wednesday morning.

Queensland, which accounts for about a fifth of Australia's economy and 90 per cent of steelmaking coal exports worth about $20.4 billion, has had a cruel summer, with floods having swept the eastern seaboard over the past month, killing 35 people.

"There's no time for complacency," said Mike Brunker, mayor of the Whitsunday area which is known for its islands resorts close to the Great Barrier Reef.

"People in low-lying areas are evacuating to friends and family or, if they have to, leave town," he told local media.

The popular tourist state, home also to the country's main sugar industry, bore the brunt of the floods and now risks being battered by Yasi, which authorities said could be the most powerful tropical storm to ever strike the area. …

"This is not a system that's going to cross the coast and rapidly weaken out," Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Gordon Banks said, warning winds could reach up to 280 kph and the storm could reach Mt Isa, 900 km inland.

"We could see this system pushing well in across northern Queensland as a significant tropical cyclone with damaging winds and very heavy rainfall," Banks said. …

Bligh said Yasi could be the worst tropical storm the state had seen, with potential to cause powerful and deadly flash flooding in coastal areas. Most of the state's major coal ports were temporarily closed to shipping. …

Cyclone Yasi is expected to classified a "Category 4" by the time it reaches the coast, which would be the strongest to hit Australia since Cyclone Larry hit the town of Innisfail in 2006, leveling sugar crops and causing A$1.5 billion worth of damage.

Australia evacuates coastal cities in path of cyclone

Residents wait for floodwater to subside in Cotabato City, Philippines, January 2011. ucanews.comBy Julian Labores, Manila
February 1, 2011

The number of people affected by floods and landslides that hit parts of the southern Philippines in recent weeks breached the two-million mark on Monday, with 75 dead and 22 still missing, according to the country’s disaster prevention body.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the floods affected 2,001,221 people in 190 towns and 18 cities.

The agency said 10,580 people are still housed in 61 evacuation centers around the country. More than 2,000 homes have been destroyed.

In Surigao del Norte province, the timely intervention of government workers saved a Catholic church and the houses around it from being washed away by rampaging flood waters during the weekend.

Church officials have blamed recent natural disasters in the Philippines on environmental destruction. Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales issued a statement urging the faithful to take care of the environment.

“We should learn how to respect it by putting a stop to senseless cutting of trees because we might suffer in the end,” he said.

The government estimates that damage to property due to the flooding has already reached 2 billion pesos (US$45 million).

Two million Filipinos affected by floods

In 2006, melting permafrost and erosion conspired to dump this Shishmaref, Alaska, house into the sea. Af Rolf Haugaard Nielsen

By Molly Rettig, Fairbanks Daily News Miner
Jan 30, 2011

FAIRBANKS — Climate change has already begun to make life difficult for state transportation managers. And they expect it to become a bigger and more expensive challenge if warming trends continue as predicted.

“With over 6,600 miles of coastline and 80 percent of the state underlaid by ice-rich permafrost, you can certainly imagine we are at the forefront of climate change impacts,” said Mike Coffey, maintenance and operations chief for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Coffey discussed the impact of climate change on transportation in a webinar last week, hosted by the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. New challenges include warming permafrost, coastal erosion and the potential for more dramatic storms and flooding, he said. These could lead to more highways and facilities cracking, icing up or even washing away. The hardest-hit areas are northern, western and Interior Alaska, where roads and structures are built over permafrost and near the coast.

Climate data show Alaska has warmed in the past century and is likely to continue warming. Some regions and seasons will experience more warming than others, according to UAF climate research. The research, by Scenarios Network for Alaska Planning, projects average monthly temperatures for different communities using international climate models and predicted greenhouse gas levels. In Fairbanks, for example, the average January temperature climbed approximately three degrees from the late 1990s to this past decade. It’s projected to go up about two more degrees in the next two to three decades.

Climate change looks more dramatic in a place like Newtok, a Yupik village on the west coast of Alaska. Average January temperatures rose about six degrees from the 1960s to last decade. They are projected to climb another two to three degrees by 1940 and approximately five additional degrees by 2060.

Melting permafrost is the biggest challenge for roads and infrastructure, Coffey said. …

“We’re expecting those to get worse and expand farther across the state,” he said.

In Fairbanks, fall traditionally turns to winter quickly and temperatures typically remain below the freezing mark until April. But lately, the transition has lasted longer.

“We get snow, and it warms up,” Coffey said.

Irregular warm spells during early winter cause events like the freezing rain storm in November that blanketed Fairbanks in ice.

These events force planners to manage roads differently.

“One thing we’re implementing next winter in Fairbanks is an anti-icing program,” Coffey said. “That’s something that has never had to happen in the Interior before.”

Warmer falls also have delayed sea ice formation along coastlines. Without sea ice protection, waves hammer the shoreline during storms.

“Even without increased storm intensity, just with normal weather patterns, if you lose sea-fast ice you get massive coastal erosion,” Fresco said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has identified 180 communities in Alaska threatened by erosion, Coffey said.

Newtok, the Yupik village on the west coast of Alaska, is “basically being eaten away by erosion of the shoreline,” Coffey said.

Its dump site and barge landing have already eroded away, and houses are next.

Shishmaref, located on an island in the Chukchi Sea, lost 125 feet of beach in a single storm in 1997, he said.

“Many years ago this would have been unheard of,” he said. …

Alaska seeing impact of climate change in its infrastructure, villages via Apocadocs

Life improved for Pakyarani's family when the war ended, but then the floods came and washed away their hopes.

Pakyarani and her four children have returned to their flood-damaged home in a remote Sri Lanka village, but with their crops destroyed they have no way of affording food or repaying their debts, 29 January 2011. aljazeera.net

29 Jan 2011 (Al Jazeera) – Recent flooding in eastern Sri Lanka destroyed thousands of homes, devastated the rice crop and drowned thousands of livestock. A million people, 40 per cent of them children, are at risk of serious hunger as a result. Some of the worst-affected areas were only just recovering from decades of conflict and the tsunami when the floods hit, and the people who live there are facing their third humanitarian emergency in less than 10 years.

Among those at risk of the impending food crisis is Pakyarani, a 32-year-old farmer's wife and mother of four. She lives with her family in a remote village in Batticaloa, one of the districts most affected by the floods. She tells her story:

"I live with my husband, Ravicandran, and my four children: Ravikumar is 13, Nivedika is eight, Rujanika is six and Mohana is two. …

The rain started on January 6. It didn't stop for days - there was thunder and lightning, and the wind was blowing extremely hard. I was sure there would be a cyclone. Eventually we were warned that the rivers and lakes were about to burst their banks. We were afraid that we would be caught in the flood, so we decided to leave.

First we moved to a brick house nearby, which was empty. We thought we would be safe there, but before we could move our things, the flood water started to rise and we decided to leave the area. It just wasn't safe.

We took the children and headed for the school, where people whose homes had been flooded were staying. As we ran, I heard an enormous crash and when I turned, I saw that one wall of our house had collapsed. It fell on the exact spot where we usually sleep.

We were given dry rations at the school and we stayed for a few days. Then, on the 14th, the rain stopped. It didn't take long before we were asked to leave; they wanted to prepare the school for lessons again. We had nowhere to go so we returned to what was left of our home. As we left, we were given a bag of rice - a couple of kilos - but it's not enough to feed my family.

All the rice in our field has been ruined by the floods. It will be May before we can sow new rice seeds, and July before we can harvest. We have no savings to buy food, let alone to repair our house. It's not safe to live like this; the area is full of snakes, and if my children get bitten we have no transport to take them to the nearest hospital, which is 10 kilometres away.

I hope that my husband will be able to earn some money. We really need it. Before the floods, I'd taken loans to help with our farming, but now our crops have been destroyed, I have no way of repaying them. At the moment we are only eating one meal a day. We really need help to survive."

Hunger and despair in Sri Lanka

January 31, 2011 (AP) – As Queensland bore the brunt of Cyclone Anthony overnight another strong cyclone roared towards the state, prompting evacuations and warnings that it could be the worst the already swamped region has ever seen.

Cyclone Hits Australia's Flood Ravaged Northeast

A big haul of pollock comes aboard a factory trawler in the US's biggest seafood harvest. AT SEA PROCESSORS ASSOCIATION31 January 2011, Rome - The contribution of fish to global diets has reached a record of almost 17 kg per person on average, supplying over three billion people with at least 15 percent of their average animal protein intake. This increase is due mainly to the ever-growing production of aquaculture which is set to overtake capture fisheries as a source of food fish, according to the State of the World's Fisheries and Aquaculture, released today. The report also stressed that the status of global fish stocks has not improved.

Overall, fisheries and aquaculture support the livelihoods of an estimated 540 million people, or eight percent of the world population. People have never eaten as much fish and more people than ever are employed in or depend on the sector.

Fish products continue to be the most-traded of food commodities, worth a record $102 billion in 2008, up nine percent from 2007.

The overall percentage of overexploited, depleted or recovering fish stocks in the world's oceans has not dropped and is estimated to be slightly higher than in 2006. About 32 percent of world fish stocks are estimated to be overexploited, depleted or recovering and need to be urgently rebuilt, the report says.

On the other end of the scale, 15 percent of the stock groups monitored by FAO were estimated to be underexploited (three percent) or moderately exploited (12 percent) and therefore able to produce more than their current catches.

"That there has been no improvement in the status of stocks is a matter of great concern," said senior FAO fisheries expert Richard Grainger, one of the report's editors. "The percentage of overexploitation needs to go down although at least we seem to be reaching a plateau."

The report examines the growing legal efforts to enforce tighter controls on the fisheries sector, for example, through trade measures and against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The trade measures are meant to block entry of such fish and fish products from international trade in an effort to better manage the entire fisheries sector and reduce levels of overexploitation. A recent study estimates the cost of illegal and unreported fishing alone at $10-23.5 billion per year. …

Fish consumption reaches all-time high

9 January 2011

The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured this natural-color image on January 9, 2011. The image shows the city largely overrun by flood water, especially west of the river. Thick with sediment, the water is muddy brown, and only isolated patches of land, developed or otherwise, rise above it. The airport is completely submerged. NASA Earth Observatory images created by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team.

 

25 January 2011

The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured this natural-color image on January 25, 2011. The image shows the Fitzroy River mostly confined within its banks. Although large pools of standing water linger west of the river, the water level has dropped. Crisscrossing runways at the airport have emerged. NASA Earth Observatory images created by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team.

Caption by Michon Scott
January 30, 2011

Heavy rains in Queensland, Australia, pushed the Fitzroy River over its banks at the beginning of 2011. The overflowing river submerged much of Rockhampton, not far from the Queensland coast. In late January, however, flood waters receded, leaving behind a mixture of mud, standing water, and damaged infrastructure.

The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured these natural-color images on January 9, 2011 (top), and January 25, 2011 (bottom). (The January 25 image is acquired at 23:57 UTC on January 25, which is 9:57 a.m. on January 26 local time.)

The image from January 9 shows the city largely overrun by flood water, especially west of the river. Thick with sediment, the water is muddy brown, and only isolated patches of land, developed or otherwise, rise above it. The airport is completely submerged.

The image from January 25 shows the Fitzroy River mostly confined within its banks. Although large pools of standing water linger west of the river, the water level has dropped. Crisscrossing runways at the airport have emerged.

The water in early January is muddy brown, but the water in late January appears silvery white. This difference probably results from two factors. One factor is sunglint. When the satellite passes overhead at just the right angle, sunlight reflects off the water’s surface and into the satellite sensor. The other factor is that, in late January, the water likely carries less sediment that it did at the flood’s peak. Flooded rivers typically move large quantities of eroded earth. The mud lingering west of the Fitzroy River on January 25 may result from a combination of saturated ground and mud delivered from elsewhere by the Fitzroy.

Receding Flood Waters around Rockhampton, Queensland

Stranded houseboats at Lake Lanier, Georgia. Tina FountainBy Jeffry Scott and Patrick Fox, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
January 27, 2011

A homeowners group is renewing its campaign to raise the level of Lake Lanier 2 feet so the lake can store another 26 billion gallons of water to quench the demand of a metro area that grows thirstier by the day.

“This will solve a lot of water issues a lot faster and a lot cheaper than other proposals, such as building new reservoirs,” said Joanna Cloud, executive director of the Lake Lanier Association, which represents about 2,000 homeowners on the lake. …

Raising the level of the lake is “not without cost,” Cloud said Thursday. It would require that some of the estimated 10,000 docks and electrical boxes at marinas be raised and probably at least one bridge across the northern part of the lake be replaced.

“We think a grant program could take care of some of those expenses,” she said. …

In 2007, when the Lake Lanier Association first publicized its plan to raise the lake level, the Georgia Senate passed a resolution asking Congress and the Corps of Engineers to study the costs and effects. Four years later, there’s been no such study because Congress hasn’t requested one, Corps spokesman Pat Robbins said.

If Congress did, Robbins said, the Corps would have to look at every imaginable result of raising the lake --  from the impact on docks to flood control. That would take at least a year or two, he estimated.

“It sounds good, but it’s not as easy as saying, ‘Hey, let’s raise the lake 2 feet,'” Robbins said. …

April Ingle, executive director of the Georgia River Network, said the state's own water conservation act has better and more immediate ways to stabilize North Georgia's water supply. One example, she said, is the requirement that all municipalities search for and fix leaks in their water lines.

"We're hearing that some of those leak rates that utilities are finding run as high as 30 percent," Ingle said. "It doesn't make any sense whatsoever to invest millions in building reservoirs when much of the water is lost to leaks in the lines. We need to focus on using the water we have more efficiently." …

Homeowners group wants Lanier's level higher

Image from Nariño in southern Colombia featuring recent clearings, abandoned clearings, and coca plants (center). The picture was taken from low-flying aircraft. Credit: María Ximena Gualdrón / SIMCI

ScienceDaily (Jan. 29, 2011) — Scientists from Stony Brook University are reporting new evidence that cultivating coca bushes, the source of cocaine, is speeding up destruction of rainforests in Colombia and threatening the region's "hotspots" of plant and animal diversity. The findings, which they say underscore the need for establishing larger protected areas to help preserve biodiversity, appear in the ACS journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

Dr. Liliana M. Dávalos, professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook, and her colleagues note that the pace of deforestation in Colombia has accelerated over the past 20 years, even as population growth has slowed and the economy has shifted from agriculture to other revenue sources. This increase in deforestation overlaps with an increase in the cultivation of coca for cocaine production, and the country accounted for 75 per cent of the world's coca in 2000.

Earlier reports found that direct deforestation from coca was surprisingly small, with as little as 150 km2 of forests replaced by coca each year by 2005. Since rainforests contain about 10 percent of the world's plant and animal species -- some of which become the basis of new medicines -- deforestation represents a serious threat to global biodiversity. With studies suggesting that coca cultivation contributes indirectly to deforestation, the scientists set out to further document this impact.

Their analysis of data from 2002-2007 on the effects of coca cultivation on deforestation of rainforests in Colombia identified several factors that boosted the likelihood that rainforests would be destroyed. In southern Colombia, a forest close to newly developed coca farms, for instance, was likely to be cut, as was land in areas where much of the farmland was devoted to coca.

This is the first time the indirect impact on deforestation from cultivation destined for the global cocaine market has been quantified across South America's biodiversity hotpots. …

Cocaine Production Increases Destruction of Colombia’s Rainforests

North America temperature anomalies for January 9 to 16, 2011, compared to the same dates from 2003 through 2010. The anomalies are based on land surface temperatures observed by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Areas with above-average temperatures appear in red and orange, and areas with below-average temperatures appear in shades of blue. NASA Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen

Caption by Michon Scott
January 26, 2011

Snow fell in the U.S. Deep South, severe storms battered the East Coast, and International Falls, Minnesota, set a new temperature record: -46 degrees Fahrenheit (-43 degrees Celsius) on January 21. But in areas north of the United States and southern Canada, temperatures were above normal. In fact, unusual warmth forced residents of Iqaluit, capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, to cancel their New Year’s snowmobile parade.

This map of the United States, Canada, eastern Siberia, and Greenland shows temperature anomalies for January 9 to 16, 2011, compared to the same dates from 2003 through 2010. The anomalies are based on land surface temperatures observed by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Areas with above-average temperatures appear in red and orange, and areas with below-average temperatures appear in shades of blue. Oceans, lakes, and areas with insufficient data (usually because of persistent clouds) appear in gray.

Because this image shows temperature anomalies rather than absolute temperatures, red or orange areas are not necessarily warmer than blue areas. The reds and blues indicate local temperatures that are warmer or colder than the norm for that particular area. The overall configuration of warmer-than-normal temperatures in the north and cooler-than-normal temperatures in the south probably results from a climate pattern known as the Arctic Oscillation (AO).

The AO is a pattern of differences in air pressure between the Arctic and mid-latitudes. When the AO is in “positive” phase, air pressure over the Arctic is low, pressure over the mid-latitudes is high, and prevailing winds confine extremely cold air to the Arctic. But when the AO is in “negative” phase, the pressure gradient weakens. The air pressure over the Arctic is not quite so low, and air pressure at mid-latitudes is not as high. In this negative phase, the AO enables Arctic air to slide south and warm air to slip north.

The AO went into negative phase in the Northern Hemisphere winter of 2009–2010. The AO was in negative mode again in the winter of 2010–2011, affecting temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere as early as December 2010.

The AO can change from positive to negative mode, and vice versa, sometimes in a matter of weeks. Forecasts from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicated that the AO might return to positive mode in February 2011, although the possibility of a lingering negative mode remained.

Arctic Oscillation Chills North America, Warms Arctic

Bathymetric map of the Fram Strait area and the eastern Arctic Ocean (inset; source: www.ibcao.org). Average sea ice coverage for April [1989 to 1995; stippled line: 1963 to 1969 (31)] and September (inset; 1979 to 2000; source: http://nsidc.org) is indicated by white shading. White arrows indicate ice flow direction in Fram Strait area. Red arrows indicate flow direction of Atlantic Water. Atlantic water flow is below halocline waters in the Arctic Ocean proper. Yellow spot marks station MSM5 / 5-712 at 78°54.94'N, 6°46.04'E, 1491-m water depth. BS, Barents Sea; LS, Laptev Sea. Spielhagen, et al., 2011

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent; editing by Ralph Boulton
Fri Jan 28, 2011 5:33am EST

OSLO (Reuters) - A North Atlantic current flowing into the Arctic Ocean is warmer than for at least 2,000 years in a sign that global warming is likely to bring ice-free seas around the North Pole in summers, a study showed.

Scientists said that waters at the northern end of the Gulf Stream, between Greenland and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, averaged 6 degrees Celsius (42.80F) in recent summers, warmer than at natural peaks during Roman or Medieval times.

"The temperature is unprecedented in the past 2,000 years," lead author Robert Spielhagen of the Academy of Sciences, Humanities and Literature in Mainz, Germany, told Reuters of the study in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

The summer water temperatures, reconstructed from the makeup of tiny organisms buried in sediments in the Fram strait, have risen from an average 5.2 degrees Celsius (41.36F) from 1890-2007 and about 3.4C (38.12F) in the previous 1,900 years.

The findings were a new sign that human activities were stoking modern warming since temperatures are above past warm periods linked to swings in the sun's output that enabled, for instance, the Vikings to farm in Greenland in Medieval times.

"We found that modern Fram Strait water temperatures are well outside the natural bounds," Thomas Marchitto, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, one of the authors, said in a statement.

The Fram strait is the main carrier of ocean heat to the Arctic.

The authors wrote that the warming temperatures "are presumably linked to the Arctic amplification of global warming" and that the warming "is most likely another key element in the transition to a future ice-free Arctic Ocean." …

Arctic current warmer than for 2,000 years: study

Herder. The increased frequency of drought observed in eastern Africa over the last 20 years is likely to continue as long as global temperatures continue to rise, according to new research. Credit: Michael Budde , U.S. Geological Survey

ScienceDaily (Jan. 29, 2011) — The increased frequency of drought observed in eastern Africa over the last 20 years is likely to continue as long as global temperatures continue to rise, according to new research published in Climate Dynamics.

This poses increased risk to the estimated 17.5 million people in the Greater Horn of Africa who currently face potential food shortages.

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of California, Santa Barbara, determined that warming of the Indian Ocean, which causes decreased rainfall in eastern Africa, is linked to global warming. These new projections of continued drought contradict previous scenarios by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting increased rainfall in eastern Africa.

This new research supports efforts by the USGS and the U.S. Agency for International Development to identify areas of potential drought and famine in order to target food aid and help inform agricultural development, environmental conservation, and water resources planning.

“Global temperatures are predicted to continue increasing, and we anticipate that average precipitation totals in Kenya and Ethiopia will continue decreasing or remain below the historical average,” said USGS scientist Chris Funk. “The decreased rainfall in eastern Africa is most pronounced in the March to June season, when substantial rainfall usually occurs. Although drought is one reason for food shortages, it is exacerbated by stagnating agricultural development and continued population growth.”

As the globe has warmed over the last century, the Indian Ocean has warmed especially fast. The resulting warmer air and increased humidity over the Indian Ocean produce more frequent rainfall in that region. The air then rises, loses its moisture during rainfall, and then flows westward and descends over Africa, causing drought conditions in Ethiopia and Kenya. …

More frequent drought likely in eastern Africa

In this Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011 photo, crops are inundated by the rising floodwaters west of Rockhampton, Australia. AP / Janie Barrett

BRISBANE, January 28, 2011 (AP) -- Deadly floodwaters that have swamped huge parts of Australia will cost the nation 1 billion Australian dollars ($990 million) in agricultural losses and billions more in lost coal exports, the nation's treasurer said Friday.

The damage figures released by federal Treasurer Wayne Swan were the first official estimates of the financial fallout from the floods, and come one day after the government unveiled a proposal to institute a temporary tax to help pay for the disaster.

"This is going to be, most likely, our most costly economic disaster in our history," Swan said.

Heavy rains that began in November caused massive flooding across the country that has claimed 35 lives and damaged or destroyed 30,000 homes and businesses. Brisbane, the country's third-largest city and the capital of hard-hit Queensland state, was under water for days.

Initial estimates of the overall damage plus the cost of emergency grants to flood-affected communities for the federal government is AU$5.6 billion and likely to rise, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Thursday as she announced a plan for a temporary tax to help pay the bill.

The tax would apply to those with above-average incomes and exclude anyone affected by the floods. Those with incomes between AU$50,001 and AU$100,000 would pay 0.5 percent, and those above would pay 1 percent, raising an estimated AU$1.8 billion. The legislation will be introduced to Parliament next month.

Swan said Friday that the nation's gross domestic product growth in the 2010-2011 fiscal year is expected to be half a percent lower than previously forecast because of the floods. One of the main triggers for the drop is the billions of dollars in expected production losses from Queensland's lucrative coal industry. Queensland produces about 80 percent of Australia's exports of coking coal, which represents about 10 percent of the nation's exports, Swan said.

Damage to Queensland's crops was also expected to be extensive, with agricultural losses estimated to reach AU$1 billion, Swan said. Tourism has also taken a hit, with an estimated loss of AU$300 million.

"Australians are going to see the impact of this on the economy, particularly in the March quarter, and they're going to feel it at the supermarket checkout," Swan said. "The floods have wiped out a significant part of our nation's food bowl."

Meanwhile, a vast inland sea of floodwaters continued to push its way across southeastern Australia on Friday, threatening small communities living along swollen river systems. Dozens of homes in the region have been swamped this week.

Adding to the nation's woes: a tropical storm that has been hovering over the Coral Sea off Queensland re-formed into a cyclone on Friday and could hit the coast by Monday, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

"This is potentially a very serious situation," Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told reporters in Brisbane.

Aussie floods cost billions in lost crops, mining

A Tunisian protester holds bread during a demonstration, January 2011. Martin Bureau / AFP / Getty Images

By Annalyn Censky, staff reporter
January 28, 2011: 5:11 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Food prices have been rising worldwide, as the cost of raw materials and agricultural products surge, contributing to political unrest around the globe.

In December, international food prices broke an all-time high when they rose 25% for the year, led by rising costs for staples like rice, wheat, and maize, the United Nations reported.

The sharp rise in food prices, in particular, has become "a source of political instability," New York University economist Nouriel Roubini, told CNNMoney's Poppy Harlow, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week.

Roubini, nicknamed "Dr. Doom" for his famously bearish predictions, said spiking energy and food prices pose one of the greatest global threats -- especially to emerging market economies.

Why prices are rising: Bad weather in Australia and Russia over the summer severely diminished wheat crops, partially fueling the latest commodities surge.

Rising incomes in emerging markets like China and India also play a role, analysts at the Eurasia Group say. The growing middle class in those countries has prompted a shift from a grain-based diet to one consisting of more meat.

And a push toward biofuels has also led to rising demand for corn and sugar, pushing up commodity prices.

Where it's hitting: The pinch has been felt most in rapidly developing countries like China, India, and Russia, which still have large portions of their population living in poverty.

Food inflation in China was recently at 9.6%, while in India it surged a staggering 18%.

Countries that depend on imports and don't grow a lot of their own grains, like many Middle Eastern nations, are also feeling the pain from price pressures. The recent turmoil there, with outbreaks of riots and violent clashes with police and military forces, is partially related to surging food prices.

"What has happened in Tunisia, is happening right now in Egypt, but also riots in Morocco, Algeria and Pakistan, are related not only to high unemployment rates and to income and wealth inequality, but also to this very sharp rise in food and commodity prices," Roubini said.

In Egypt alone, food prices soared 17% -- in part because of the worldwide surge in commodities prices but also because of local supply imbalances. …

Tensions rise on surging food prices


By Colin Freeman, Cairo
28 Jan 2011

In Cairo, chants of "Down with the system", "Down with Mubarak" and "From revolution to victory" echoed throughout the city.

"I am here today because I cannot afford to feed my family," said Maha Egadi, 50, a chartered accountant, as his nose streamed from the effects of tear gas. "We have come because we want our freedom, and we want to stop corruption and theft by the government."

By 2pm, small knots of people were congregating in the streets urging onlookers to join them.

"Where are the Egyptian people?" they shouted. "Come and protest with us." ...

Egypt protests: Cairo streets engulfed by tear gas

An armed Sahwa militiaman stands next to an Iraqi Arab farmer checking low water levels in a canal running through arid agricultural land in the Hawijah district of Kirkuk in northern Iraq on Saturday. A worsening water shortage in Iraq is raising tensions in the multi-ethnic Kirkuk province, where Arab farmers accuse the Kurdistan region of ruining them by closing the valves to a dam in winter. AFP / File / Marwan IbrahimBy Marwan Ibrahim Marwan Ibrahim
Sat Jan 29, 5:43 am ET

KIRKUK, Iraq (AFP) – A worsening water shortage in Iraq is raising tensions in the multi-ethnic Kirkuk province, where Arab farmers accuse the Kurdistan region of ruining them by closing the valves to a dam in winter.

"We are harmed by the Kurds, and the officials responsible for Baghdad and Kirkuk will not lift a finger," said Sheikh Khaled al-Mafraji, a leader of the Arab Political Council that groups mainly Sunni tribal leaders.

At the heart of the conflict is the Dukan dam, built in 1955 in Iraq's northern autonomous region of Kurdistan, 75 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Kirkuk province.

"They release too much water from June to September while from October it is the opposite: there is not enough drinking water and even less to irrigate our lands," Mafraji complained.

Kirkuk province with its rich oil reserves has 250,000 hectares (617,740 acres) of arable land and 16 percent of its workforce engaged in agriculture, according to UN figures. Winter crops include wheat and corn, and summer harvests are mainly sesame, tomatoes and watermelon.

A UN factsheet in October 2010 showed that while more rain fell in 2009 compared with 2008, the situation is still critical. Rainfall is now 50 percent below average.

"The central government must intervene immediately to ask that our brothers in the north (Kurds) provide the necessary amounts of water for irrigation," Mafraji said, threatening to hold demonstrations if his voice was not heard. …

The growing water deficit and dams built by Iraq's neighbours have significantly reduced the water flow in a country that was until the late 1950s a breadbasket of the Arab world.

"The dam holds 1.3 million cubic metres of water," said Shihab Hakim Nader, director of water resources in Kirkuk province.

"There is a strategic reserve of 700,000 cubic metres (which must not be used), which means there remains 600,000 cubic metres that can be used. But the rain is becoming more scarce, and the level of the dam is decreasing."

"Also, the Kirkuk area receives only 30 cubic metres per second of water, when it should be receiving 75. This is only sufficient for drinking water," he added.

The issue is a ticking bomb in a province with strong ethnic loyalties, where Arabs accuse Kurds of intentionally harming the province.

"The water issue is critical, and thousands of people driven to unemployment blame their situation on Kurdistan," said Sheikh Burhan Mezher, the head of Kirkuk's agriculture department. …

Iraq water shortages raising ethnic tensions

Displaced people flee Sri Lanka floods, 13 Jan 2011. uktamilnews.com

COLOMBO, 28 January 2011 (IRIN) - Weather experts in Sri Lanka warn of more heavy rains and possible flooding in the country's eastern and northern regions.

GB Samarasinghe, head of the country's Meteorological Department, told IRIN strong winds were being predicted for end-February. "Weather experts warn of the possibility of extreme weather again," he said, predicting that the flood-affected areas might suffer a second onslaught.

Heavy rains and floods since November 2010 affected 24 of the island's 25 districts, said the Minister of Disaster Management, Mahinda Amaraweera, noting that about 1.2 million people were affected by the floods and more than 300,000 people were still displaced.

According to the UN - which alongside its partners launched a US$51 million appeal to assist those affected over the next six months - the eastern and northern districts bore the brunt of the recent floods, with 94 percent of the affected population living in the three eastern districts of Batticaloa, Ampara and Trincomalee. Flooding caused shortages of rice and several crops such as chilies and onions. The new warning may likely increase the possibility of food shortages.

More bad weather for Sri Lanka, experts warn

African buffalo in Maasai Mara park in Kenya, 2007. Rhett A. ButlerBy Jeremy Hance, www.mongabay.com
January 27, 2011

An interview with Ian Craigie.

The big mammals for which Africa is so famous are vanishing in staggering numbers. According to a study published last year: Africa's large mammal populations have dropped by 59% in just 40 years. But what is even more alarming was that the study only looked at mammal populations residing in parks and wildlife areas, i.e. lands that are, at least on paper, under governmental protection. Surveying 78 protected areas for 69 species, the study included global favorites such as the African elephant, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, and even Africa's feline king, the lion.

"We weren’t surprised that populations had dropped but we were surprised by how large the drops had been," lead author Ian Craigie told mongabay.com in an interview.

Craigie says that there are a number of causes behind the observed declines, including agriculture, hunting, and the bushmeat trade. But all of them are due to human actions. In fact, he points to Africa's population explosion as one of the underlying factors.

"In Africa man has successfully lived alongside large populations of wild animals for millennia but the advent of advanced technology and agriculture has lead to a 5-fold increase in African human populations since World War 2. All these extra humans are using and moving into previously natural habitats and squeezing out the wildlife," he says.

The study looked at three general regions across Africa: Southern African, East Africa, and West Africa. Wildlife in Southern African parks fared the best according to Craigie because "the level of funding for parks in Southern Africa is much greater than other regions" and the region has lower population densities. West Africa's parks came in last due to a culture of bushmeat hunting, poverty, and booming human populations.

The overall decline of African mammals is likely to be worse than even the study portrays for two reasons: mammal populations have almost certainly suffered worse outside of parks than inside, and Craigie and his team were not able to include parks that didn't regularly survey their wildlife populations.

"The parks left out of this study, where animals were not counted, are likely to be those which are financially poorer or less well managed. So the large declines we found were from the best parks, if we were able to include the other parks the results may have been even worse," Craigie explains.

In a January 2011 interview Dr. Ian Craigie discussed the state of mammal populations in parks across Africa, and how this loss impacts both the native ecosystems and the African people.

Mongabay: What is your background?

Ian Craigie: I have just completed my PhD at the University of Cambridge and Institute of Zoology, London. I started the PhD having previously done a Masters at Imperial College London in 2006 and working for South African National Parks in 2004/2005.

Mongabay: Your study found that on average large mammal populations have dropped by 59 percent in Africa's protected areas. Were you surprised by these findings?

Ian Craigie: We weren’t surprised that populations had dropped but we were surprised by how large the drops had been and how consistent the drops were.

Mongabay: Why do you think this might even underestimate total declines?

Ian Craigie: We were only able to obtain data from parks that count their animals regularly. The parks left out of this study, where animals were not counted, are likely to be those which are financially poorer or less well managed. So the large declines we found were from the best parks, if we were able to include the other parks the results may have been even worse. …

Africa's vanishing wild: mammal populations cut in half

Riot police fire water cannons at protesters attempting to cross the Kasr Al Nile Bridge Jan. 28, 2011, in downtown Cairo. Thousands of police were on the streets of the capital and hundreds of arrests have been made in an attempt to quell anti-government demonstrations. Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

By Damian Carrington
Friday 28 January 2011

Lester Brown argues the pressures of rising population, consumption, water stress and global warming will pose the first serious challenge to civilisation through our food

The world is in the midst of a "food bubble" that could burst at any time: that's the conclusion of the eminent environmentalist Lester Brown, who I met yesterday to discuss his latest book.

He argues we are "one bad harvest away from chaos" and that "food has become the weak link in our civilisation". Here's my summary of his reasoning.

The bubble exists because food is being produced by the unsustainable use of its key resource, water. The most striking example is Saudi Arabia where, Brown says, the looming exhaustion of a major acquifer is moving the nation from self-sufficiency in grain just a few years ago to zero production in 2012. Statistics trip off Brown's tongue as easily as water drips off the crops he is describing.

There are 175 million people in China and 130 million people in India who live on food grown from unsustainable water supplies, according to Brown's Earth Policy Institute. Half the world lives in countries where the water table is falling, he notes.

Add to the water problem the growing demand for food, from rising population, consumption and biofuels, and you see how the bubble forms. The so-called land grabs, in which countries and corporations are buying up farmland in Africa, is another sign of the bubble, he says, as is the growing activity of speculators in the food commodity markets.

So how might the bubble burst? Brown thinks one seriously bad harvest could provide the pin. World grain reserves are at an all time low, he says, with only India out of the top four producing nations having healthy stocks: the others are the US, China and Russia.

The type of extreme weather projected to increase with global warming devastated the 2010 Russian harvest, with 40% of the usual 100m tonnes lost in wildfires and droughts. Another disaster in a big grain producing region would see grain prices "going off the top of the chart", Brown predicts. At that point, nations ban exports, pushing prices higher and oil is bartered for food. …

Will climate change burst the global 'food bubble'?

The Mosul hydropower dam on the Tigris River, pictured in 2007. Record low water levels at Iraq's largest hydroelectric dam have ground turbines there to a halt, amplifying a power shortage that led to riots last summer. AFP / File / Ahmad al-Rubaye By Anwar Faruqi Anwar Faruqi
Thu Jan 27, 11:08 am ET

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Record low water levels at Iraq's largest hydroelectric dam have ground turbines there to a halt, amplifying a power shortage that led to riots last summer, a top official said on Thursday.

Adel Mahdi, advisor to the electricity minister, said water levels at the Mosul dam on the Tigris River had fallen to 298 metres (977 feet) above sea level.

"It is the first time since 1984 when the dam was built that water levels have fallen this low," Mahdi told AFP.

"The installed power generation capacity of Mosul's hydroelectric plant is 1,175 megawatts, but the current production is zero, because the turbines need a minimum water level of 307 metres (1,007 feet) to operate," he added.

He said half of the water to the dam was coming from Turkey, and the rest from Iran and the mountains of Iraq.

The Tigris and Euphrates which gave Iraq its ancient name of Mesopotamia, meaning "land of two rivers," reach Iraq through Turkey.

The Tigris flows directly from Turkey, and the Euphrates goes from Turkey through Syria, then flows to Iraq. Water projects in the two countries have had a severe impact on Iraq.

Mahdi said Iraq also was eyeing with extreme worry Turkey's controversial Aliso dam on the Tigris, work on which began in 2006.

"If Aliso is completed, it will finish with the Tigris in Iraq completely," Mahdi said. …

Iraq's largest hydropower dam grinds to halt

Forecast tracking map for tropical cyclone Anthony, updated Fri 28th 17:00. Australia Bureau of MeteorologyJanuary 29, 2011 (AAP) – Queenslanders are being urged to prepare for the worst as two powerful cyclones threaten to batter the flood-ravaged state.

Tropical Cyclone Anthony is hovering off the Australian eastern seaboard, with authorities warning it will increase in intensity and hit landfall as early as Sunday afternoon, local time.

It's feared a second cyclone, named Yasi, will develop from an intense tropical low currently near Fiji.

Deputy Police Commissioner Ian Stewart, who was re-appointed as Queensland's state disaster co-ordinator on Friday, said modelling indicated the low may develop into a cyclone and could hit Queensland on Thursday or Friday.

"And that system is quite powerful and large already so we are concerned that Queensland may be impacted by these two weather events only days apart," Mr Stewart said on Friday night. …

"I am hopeful that neither of these events will have a major impact on our state," Mr Stewart added.

"But obviously our job is to plan for the worst and hope for the best."

The warning comes as Queensland begins its slow recovery from devastating floods, which struck in mid-January and killed at least 22 people.

On Friday, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said Cyclone Yasi could be the more damaging of the two and may heap more misery on the state.

"The second event is likely to be much more serious, with significantly more rainfall and high winds attached to it," she said.

"The events could be as serious, if not more serious, than what we have seen in the last few weeks." …

Two cyclones threaten flood-ravaged Qld

Riot police fire water cannons at protestors attempting to cross the Kasr Al Nile Bridge on January 28, 2011 in downtown Cairo. Photo: GETTY

By Gregory White
Jan. 22, 2011, 12:08 PM

Food inflation is now a reality for much of the world. It contributed to the overthrow of the Tunisian government, has led to riots across the Middle East and North Africa, driven up costs in China and India, and may only be getting started.

Whether you blame a bad crop or bad monetary policy, food inflation is here.

Nomura produced a research report detailing the countries that would be crushed in a food crisis. One, Tunisia, has already seen its government overthrown.

Their description of a food crisis is a prolonged price spike. They calculate the states that have the most to lose by a formula including:

  • Nominal GDP per capita in USD at market exchange rates.
  • The share of food in total household consumption.
  • Net food exports as a percentage of GDP.

We've got the top 25 countries in danger here and the list, including a major financial center, may surprise you.

#25 Venezuela

GDP per capita in USD: $11,246

Food as a percentage of total household consumption: 32.6%

Net food exports (as percentage of GDP): -1.0%

Note: Nomura's index is calculated using these three variables. The higher per capita GDP, the better the number, as consumers have more to spend. The lower percentage of income spent on food, the better. And the more food exported, the better, as it means there is excess for domestic consumption. Source: Nomura

#24 Vietnam

GDP per capita in USD: $1,051

Food as a percentage of total household consumption: 50.7%

Net food exports (as percentage of GDP): 0.8% …

The 25 Countries Whose Governments Could Get Crushed By Food Price Inflation

Survey shows almost a quarter of children under five are malnourished in Sindh province, six months after floods

Women dry clothes on a road partially submerged by floodwaters in Karampur, Pakistan, Aug. 30, 2010. Athar Hussain / Reuters

By Declan Walsh in Islamabad, www.guardian.co.uk
Thursday 27 January 2011 09.56 GMT

A "humanitarian crisis of epic proportions" is unfolding in flood-hit areas of southern Pakistan where malnutrition rates rival those of African countries affected by famine, according to the United Nations.

In Sindh province, where some villages are still under water six months after the floods, almost one quarter of children under five are malnourished while 6% are severely underfed, a Floods Assessment Needs survey has found.

"I haven't seen malnutrition this bad since the worst of the famine in Ethiopia, Darfur and Chad. It's shockingly bad," said Karen Allen, deputy head of Unicef in Pakistan.

The survey reflects the continuing impact of the massive August floods, which affected 20 million people across an area the size of England, sweeping away 2.2m hectares of farmland.

The figures were alarming, Neva Khan, of Oxfam, said.

"Emergency aid right after the floods saved many lives, but, as these figures show, millions are at serious risk," she said.

Kristen Elsby, a Unicef official, called it a "humanitarian crisis of epic proportions". …

Much western aid has been pumped into a scheme to give flood victims direct financial aid, starting with a payment of £150. Some aid workers say it is prone to corruption.

The UK donated £114m which funded shelter for 1.3 million people and clean water for 2.5 million.

But more money is urgently needed. A UN appeal for $2bn to help people survive until this summer has only 56% of the funding.

Before the floods the western aid effort in Pakistan focused on the north-west, where an earthquake struck in 2005 and military operations against the Taliban have displaced millions.

After the floods, aid workers admit to being caught offguard by the problem in Sindh. "It was a real wake-up call," said one.

Some villages in northern Sindh remain under water, and where the water has cleared, irrigation systems lie destroyed, raising concerns for the next harvest this summer. …

Pakistan flood crisis as bad as African famines, UN says

Anomaly map of Greenland melting days for 2010 derived from passive microwave data. Hatched regions indicate where MAR-simulated meltwater production exceeds the mean by at least two standard deviations. M. Tedesco, et al., 2010

Anomaly map of Greenland melting days for 2010 derived from passive microwave data. Hatched regions indicate where MAR-simulated meltwater production exceeds the mean by at least two standard deviations.

Abstract: Analyses of remote sensing data, surface observations and output from a regional atmosphere model point to new records in 2010 for surface melt and albedo, runoff, the number of days when bare ice is exposed and surface mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet, especially over its west and southwest regions. Early melt onset in spring, triggered by above-normal near-surface air temperatures, contributed to accelerated snowpack metamorphism and premature bare ice exposure, rapidly reducing the surface albedo. Warm conditions persisted through summer, with the positive albedo feedback mechanism being a major contributor to large negative surface mass balance anomalies. Summer snowfall was below average. This helped to maintain low albedo through the 2010 melting season, which also lasted longer than usual. …

Surface melting over the Greenland ice sheet, which can be estimated from satellite data, ground observations or models (Abdalati and Steffen, 1997, Mote, 2007, Nghiem et al., 2001, Hall et al., 2009, Tedesco, 2007, Hanna et al., 2008, Fettweis et al., 2010b, Ettema et al., 2010) was also exceptional in 2010 (Box et al., 2010). Results obtained applying the algorithm reported in Tedesco (2007) to spaceborne microwave brightness temperatures (e.g., Armstrong et al., 1994, Knowles et al., 2002) are consistent with those reported in Box et al. (2010), showing that large areas of the ablation zone in south Greenland underwent melting up to 50 days longer in 2010 compared to the 1979 – 2009 average, with melting in 2010 starting exceptionally early at the end of April and ending quite late in mid September (above figure). These results are confirmed by surface measurements.

Near-surface air temperature is often used as a proxy for surface 49 melting. Previous studies have analyzed exceptional melting events mainly focusing on the relationship between melt and near surface temperatures (e.g., Mote 2007, Tedesco 2007). However, melting and, consequently the surface mass balance (SMB), also depend on accumulation, radiation conditions, refreezing and sublimation, the latter relatively small and constant in time (Box and Steffen, 2001; Fettweis, 2007; Van den Broeke et al., 2008). Surface melt and albedo are intimately linked: as melting increases, so does snow grain size, leading to a decrease in surface albedo which then fosters further melt. Also, changes in accumulation can affect the seasonal evolution of surface albedo, that influences the SMB. It is hence not sufficient to analyze near-surface temperature trends to understand the driving mechanisms of extreme mass loss and studying the role of albedo and accumulation becomes crucial to provide a more robust understanding of the exceptional melting detected by satellite microwave sensors.

In this study, we report results derived from spaceborne sensors, surface glaciological observations and regional atmospheric model outputs regarding the surface albedo, accumulation and bare ice exposure over the Greenland ice sheet during the summer of 2010. Our results indicate that negative surface albedo anomalies were especially prominent over west Greenland, with bare ice exposed earlier than previous years. In addition, increased runoff and reduced accumulation likely contributed to a strongly negative SMB. …

M Tedesco, et al., 2011 Environ. Res. Lett. 6 014005, The role of albedo and accumulation in the 2010 melting record in Greenland [pdf]

Nouriel Roubini, chairman of Roubini Global Economics LLC. Photographer: Simon Dawson / Bloomberg By Tom Keene and Stuart Wallace
Jan 26, 2011 8:42 AM PT 

A surge in food and energy costs is stoking inflation in emerging markets and causing riots that may topple governments, said Nouriel Roubini (video of Roubini interview), the New York University economist who predicted the financial crisis.

Global food costs monitored by the United Nations jumped 25 percent last year, reaching a record in December, and crude oil traded in New York is at $86.38 a barrel, about 53 percent more than its average over the last decade. There have been protests in Algeria and Egypt, and Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country on Jan. 14.

“In emerging markets, it’s leading to rising inflation, to reduction in disposable income, it’s leading to riots, demonstrations and political instability,” Roubini said in an interview in Davos, Switzerland, today with Tom Keene on Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse.” “It’s really something that can topple regimes, as we have seen in the Middle East.”

Governments from Beijing to Belgrade are increasing imports, limiting exports or releasing supply from state stockpiles to curb food inflation. Countries probably spent at least $1 trillion on food imports last year, with the poorest paying as much as 20 percent more than in 2009, the UN says.

The Standard & Poor’s GSCI Agriculture Index of eight futures rose 44 percent last year, the biggest advance since 1974, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The gains were led by cotton, corn and wheat as flooding in Canada, China and Australia and drought in Russia and Europe ruined crops.

Wheat rose another 7.7 percent this year and corn 4.3 percent. Russia, which accounted for about 13 percent of global wheat exports in 2008-2009, banned grain shipments last year after its worst drought in at least a half century. Ukraine also imposed export limits to curb domestic prices.

Security forces and police broke up a rally against President Hosni Mubarak’s government in Cairo earlier today, firing tear gas and wading into the crowd with batons. Core inflation in Egypt reached 9.65 percent last month. In Algeria, three people were killed and 420 injured in clashes with police this month. …

Roubini Says Jump in Food, Energy Prices ‘Can Topple Regimes’


By Jeff Wilson and Whitney McFerron
Jan 26, 2011 12:51 PM PT

Wheat rose, capping the longest rally since November 2009, while corn and soybeans climbed as countries increase purchases from the U.S., the world’s biggest exporter, to cut food inflation and quell civil unrest.

Food-exporting countries are “strongly advised” not to restrict shipments to prevent “more uncertainty and disruption” in world markets, the United Nations said. Governments in Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Yemen have faced protests amid rising costs and high unemployment, and a revolt toppled Tunisia’s leader.

“Sovereign nations are beginning to stockpile food to prevent unrest, and that will help to boost demand for U.S. grains,” said Jim Gerlach, the president of A/C Trading Inc. in Fowler, Indiana. “You artificially stimulate much higher demand when nations start to increase stockpiles.”

Wheat futures for March delivery rose 18.25 cents, or 2.2 percent, to close at $8.565 a bushel at 1:15 p.m. on the Chicago Board of Trade, capping a seven-day advance of 11 percent. Earlier, the price reached $8.6125, the highest for a most- active contract since Aug. 6. The grain has jumped 73 percent in the past 12 months.

Corn futures for March delivery climbed 13.75 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $6.5775 a bushel, the first gain in three sessions. The price has surged 82 percent in the past 12 months.

Soybean futures for March delivery advanced 11 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $13.855 a bushel. The oilseed has gained 46 percent in the past year. …

Grain, Soybeans Rise as Food Riots Spur Demand for U.S. Exports

 

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