23 April 2012 – Flooding hit rural areas in Colombia and Peru on Sunday, driving hundreds from their homes, flooding crops and taking at least three lives in the Boyaca province.

In the Colombian town of La Parada, southwest of the capital Bogota, the Tachira River overflowed its banks and flooded some 200 homes.

Water levels stood nearly five feet deep in homes and streets in La Parada, where hundreds of residents lost nearly all their belongings.

Jose Manrique is a member of the local civil defense crew: "Because of the winter weather, the river overflowed its banks above a farm and affected the entire area of La Parada."

As waters receded, people tried to round up belongings and clean up the streets.

Meanwhile in Tunga, northeast of Bogota, Red Cross volunteers and other local rescue workers evacuated residents in boats.

Local news outlets were reporting three dead, four missing, and 15,000 people affected by flooding in the Boyaca province.

In Peru's Amazon, crops and homes were underwater as the Amazon River and some tributaries flooded.

Heavy Rains Flood Peru and Colombia

28 April 2012 (AP) – Peruvian authorities say a bacterial infection has killed three people and sickened at least 38 where the Amazon river has experienced its worst flooding in three decades.

Dr. Juan Celis of the Loreto regional hospital in Iquitos says the bacterial disease leptospirosis is to blame. The bacteria occurs in fresh water contaminated by animal urine.

UNICEF health official Mario Tavera says homes, schools, health clinics and crops are flooded in the northeastern jungle region.

He says residents, especially children, are also suffering from diarrhea, respiratory, eye, and skin infections.

Peru's government declared a state of emergency in Loreto in early April.

The government says 191,000 people have either lost their homes or suffered significant damage in the flooding.

Infection claims lives in record Peru flood

A flooded street in Peru, April 2012. More than 200,000 people have been displaced by recent flooding in Peru, and many sources of clean drinking water have been compromised. Water Missions International

By Paul Bowers
30 April 2012

Water Missions International, a nonprofit organization based in West Ashley, is working to provide safe drinking water in a northern region of Peru that has been devastated by flooding.

The organization, which provides ready-built water filtration and chlorination systems worldwide, already has equipment on the ground at a headquarters in Iquitos, Peru. Iquitos is the capital of the Loreto region, which has been hit by what Peruvian authorities call the worst flooding in three decades.

Above-average precipitation caused the Amazon River to overflow its banks, leading the Peruvian government to declare a state of emergency in Loreto in early April. So far, the Red Cross estimates that more than 200,000 people have been displaced by the flooding, and many sources of clean drinking water have been compromised. Recently, at least three people have been killed and 38 sickened by leptospirosis, a rare bacterial disease carried in fresh water contaminated with animal urine, according to the Associated Press. Doctors also report that residents (especially children) are suffering from diarrhea and respiratory, eye, and skin infections.

Seth Womble, Peru program manager for Water Missions International, says all of the Peru staff members and some staff from Honduras are working to provide relief in Loreto. He says they are working with local Rotarians, relief organizations including ShelterBox, and government officials to assess the damage.

If you would like to support the cause of Water Missions International, call (843) 769-7395 or visit the WMI website.

Local charity provides clean water in flood-ravaged Peru

Amazon River Level in Iquitos, April 2012. www.dhn.mil.pe

The Amazon has reached record breadth, width, and height this rainy season. According to Peru’s Health Ministry, the river has grown at least 6.5 feet during the floods, with the Marañón River, which feeds the Amazon, increasing some 13 feet. Neither river has swelled this much since the 1970s, when a similar flood affected the area. [Flooding ravages Peru and Colombia – Amazon River reaches record breadth, width, and height]

[cf. Sea change in salinity heralds shift in rainfall as Earth warms: Scientists have detected a clear change in salinity of the world's oceans and have found that the cycle that drives rainfall and evaporation has intensified more than thought because of global warming.]

Amazon River Level in Iquitos

Coal power capacity additions in major regions, 2000-2010. From 2009 to 2011, demand for coal continued to shift, particularly to China and India. Since 2000, China has more than trebled its installed capacity of coal, while India’s capacity has increased by 50%. IEA

London, 25 April 2012 (IEA) – While progress is being made on renewable energy, most clean energy technologies are not being deployed quickly enough, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said today in an annual progress report presented to ministers and representatives of nations that together account for four-fifths of global energy demand.

The report, Tracking Clean Energy Progress, highlighted the rapid progress made in some renewable technologies, notably the solar panels easily installed by households and businesses (solar PV) and in onshore wind technologies. In fact, onshore wind has seen 27% average annual growth over the past decade, and solar PV has grown at 42%, albeit from a small base. Even more impressive is the 75% reduction in system costs for solar PV in as little as three years in some countries. This serves as evidence that rapid technology change is possible. Unfortunately, however, the report concludes that most clean energy technologies are not on track to make their required contribution to reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and thereby provide a more secure energy system.

“We have a responsibility and a golden opportunity to act,” said IEA Deputy Executive Director Ambassador Richard H Jones. “Energy-related CO2 emissions are at historic highs; under current policies, we estimate that energy use and CO2 emissions would increase by a third by 2020, and almost double by 2050. This would likely send global temperatures at least 6°C higher. Such an outcome would confront future generations with significant economic, environmental and energy security hardships – a legacy that I know none of us wishes to leave behind.”

The report, which Ambassador Jones presented at the third Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) in London, urges aggressive policy action to take full advantage of the benefits offered by clean energy technologies. In sounding the alarm over the report’s findings, Ambassador Jones stressed the positive role the CEM can play in improving the situation.

“The ministers meeting this week in London have an incredible opportunity before them,” he said. “It is my hope that they heed our warning of insufficient progress, and act to seize the security, economic and environmental benefits that a clean-energy transition can bring.”

The report notes that many technologies with great potential for energy and emissions savings are making halting progress at best. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is not seeing the necessary rates of investment to develop full-scale demonstration projects, and nearly half of new coal-fired power plants are still being built with inefficient technology. Vehicle fuel-efficiency improvement is slow, and significant untapped energy-efficiency potential remains in the building and industry sectors.

In addition, while government targets for electric vehicles (20 million by 2020) are ambitious, as are continued nuclear expansion plans in many countries, translating plans into reality is easier said than done. Manufacturers’ production targets for electric vehicles after 2014 are highly uncertain; and increasing public opposition to nuclear power is proving challenging to address.

The report offers three over-arching policy recommendations for changing this status quo and moving clean-energy technologies to the mainstream market:

  • First, level the playing field for clean energy technologies. This means ensuring that energy prices reflect the “true cost” of energy – accounting for the positive and negative impacts of energy production and consumption;
  • Second, unlock the potential of energy efficiency, the “hidden fuel” of the future. Making sure that energy is not wasted and that it is used in the best possible way is the most cost-effective action and must be the first step of any policy aimed at building a sustainable energy mix’
  • Finally, accelerate energy innovation and public support for research, development and demonstration. This will help lay the groundwork for private sector innovation, and speed technologies to market.

IEA urges governments to seize the opportunity to accelerate clean energy deployment [pdf]

By Marilia Brocchetto, CNN
30 April 2012

(CNN) – Authorities in Peru are investigating the death of over 538 pelicans, along with other birds, on the northern coast of the country, the Peruvian ministry of production said Sunday.

The new environmental investigation comes on the heels of an incident earlier in April when 877 dolphins washed up dead on the same stretch of coast.

It was not immediately clear if the deaths were connected.

The birds appear to have died on the beach, and more tests are needed to determine the cause of death, the ministry of production said.

The Peruvian Sea Institute surveyed about 43 miles (70km) of beach coastline on Sunday and estimated that 592 birds were dead along the shore.

State-run TV Peru estimated that up to 1,200 birds had been found dead on the 100 miles (160km) of northern shoreline extending from Punta Negra in Piura to San José in the state of Lambayeque.

The deaths began less than two weeks ago, local fishermen say.

The investigation into the mystery surrounding the dolphins is still ongoing. Peruvian Deputy Environment Minister Gabriel Quijandria told CNN the dolphins may have died from an outbreak of Morbillivirus or Brucella bacteria.

The Peruvian government has put together a panel from different ministries to analyze a report by the Peruvian Sea Institute (IMARPE). Officials have been able to conclude that the dolphins' deaths were not due to lack of food, interaction with fisheries, poisoning with pesticides, biotoxin poisoning, or contamination by heavy metals.

"When you have something this large, my gut would tell me that there's something traumatic that happened," Sue Rocca, a marine biologist with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, told CNN. She raised a number of possibilities as to what could have killed the animals, including acoustic trauma.

Preliminary reports ruled out that seismic sound waves created by oil exploration in that stretch of sea could have killed the birds, the environment ministry said.

They also expressed concern for the fishermen in the area and restated their commitment to protecting the country's marine ecosystem.

Peru investigates mystery pelican deaths

Satellite views of Dubai, 2000 and 2010. With a population of 1.2 million people, Dubai is one of the few places on Earth where urban sprawl has extended into the ocean. Construction of the Palm Jumeirah, with its 17 sandy fronds (pictured at the left of 2010 image) required 110 million cubic meters of sand, according to the building firm. CNN / NASA Landsat / U.S. Geological Survey

Produced by Mairi Mackay, CNN and George Webster, for CNN, Built by Matt Barringer, CNN

The past century has been defined by an epic migration of people from rural areas to the city. In 2008, for the first time in history, more of the Earth's population was living in cities than in the countryside. The U.N. now predicts that nearly 70% of the global population will be city dwellers by 2050.

Looking back through the decades, these snapshots from space -- created exclusively for CNN by NASA's Landsat department in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey – reveal the impact of this vast population shift on cities around the world. […]

Images from space track relentless spread of humanity

A ferry sails by the Philadelphia waterfront. G. Widman for GPTMC

By Les Christie
25 April 2012

The U.S. has significantly reduced its air pollution, but there's still a lot of work to be done. These 10 cities had the highest levels of year-round particle pollution, according to the American Lung Association's 2012 rankings.

10. Philadelphia

Population: 6,533,683
Cardiovascular cases: 1,660,434
Rank in most ozone-polluted cities: 16

The City of Brotherly Love was once an industrial powerhouse, with heavy industries like steel, manufacturing, textiles and machinery.

Many of the factories are gone now and Philadelphia has much more of a service economy now. The industries that remain are subject to much stricter controls, according to Linda Rebarchak, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Over the past few years, for example, continuous air monitors have been installed over many of the city's smokestacks to measure emissions. The monitors have helped to alert officials and factory managers to any problems in the systems, she said. […]

10 most polluted cities

As the United States gets more oil imported from Canada's oil sands, critics worry that the pipelines that carry it will leak. Veronique de Viguerie / Getty Images

By Steve Hargreaves
30 April 2012

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) – U.S. imports of what environmentalists are calling "dirty oil" are set to triple over the next decade, raising concerns over the environmental impact of extracting it and whether pipelines can safely transport this Canadian oil.

The United States currently imports over half a million barrels a day of bitumen from Canada's oil sands region, according to the Sierra Club. That number, Sierra Club says is set to grow to over 1.5 million barrels by 2020. That represents nearly 10% of the country's current consumption.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration's overall Canadian oil production numbers are in-line with the Sierra Club's projected pace.

Bitumen is a heavy, tar-like oil. It needs to be heavily processed in order to be turned into more viscous, easier to refine, crude oil. Because it's so thick, to make it more viscous and move it by pipeline, it gets diluted with natural gas liquids.

Besides the sheer amount of energy and water needed to process and extract bitumen, environmentalists say it's more dangerous to move because it's more corrosive to pipelines than regular crude.

While the industry maintains bitumen is safe, the danger of transporting it is one of the reasons there is so much opposition to the Keystone pipeline expansion, which is supposed to carry it, among other oil products.

"We've got all this unconventional crude, and we're completely unprepared for it," said Michael Marx, a senior campaign director at the Sierra Club. "It's definitely more dangerous" than regular oil.

Marx says bitumen is not only more abrasive than traditional crude, it's 15 to 20 times more acidic. […]

U.S. 'dirty oil' imports set to triple

A man holding an umbrella watches large waves on the Marina beach as a cargo ship passes after Cyclone Thane hit the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, 30 December 2011. Reuters / Babu

By David Fogarty; Editing by Ed Davies
26 April 2012

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Scientists have detected a clear change in salinity of the world's oceans and have found that the cycle that drives rainfall and evaporation has intensified more than thought because of global warming.

The finding published on Friday helps refine estimates of how different parts of the globe will be affected by increased rainfall or more intense droughts as the planet heats up, affecting crops, water supplies, and flood defenses.

Scientists led by Paul Durack of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory reported clear changes in salinity patterns across the world's oceans between 1950 and 2000.

Oceans cover 71 percent of the planet's surface and store 97 percent of the world's water and are therefore the main source of moisture in the atmosphere through evaporation.

The global cycle of rainfall and evaporation of water from the land and surface of the ocean comprise the global water cycle, with some areas such as the tropics naturally wetter and others, such as large parts of Australia, the United States or northern Africa, drier.

Some ocean regions are saltier, meaning less rainfall and others are fresher, meaning high rainfall, making salinity measurements a good way to measure changes in rainfall patterns.

Durack and team, in a study published in the journal Science, found that the water cycle intensified 4 percent from 1950-2000, twice as much as projected by climate models.

"These changes suggest that arid regions have become drier and high rainfall regions have become wetter in response to observed global warming," Durack, a post-doctoral fellow, said in a statement. […]

Temperature data shows the planet heated up by 0.5 deg C between 1950-2000. But climate models suggest the world is on track to warm by 3 deg C by the end of the century unless the current growth of greenhouse gas emissions is quickly halted.

A warming of that magnitude would mean the water cycle intensifying by up to 24 percent, with wet regions getting wetter and dry regions drier. […]

Sea change in salinity heralds shift in rainfall

Salp, like these collected by divers at Diablo Canyon, are clogging screens used to filter coolant for the reactor, 24 April 2012. PG&EBy Steve Chawkins, Los Angeles Times
26 April 2012

Strange, jellyfish-like creatures swarming a coastal nuclear power plant: It might sound like the premise of a cult horror flick, but the invasion has prompted officials at the Diablo Canyon facility in San Luis Obispo to curtail operations for at least a few days.

The plant's operator, Pacific Gas & Electric, cut power generation from one of the plant's two reactors to 25% of its capacity, spokesman Tom Cuddy said Wednesday. The other reactor was shut down this week for what PG&E described as routine refueling and maintenance, a procedure that could take about a month.

Workers on Monday discovered an influx of the creatures, called salp, clogging screens that are used to keep marine life out of the seawater used as a coolant, Cuddy said. Often thronging many square miles of ocean in huge, gelatinous masses, salp are tubular, transparent organisms that can be roughly the size of a human thumb. No one knows how many are at the Avila Beach plant or how long they will remain.

"We'll continue to monitor the intake structure and clean the salp off the screens," Cuddy said. "Once they decide to move on and it's safe to do so, we'll resume full power."

That could take several days, he said, but no blackouts or interruptions are anticipated.

Jellyfish swarmed Diablo Canyon in 2008, triggering a steep, sudden decrease in power generation. Over the years, they have been a problem at nuclear plants in the U.S., Japan, Israel and Scotland. The San Onofre plant in northern San Diego County, while currently closed over several equipment issues, has not had a jellyfish problem, according to a spokeswoman for its operator, Southern California Edison.

Salps do not usually go coastal.

"Ordinarily they live further out at sea," said Larry Madin, a salp expert and research director at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. "It sounds like these were brought in on a current or blown in by wind." […]

Diablo Canyon reactor gets unwelcome guests

Compacting trucks assemble the latest delivery to L.A.'s Puente Hills Landfill, the largest rubbish dump in America. Despite surface appearances, Puente Hills is considered one of the most state-of-the-art landfills in the world. Some aren't so well maintained. CNN

By Ned Smith, BusinessNewsDaily Senior Writer
19 April 2012

The number of Americans who admit that they suffer from environmentally related "green guilt" has more than doubled in the past three years, according to a new survey. Environmental experts define green guilt as the knowledge that you could and should be doing more to help preserve the environment. Today it affects nearly one-third (29 percent) of Americans.

More than half of Americans (57 percent) say they have old electronics that they need to dispose of or discard, including cellphones (46 percent), computers (33 percent) and TVs (25 percent), followed by cordless phones (19 percent) and rechargeable batteries, according to a survey of more than 1,000 Americans sponsored by Call2Recycle, a recycling service.

But they have good intentions, the survey found. Eighty-four percent say they have recycled in the past year to help the environment; as well as turned out lights/unplugged rechargers (68 percent); and purchased "green" products (53 percent).

But Americans say they face barriers to recycling, including not knowing how or where to recycle old technology (44 percent) and a lack of local stores offering a recycling program (19 percent). Other constraints cited include difficulty finding a collection event (16 percent) and lack of municipal recycling options (15 percent). Reasons for not doing more to protect the environment in general include not knowing what to do (32 percent) and not having the time (26 percent).

The survey shows that slightly more American women than men believe that proper product disposal should be shared among manufacturers, retailers, consumers and dedicated recycling programs or organizations.

When asked about extended producer responsibility, more than half (52 percent) of Americans say they believe that manufacturers should bear the cost of recycling their product after consumers are finished with it. But, they're almost equally split about their willingness to pay more for an item if a manufacturer took care of its proper disposal — 38 percent (notably more men than women) say yes, while 39 percent say no.

"We see this as a positive," said Carl Smith, CEO and president of Call2Recycle. "Whether due to the recovering economy or for other reasons, consumers are stimulated to think about the proper disposal of old electronics and conscious of the impact today's actions have on the state of our planet. The 2012 survey shows that Americans increasingly feel an obligation to recycle, and that they share responsibility with manufacturers and others to reduce the environmental impact of many products." […]

Americans Confess 'Green Guilt' Is Growing

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Global temperature anomalies for March 2012, based on an ongoing analysis by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. It shows changes from the norm for each region, not absolute temperatures. That is, the map depicts how much temperatures rose above or below the average March temperatures for that area compared to the base period of 1951-1980. NASA image by Robert Simmon, based on data from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

By Michael Carlowicz
17 April 2012

First they called it the year without a winter. Then springtime began to feel more like summer for most of North America. March 2012 saw thousands of daily temperature records fall in the contiguous United States (often called the “lower 48”), and the entire month was the warmest March in a temperature record that dates back to 1895.

The map above shows global temperature anomalies for March 2012, based on an ongoing analysis by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. It shows changes from the norm for each region, not absolute temperatures. That is, the map depicts how much temperatures rose above or below the average March temperatures for that area compared to the base period of 1951-1980.

For the month, the eastern two-thirds of the United States, as well as the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba, saw temperatures in the GISS map approaching as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal (deepest reds on the map). Temperatures were similarly extreme in the Arctic Ocean around Svalbard, the Barents Sea, and the Kara Sea. Far eastern Siberia, Alaska, and northwestern North America were significantly colder, while much of Europe and western Russia were warmer than normal (following a much colder February).

According to an analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average March temperature was 10.6 degrees C (51.1 degrees F) for the 48 contiguous states, which was 4.8 degrees C (8.6 degrees F) above the 20th century average for March. “Of the more than 1,400 months that have passed since the U.S. record began,” NOAA climatologists wrote, “only one month (January 2006) has seen a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012.”

East of the Rocky Mountains, 25 states had their warmest March on record; 15 more states were in their top ten warmest. More than 15,000 temperature records were broken—evenly split between daytime highs and nighttime highs—and there were 21 instances where nighttime low temperatures were warmer than the former daytime records.

You can view and download global temperature anomaly images (updated monthly) on NASA Earth Observations. To see the trends in global temperatures over the past 130 years, visit World of Change: Global Temperatures.

North America Swelters in March Heat

The Colorado River Aqueduct, a lifeline to Southern California. Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, via Associated Press

23 April 2012

SAN DIEGO – There are accusations of conspiracies, illegal secret meetings and double-dealing. Embarrassing documents and e-mails have been posted on an official Web site emblazoned with the words “Fact vs. Fiction.” Animosities have grown so deep that the players have resorted to exchanging lengthy, caustic letters, packed with charges of lying and distortion.

And it is all about water.

Water is a perennial source of conflict and anxiety throughout the arid West, but it has a particular resonance here in the deserts of Southern California.

This is a place where major thoroughfares are named after water engineers (Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles) and literary essays (“Holy Water” by Joan Didion, for instance) and films (Chinatown) have been devoted to its power and mystique.

Yet in the nearly 80 years since the Arizona National Guard was called out to defend state waters against dam-building Californians, there has been little to rival the feud now under way between San Diego’s water agency and the consortium of municipalities that provides water to 19 million customers in Southern California. This contentious and convoluted battle seems more akin to a tough political campaign than a fight between bureaucrats, albeit one with costly consequences.

At issue is San Diego’s longstanding contention that it has been bullied by a gang of its neighbors in the consortium, able by virtue of their number to force the county to pay exorbitant fees for water. The consortium two weeks ago imposed two back-to-back 5 percent annual water rate increases on San Diego — scaled down, after strong protests, from what were originally set to be back-to-back increases of 7.5 percent a year.

The battle is being fought in the courts — a judge in San Francisco is struggling to untangle a welter of conflicting claims from the two sides — but also on the Internet. San Diego officials have created a sleek Web site to carry their argument to the public, posting 500 pages of documents they obtained through public records requests to discredit the other side.

And they might have struck oil, as it were, unearthing documents and e-mails replete with references to the “anti-San Diego coalition” and “a Secret Society,” and no matter that the purported conspirators contend that they were just being jocular.

“There is a lot of frustration,” said Jerry Sanders, the mayor of San Diego, who has watched from the sidelines as the independent San Diego Water Authority waged its wars. “It’s been building over the years.”

Asked about the tactics, Mr. Sanders demurred. “Whether they are effective or not, I’ll leave that to other people to judge.”

If nothing else, the fight is an entertaining diversion from the kind of bland bureaucratic infighting that usually characterizes these kinds of disputes.

Dennis A. Cushman, the assistant general manager of the San Diego authority, said it posted the documents — and asked a judge to force the disclosure of a ream of other private e-mails and documents — so beleaguered water consumers “could see how the business of water in California is actually done.”

“We had suspicions about what was going on,” Mr. Cushman said. “We were shocked by the depth and scope and the level of sophistication of what was going on.”

“It’s not done in public,” he said. “It’s done out of public view. The meetings aren’t open. They are designed to expressly exclude the agency they are discriminating against.”

Jeffrey Kightlinger, the general manager of the regional water consortium, described the charges as “nonsense,” saying that the meetings that Mr. Cushman had deemed illegal did not fall under the state’s open meetings laws. He described the campaign against his organization — the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, also known by the acronym M.W.D. — as unlike anything he had seen.

“It sounds like a political campaign, and hiring political consultants to run it for them strikes me as a new level of activity I haven’t seen before in public service,” he said.

“It just seems to me to have a different tenor and tone than before,” he said. “The idea of bandying about secret-society issues, talking about ‘the truth about M.W.D.’ strikes me as unprofessional and does a disservice to the public.” […]

Fees and Anger Rise in California Water War

By Alison Young and Peter Eisler, USA TODAY
22 April 2012

Kathleen Marshall used to think the fenced backyard of her Philadelphia home was a safe place for her five children to play. Not anymore.

Marshall was horrified to learn that a long-forgotten factory once melted lead just across the street and that soil tests by USA TODAY indicate her yard is contaminated with hazardous levels of the toxic metal.

"You're living here and you have no idea of what's really in your ground, what's in your backyard," Marshall says now. "It's just kind of scary to think that you're sending your kids out to play in an area that's hazardous."

Hundreds of soil tests by USA TODAY in neighborhoods near former lead factories show numerous areas where the dirt is so contaminated that children should not be playing in it.

Yet they are.

Ghost factories: soil testing results from more than 230 old lead-factory sites nationwide. USA TODAY

Hazardous levels of lead were found in the dirt under a tricycle in Minneapolis; in the dusty doorway of a little girl's playhouse in Hammond, Ind.; near a dropped baseball bat in a suburban Milwaukee yard; in the outfield of a baseball diamond in New York City.

The soil tests, part of an ongoing USA TODAY investigation, revealed potentially dangerous lead levels in parts of all 21 neighborhoods examined across 13 states. Although results varied house to house, the majority of the yards tested in several neighborhoods had high lead levels — in some cases, five to 10 times higher than what the Environmental Protection Agency considers hazardous to kids.

In response to the newspaper's soil test results, regulators in Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Wisconsin already are taking actions at five old factory sites.

At the national level, EPA assistant administrator Mathy Stanislaus said in a statement the agency will "review USA Today's information to determine what steps can be taken to ensure Americans are not being exposed to dangerous levels of lead."

The federal government had been warned a decade ago about the poison likely left behind by more than 400 companies. The factories, often referred to as "smelters," had operated mainly from the 1930s to 1960s, but federal and state officials did little to find many of the sites, alert residents or test the soil nearby, USA TODAY reported Thursday. […]

Some U.S. neighborhoods dangerously contaminated by lead fallout

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The Yukon-Kuskokwim delta is in a state of flux as permafrost and sea ice melt. JWorley / flickr

25 April 2012 (RTCC) – The villagers of Newtok in Alaska could have gained the undesirable title of America’s first climate change refugees.

The community in the west of the state has undergone drastic changes as melting permafrost has literally shifted the ground beneath them and the loss of sea ice has removed a vital storm barrier.

Increased erosion, melting of a frozen sewage lagoon, hurricane force winds and flooding have forced a drastic solution.

The Yup’ik Eskimo village is planning an ambitious relocation nine miles south of the town’s present site.

It’s plight was brought to attention at the International Institute for Environment and Development’s (IIED) Community Adaptation Conference in Hanoi which concluded this week.

Robin Bronen, executive director of the Alaska Immigration Justice Project, has worked with Newtok and other communities in the state facing a similar predicament.

He said the Newtok Planning Group is looking at the change as an opportunity.

“Their vision of their community is to be sustainable and resilient for the long-term so they’re looking at alternative technologies to get the electricity they need and alternative forms of housing so they use less energy,” Bronen told Reuters AlertNet in Hanoi.

According to Bronen’s academic work there are 200 other indigenous groups addressing how they can deal with the consequences of climatic shifts in the Arctic. At least 12 of these are thought to require relocation.

Migration has been driven by natural changes in the climate for millennia but the rapid human-induced alterations witnessed now are the first to displace modern communities. […]

Is this village in Alaska home to first climate change migrants in US?

British environmental guru James Lovelock, seen on 17 March 2009 in Paris, admits he was 'alarmist' about climate change in the past. Jacques Demarthon / AFP / Getty Images[Sadly, it appears that Lovelock has gone emeritus – Desdemona saw video of him at a book signing last year, claiming that there were no effects from Chernobyl fallout. One person pointed out that there have been a lot of sick children in Ukraine, to which he replied dismissively, "They're fine." Seeing him trot out the old “warming has stopped” argument is particularly disappointing.

In addition, Lovelock’s Gaia theory hasn’t held up well since he first proposed it in the 1970s. Peter Ward’s Medea hypothesis seems to describe the situation much more accurately.]

By Ian Johnston, msnbc.com
23 April 2012

James Lovelock, the maverick scientist who became a guru to the environmental movement with his “Gaia” theory of the Earth as a single organism, has admitted to being “alarmist” about climate change and says other environmental commentators, such as Al Gore, were too.

Lovelock, 92, is writing a new book in which he will say climate change is still happening, but not as quickly as he once feared.

He previously painted some of the direst visions of the effects of climate change. In 2006, in an article in the U.K.’s Independent newspaper, he wrote that “before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.”

However, the professor admitted in a telephone interview with msnbc.com that he now thinks he had been “extrapolating too far."

The new book, due to be published next year, will be the third in a trilogy, following his earlier works, Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back – and How We Can Still Save Humanity, and The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning: Enjoy It While You Can.

The new book will discuss how humanity can change the way it acts in order to help regulate the Earth’s natural systems, performing a role similar to the harmonious one played by plants when they absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.

It will also reflect his new opinion that global warming has not occurred as he had expected.

“The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear-cut, but it hasn’t happened,” Lovelock said.

“The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now,” he said.

“The world has not warmed up very much since the millennium. Twelve years is a reasonable time. … It (the temperature) has stayed almost constant, whereas it should have been rising -- carbon dioxide is rising, no question about that,” he added.

He pointed to Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers as other examples of “alarmist” forecasts of the future. […]

'Gaia' scientist James Lovelock: I was 'alarmist' about climate change

By Miguel Llanos and Pete Williams
24 April 2012

The first criminal charges in the 2010 BP gulf spill were filed on Tuesday against a former BP engineer accused of intentionally deleting hundreds of text messages about the size of the spill.

It's clear from the court document unsealed with the case that the Justice Department's criminal investigation of the massive BP blowout includes this aspect: Did BP or its employees intentionally understate the amount of oil flowing from the well?

Kurt Mix, 50, was arrested earlier Tuesday on two charges of obstruction of justice, and then released on $100,000 bail after a federal court appearance in Houston, Texas.

"The department has filed initial charges in its investigation into the Deepwater Horizon disaster against an individual for allegedly deleting records relating to the amount of oil flowing from the Macondo well after the explosion," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

Federal officials said more charges against others are expected. […]

In the complaint, Mix is accused of deleting text messages on two occasions "after being repeatedly informed of his obligation to maintain such records." Most of those messages were later retrieved, the Justice Department said.

In one thread, Mix allegedly deleted a string of some 200 messages that had to do with a process dubbed "Top Kill" that was aimed at stopping the spill. […]

Engineer first to face criminal charges in 2010 BP spill via The Oil Drum

Mitt Romney. Illustration by Tony MillionareBy Frank Rich
22 April 2012

[…] Sugar daddies—whom I’ll define here as private donors or their privately held companies writing checks totaling $1 million or more (sometimes much more) in this election cycle—are largely a Republican phenomenon, most of them one degree of separation from Karl Rove and his unofficial partners in erecting a moneyed shadow GOP, David and Charles Koch. At last look, there were 25 known sugar daddies on the right (or more, if you want to count separately the spouses and children who pitch in). You’ve likely heard of Sheldon Adelson, the Vegas tycoon who is Benjamin Netanyahu’s unofficial ambassador to the GOP. But you may be less familiar with Irving Moskowitz, the bingo entrepreneur who funnels his profits into East Jerusalem settlements. Or Robert Mercer, the hedge-fund master of “flash trading” who poured a clandestine $1 million into ads attacking the “ground-zero mosque” and nearly another $3 million into a scale-model railroad in his Long Island mansion. Or Steven Lund, the co-founder of Nu Skin, which became “direct selling” sponsor of the Romney-run 2002 Winter Olympics after having spent much of the nineties settling complaints over false advertising and other unscrupulous practices with the Federal Trade Commission and six different states’ attorneys general. […]

What these sugar daddies specifically want from Mitt and his party, besides the usual conservative bullet points (codified in Paul Ryan’s tax-cutting, government-shredding budget), is clear enough: the widest possible regulation-free berth for any vulture businesses they have a hand in, from nuclear waste to “health” nostrums, from new houses to financial products created from those homes’ subprime mortgages. A particularly large wish list is likely to emanate from the Koch brothers, whose privately held business interests are many. Such has been their zeal to protect their gas and oil holdings that they shoveled nearly $25 million into organizations fueling climate-change denial from 2005 to 2008—nearly three times what Exxon­Mobil spent on such spin during that period, in Greenpeace’s accounting. To preserve another profit center, a Koch subsidiary has also backed the recently disbanded Formaldehyde Council, which argued that formaldehyde is “a natural part of our world” rather than “a complete carcinogen,” which is how it is classified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. osha, of course, is exactly the kind of federal agency that would lose funding and gain Koch apparatchiks as staff members in a Romney administration.

Because most sugar daddies are actual people, not corporations, their feelings get hurt when these embarrassing facts are pointed out. The Koch brothers’ lawyer Ted Olson has gone so far as to argue that criticism of his clients by the president and others is akin to the oppression (his word) suffered by the McCarthy era’s innocent victims—who, some may recall, often lost their jobs and sometimes were jailed for their beliefs. In truth, the sugar daddies often have more in common with Joe ­McCarthy himself and bullies like the columnist Walter Winchell who enabled his witch hunts. VanderSloot and the Kochs have a long history of trying to intimidate (often with costly legal actions) the publications or websites that report on them. After Jane Mayer published her 2010 New Yorker examination of the Koch brothers’ often covert role in the tea-party uprising, the Daily Caller, a Washington-based outlet sponsored by Foster Friess and run by Tucker Carlson, assigned a reporter to slime her. (The investigation was spiked once other outlets got wind of it, with even the New York Post rallying to her defense.)

The billionaires’ other tactic for trying to deflect scrutiny is a Gilded Age standby: philanthropy. It’s all but impossible to attend a cultural event or endure a medical procedure in New York City without encountering the name David H. Koch. In February, a few months after Bloomberg Markets magazine, hardly a left-wing rag, reported that a European subsidiary of Koch Industries had long made an end run on American sanctions and sold petrochemical equipment to Iran, Koch played the philanthropy card with a more sympathetic publication, the Palm Beach Post. He gave its reporter a privileged invitation to his “painstakingly restored” Addison Mizner mansion to talk up his largesse to medical research. Koch’s flack told the reporter that her boss hoped his legacy would not be his political activities but “finding a cure for cancer.” A more likely legacy will be his uninhibited financial support of the union-busting rise of the Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, whose current effort to survive a June 5 recall election may in the end prove the second most consequential political battle of 2012.

“In a sense, David Koch is becoming the Andrew Carnegie of his age,” wrote his Palm Beach Boswell. Not exactly. Carnegie, arguably the least egregious of the Gilded Age titans, offers a stunning contrast to Koch. His philanthropic obsessions led him to give away almost all of his wealth, with a reach unmatched by any of his sugar-daddy descendants. He argued for estate taxes and declared that the “proper use” of money was “for public ends” that “would work good to the community.” He had socialist roots in Scotland, preferred frugality to luxury, and was entirely self-made. The Koch brothers, by contrast, inherited hundreds of millions of dollars from their father, Fred, who also bequeathed them a paranoia and unrestrained hatred for political adversaries that would have been anathema to Carnegie. Fred Koch, a founder of the John Birch Society, published a manifesto, A Business Man Looks at Communism, in 1960. It accused Republicans and Democrats alike, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, of being under the sway of the Kremlin, and described welfare programs as a plot to attract blacks to cities and “foment a vicious race war.” […]

Sugar Daddies

The deadly depths - Methane release in the Arctic. Arctic sea ice extent and methane releases. Rob Brooks / independent.co.uk

By Steve Connor
23 April 2012

A new source of methane – a greenhouse gas many times more powerful than carbon dioxide – has been identified by scientists flying over areas in the Arctic where the sea ice has melted.

The researchers found significant amounts of methane being released from the ocean into the atmosphere through cracks in the melting sea ice. They said the quantities could be large enough to affect the global climate. Previous observations have pointed to large methane plumes being released from the seabed in the relatively shallow sea off the northern coast of Siberia but the latest findings were made far away from land in the deep, open ocean where the surface is usually capped by ice.

Eric Kort of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said that he and his colleagues were surprised to see methane levels rise so dramatically each time their research aircraft flew over cracks in the sea ice.

"When we flew over completely solid sea ice, we didn't see anything in terms of methane. But when we flew over areas were the sea ice had melted, or where there were cracks in the ice, we saw the methane levels increase," Dr Kort said. "We were surprised to see these enhanced methane levels at these high latitudes. Our observations really point to the ocean surface as the source, which was not what we had expected," he said.

"Other scientists had seen high concentrations of methane in the sea surface but nobody had expected to see it being released into the atmosphere in this way," he added.

Methane is about 70 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat. However, because methane is broken down more quickly in the atmosphere, scientists calculate that it is 20 times more powerful over a 100-year cycle. The latest methane measurements were made from the American HIPPO research programme where a research aircraft loaded with scientific instruments flies for long distances at varying altitudes, measuring and recording gas levels at different heights.

The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, covered several flights into the Arctic at different times of the year. They covered an area about 950 miles north of the coast of Alaska and about 350 miles south of the North Pole. Dr Kort said that the levels of methane coming off this region were about the same as the quantities measured by other scientists monitoring methane levels above the shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

"We suggest that the surface waters of the Arctic Ocean represent a potentially important source of methane, which could prove sensitive to changes in sea ice cover," the researchers write. "The association with sea ice makes this methane source likely to be sensitive to changing Arctic ice cover and dynamics, providing an unrecognised feedback process in the global atmosphere-climate system," they say.

Climate scientists are concerned that rising temperatures in the Arctic could trigger climate-feedbacks, where melting ice results in the release of methane which in turn results in a further increase in temperatures.

"We should be concerned because there's so many things in the Arctic where the warming feeds further warming. There are many things in the Arctic that do respond to warming," said Euan Nisbet, a methane expert at Royal Holloway University of London.

Danger from the deep: New climate threat as methane rises from cracks in Arctic ice

Modern agriculture in the Tunisian village of Demmer. The intrusion of development policies has caused the loss of traditional knowledge of desert agriculture. Habib Ayeb co-directed the documentary 'Green Mirages' with Nadia Kamel to show the effect of misguided development policies. Habib Ayeb

By Louise Sarant
3 April 2012 

Habib Ayeb is a Tunisian geographer and professor at the American University in Cairo’s Social Research Center. His domain of research includes social-geography, governance, poverty, marginality, hydro-politics and geopolitics. He shares his work between Tunisia and Egypt, where he has spent 15 years of his life, studying Egyptian farmers and water issues.

He recently co-directed the documentary Green Mirages with Nadia Kamel, the Egyptian filmmaker who directed Salata Baladi. Green Mirages, which will be screened tonight at the AUC downtown campus, concentrates on Ayeb’s birthplace, the village of Demmer in southeast Tunisia.
Marginalized from development projects, this village offers a reflection on crucial developmental limitations and puts the mere concept of development in the balance. According to Ayeb, the ideology of development is an unavoidable rollercoaster that reshapes societies at large, including some areas and excluding others, forever. In this interview, he reflects on development and its consequences, and on its impact on the small rural community of Demmer.

Egypt Independent: As an academic who wrote profusely about water politics and the concept of rural marginalization, could you explain why you decided to incorporate the film medium to tackle these topics?
Habib Ayeb: I don’t have a very solid cinematographic knowledge, but I rapidly understood that what passes through the lens of a camera suddenly gains much more impact — an impact that an academic paper, read by a bunch of other academics in closed circles, would never trigger.

So I am doing both. As an academic I keep on publishing papers, and I also work on documentaries, through which I accomplish my duty as a citizen. The debate on water, for instance, needs to break free of the purely academic debates to stir the consciences of a much wider public.

The documentary On the banks of the Nile: Shared waters that Olivier Archambeau — also a geographer and a professor at the University of Paris VIII — and I released in 2003 traveled the world, from India, the US, Holland and many other destinations. It spurred a number of healthy society debates on water gratuity whenever it was screened, a reaction that an academic paper cannot trigger.

I defend free access to water for basic needs, to be clean, drink and eat … enough to avoid social exclusion. We need to stop discussing water issues in terms of available volume and geographical distribution to tackle the problem at large, which tackles environmental, social and political problems.

In the meantime, I met the filmmaker Nadia Kamel — the director of Salata Baladi — and this film moved me so deeply that I asked her to do a film with me. It was the same degree of intimacy as if I had asked her to have a child together. Because all our discussions inevitably revolved around the existing links between environmental and social concerns, I told her that I knew a place where these questions intermingled, a place where development has provoked resistances on the ground. I told her about the village where I was born, Demmer.
EI: What is Demmer like?
HA: Demmer is a troglodyte village in a mountain located in southeastern Tunisia. When I was a kid, we were living in poverty, but the village was active and whenever rainfalls came, the villagers sowed seeds. The earth was Aeolian silt, deposited on top of the mountain by wind in the middle of a desert. The locals had a system of little barrages to divert the flow of rain water that tumbles from the mountain so it would infiltrate the soil. The water stagnated and fed the olive and fig trees. It was never a market agriculture, it was a small-scale agriculture for local consumption. It was enough to enable one generation after another to live on this mountain.

Just like in Fayoum, the know-how of the locals to grow food was amazing. No engineer is capable today of managing water to the minute like these peasants. A rock on the ground delimitated the size of a field, and no one would ever dare to move the rock, which defined land property better than any contract would.

EI: What has modified the rural landscape of Demmer in the past 50 years?

HA: The models of development. A school was built nearby, and all the hardworking families sent their kids to the Coranic School, confident that it would guarantee them a better future. Unfortunately this was not a school that offered equal opportunities, and most kids did not pursue their education after the baccalaureate.

So most of them are now unemployed and have never learned how to plant and harvest crops.

This region has been marginalized from development policies, abandoned, and the illusion of modernity and comfort that could be seen in other cities nearby reinforced this feeling of aloofness. Misery and poverty accumulated in Demmer because it was not integrated in the development schemes.

Worldwide, this fake development results in human desertion of certain areas that have been excluded, and poverty becomes rampant. In my case, I know that today I could not live among my people. I don’t know how to share lands, how to prune an olive tree, how to dig a house in the mountain, how to grow barley. … But at least I made a career. Most people my age who went to the same school and stayed do not possess this knowledge either anymore. There is a very small minority of us who managed to pass through the “glass ceiling” and climb up the social ladder. Development happened in my village with the generalization of school access right after the independence. This model of development is a model of exclusion. […]

Limits of development: Q&A with Habib Ayeb, co-director of 'Green Mirages'

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past an iceberg in Lancaster Sound on 11 July 2008. Jonathan Hayward / Canadian Press

22 April 2012 (Canadian Press) – A group of more than 2,000 scientists from 67 countries has called for a moratorium on commercial fishing in the Arctic until more research can be completed on waters that were once covered by ice year-round.

The scientists said the loss of permanent sea ice has opened up as much as 40 per cent of the Central Arctic Ocean during recent summers, making industrial fishing viable for the first time.

But they said such activities should be prohibited until there's a better understanding of the area and sustainable fishing quotas can be set.

"The ability to fish is not the same as having the scientific information and management regimes needed for a well-managed fishery," the scientists said in an open letter released Sunday by the U.S.-based Pew Environment Group.

"In the absence of this scientific data and a robust management system, depletion of fishery resources and damage to other components of the ecosystem are likely to result if fisheries commence."

The letter was released on Earth Day, just as a major, week-long conference kicked off in Montreal bringing together Arctic researchers to discuss the effects of climate change.

More than 60 per cent of the scientists who signed the letter were from the five Arctic coastal countries, including 551 from Canada. […]

The scientists said they were concerned a lack of regulation could make it a target for large bottom trawlers, which would put stress on fish populations.

"Atlantic Canada has experienced the damage that unregulated fishing can cause, even when it is outside the 200-mile (320-kilometre) limit," Trevor Taylor, policy director for Oceans North Canada, which is connected with the Pew Environment Group, said in a statement. […]

Arctic fishing moratorium needed, scientists say

1000-year records of southern hemisphere background concentrations of CO2 parts per million (ppm – orange), N2O parts per billion (ppb – blue) and CH4 (ppb – green) measured at Cape Grim Tasmania and in air extracted from Antarctic ice and nearsurface levels of ice known as firn. BOM

1000-year records of southern hemisphere background concentrations of CO2 parts per million (ppm – orange), N2O parts per billion (ppb – blue) and CH4 (ppb – green) measured at Cape Grim Tasmania and in air extracted from Antarctic ice and near surface levels of ice known as firn.

Global CO2, methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) concentrations have risen rapidly during the past two centuries. The amount of these long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new high in 2011. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere in 2011 was 390 parts per million (ppm) – much higher than the natural range of 170 to 300 ppm during the past 800,000 years.

Global CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere increased from 2009 to 2011 at 2 ppm per year. Over the same period, nitrous oxide increased at nearly 1 part per billion (ppb) per year and the synthetic greenhouse gases (CFCs, HFCs and so on) increased at nearly ten parts per trillion per year. Methane has increased by about 6 ppb per year from 2009 to 2011 after a temporary pause in growth from 1998 to 2005.

The temporary pause was due to an overall reduction in methane sources (likely to be a combination of natural gas, agricultural and wetland emissions). The cause(s) of the recent methane increase are at present unidentified, but again likely to be a combination of the above sources.

The relative contributions to the enhanced greenhouse effect from pre-industrial times to 2011, due to the long-lived greenhouse gases, are: CO2 (64 per cent), CH4 (18 per cent), synthetics (12 per cent), and N2O (six per cent).

State of the Climate 2012 [pdf]

Bewl Water in Lamberhurst, Kent, which has been suffering low levels after two dry winters. Rex Features via guardian.co.uk

By Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent, www.guardian.co.uk
20 April 2012

Heavy rain over much of the country, provoking flash floods in some areas and severe weather warnings from the Met Office, is set to continue through the weekend but is unlikely to ease the drought gripping most of England.

Flash floods closed the centre of Pocklington in Yorkshire after heavy rain, and nearby villages and transport systems were affected. In the north-east of England, three flood alerts and one flood warning are in place, while rain can also be expected in parts of the south.

But while the wet weather may put a dampener on the weekend, if you are among the 20 million people covered by drought restrictions at the same time as grey skies and thunderstorms, do not count on being able to use a hosepipe any time soon – the rain is not likely to be enough to recharge reservoirs or even return soil moisture levels to normal, and the picture has varied widely across the country.

Welcome rain has brushed the parched fields of East Anglia – but some of the regions that have seen most rain, in the north-west, north-east and Scotland, have been those that needed it least.

Polly Chancellor, national drought co-ordinator at the Environment Agency, said: "While we've had some welcome rain this week, the drought affecting large parts of England could last until Christmas. The soil is so dry that only steady rain over the winter will restore rivers and groundwater, so we would urge everyone – right across the country – to help by using less water."

The drought now stretches from Cornwall to Yorkshire, covering 40 counties. The Met Office said it had not made any assessment of whether this April could turn into one of the wettest on record, and it was still too early to predict, but some areas have already had close to their long-term monthly average. March 2012 was the driest since 1953, according to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. […]

Heavy April rain 'not enough to end drought'

By Nora Muchanic
18 April 2012

TRENTON, N.J., (WPVI) – The depth of the Delaware River is at record low levels for this time of year. That has people who rely on the river very worried.

"It's like you see the bottom. The bottom. There's no water down there," said Benita Parrotta of Hamilton Twp., N.J.

It's so low in some spots it seems like you can almost walk across the Delaware.

The U.S. Geological Survey has gauges that measure water flow and Wednesday in Trenton the Delaware was moving at 3,830 cubic feet per second. That's the lowest recording here since they started keeping records 98 years ago.

And because of it, jagged rocks never seen before are jutting out of the river.

"Normally the tide level, the water is behind these trees, between the trees and the stone. And now? No, it's really, really low," said Carol Hoekje of Delaware Twp., N.J.

In Lambertville, a newly exposed spit of gravel has been exposed by the low water.

"Usually we can't get our boat onto the river until it calms down later in the season," said Gordon Haas. "But it's spring. I can't imagine what it's going to be like in July or August." […]

Rupert says if the river's flow drops below 3,000 cubic feet per second that will trigger a water release from reservoirs in Pennsylvania. The purpose would be to push back the movement of salty water that comes from the ocean into the Delaware.

Philadelphia gets 60% of its water from the Delaware. […]

Delaware River at record low levels

Children navigating Amazon flooding in Peru, April 2012. Mary Shipman / My Shot

By Meg Weaver
19 April 2012

Though writer Robert Earle Howells adds greater fuel to our wanderlust fires with his round-up of five Peruvian jungle lodges in National Geographic Traveler’s new issue, now’s unfortunately not the time to visit the Amazon Basin. Super-floods continue to inundate the region — a situation that has been underreported in the English-language U.S. media so far — putting the communities there at risk. Experts speculate that a perfect storm of long summer rains in the Andes combined with greater-than-normal glacial melt has caused the flooding.

The Amazon has reached record breadth, width, and height this rainy season. According to Peru’s Health Ministry, the river has grown at least 6.5 feet during the floods, with the Marañón River, which feeds the Amazon, increasing some 13 feet. Neither river has swelled this much since the 1970s, when a similar flood affected the area. Peruvian newspaper El Comercio reported Health Minister Alberto Tejada’s alarm at the situation: “In 1971 [the flood] did not have an urban impact because today’s human settlements did not exist.”

A state of emergency has been declared in the regional capital of Iquitos, and narrow wooden bridges have been constructed to help residents get around. Some 80,000 people have been forced to inhabit only the upper levels of their homes while others have been left homeless by the flooding. The San Juan de Yanayacu Indian community has also been hard-hit; the small group — more than half of whom are children — has been living on rooftops, in canoes, or on makeshift tree platforms. Along the Tahuayo River the small farms of the approximately 7,000 people living in small agrarian villages there have been washed away and most people’s homes have been flooded. […]

Red Alert: Flooding in the Peruvian Amazon

Aerial view of flooding in Iquitos, Peru, 2 April 2012. Sebastián Faura via globalvoicesonline.org

By Juan Arellano; translated by Rebecca Knaggs
7 April 2012

(Global Voices) – The rain in Peru has not stopped. Due to the heavy rains during the months of February and March [es] in much of the highlands [es] and Peruvian jungle, now there are floods in the lower parts of Peru, mainly in the regions of Loreto and Ucayali. Several weeks ago, the National Meteorological and Hydrological Service (Senamhi) of Loreto gave warnings [es] of the high levels that the Huallaga, Ucayali, Marañón and Amazon rivers had reached.

And although some authorities had taken [es] measures, it wasn't regarding the expectations of flooding. The Regional President of Loreto only requested [es] a state of emergency when the list of injured persons had reached 40,000. The central government finally declared [es] a state of emergency when the number of people affected rose to 100,000.

The floods have affected [es] the normal development of classes in schools situated in the lower zones of the region. Classrooms have had to be improvised and now take place in local neighbourhoods and residences where the students arrive to class in small boats known as peque-peque. […]

More recent figures have shown [es] that those affected by the floods are somewhere around 200,000 in the Loreto region alone. These figures aren't surprising, given the level that the Amazon river has reached [es] in the last few days, causing many regions of Iquitos to be flooded. The height of the rivers has even surpassed its last record of 118.59 metres above sea level in the year 1986. Such areas are visible as in this photograph, shared by Twitter user Sebastián Faura (@SebastianFaura) [es]. […]

Peru: Rains Overflow Rivers and Flood Loreto

By Amazoncares
5 April 2012

The worst flooding in thirteen years has destroyed the tranquil no-kill animal shelter that houses 50 dogs. Now these dogs are forced to live beneath the treatment building. The have no space to play. The area is dusty and hard to clean. The animals are stressed out.

The flood waters are not receding, and we have already begun construction of a smaller fenced area on higher land. We can do this thanks to generous donors.

Please visit our http://amazoncares.blogspot.com to learn more.

DISASTER: Amazon CARES' Animal Shelter Destroyed by Floods, April 2012

16 April 2012 (Compassion) – Heavy rains have caused flooding and mudslides in the Lurigancho-Chosica district of Peru since 9 April 2012.

Many homes in this area have been damaged or destroyed, but no injuries or deaths have been reported.

Currently, 18 children from PE-148 Sala Evangelica Child Development Centre, PE-290 Joel Child Development Centre and PE-436 La Semilla Child Development Centre have been affected. These families have had their homes damaged by the flooding. […]

Affected child development centres are using Critical Intervention funding to meet immediate needs. The local government is also helping to provide support for those who have been affected.

Please pray for the affected families whose homes have been damaged by the flooding.  Ask for the Lord’s protection and care of our children and staff in Peru.

Compassion Peru will keep us updated as more information is available.

Crisis Alert: Flooding (Peru)

February 2012 (Reuters) – Thousands are forced to evacuate their flooded homes as torrential rains cause swollen rivers to break their banks in Peru. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.

Flooding Ravages Peru

Cota, Colombia — A truck and a home sit under flood waters after heavy rains triggered the Chico River to overflow its banks in Cota, yesterday. Torrential rains, floods and landslides have killed over a dozen people in Colombia this year. Fernando Vergara / AP Photo

By Rob Miller, Senior Meteorologist
22 Apr 2012

Heavy seasonal rain throughout much of Colombia over the past several weeks have caused major flooding throughout the county. The increase in rainfall is attributed to the weather phenomenon called La Niña.

The flooding became deadly earlier this week, claiming the life of one person in the nation's capital of Bogota.

Heavy rainfall in recent weeks have caused major flooding of the nearby Bogota and Chichu rivers. The resulting floods have affected more than 2,000 families in the region, forcing most to evacuate to higher ground.

In the town of Cota, which is located just north of Bogota, local officials reported flood waters as deep as 13 feet in some areas.

In the Valle del Cauca Department, located in western Colombia, local officials have reported more than 500 homes flooded.

The National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD) has reported that the seasonal rains have claimed the lives of 19 people and have left over 60,000 people homeless throughout the country. UNGRD reports that these numbers are "85 percent lower than in the same period in 2011."

In 2011, 134 Colombians lost their lives, while more than half a million people were affected.

More heavy rain is expected across the country over the next few weeks as the rain season continues. […]

Seasonal Rains Produce Deadly Flooding in Colombia


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