Extreme weather events dominated doom imagery in 2014. The California mega-drought was the big global warming story; assorted record flooding in various locations punctuated the background. The Philippines endured another brutal typhoon season, and Alaska experienced its most powerful storm on record.
The usual Desdemona stories rolled on, as humans continued to destroy the natural world assiduously: poaching rates of charismatic megafauna, like African elephants and rhinos, skyrocketed, leaving both species with only a few years to extinction; overfishing accelerated to the point that even Japan called for a 50% reduction in bluefin tuna catch (too little, too late); poachers continued to take huge quantities of endangered sea turtle eggs, one year after the murder of turtle conservation activist Jairo Mora.
The most surprising image of 2014 came with the discovery of large craters in the Yamal peninsula in Siberia, caused by sudden releases of methane as the permafrost thaws and collapses. This image captures a bit of the profound change that humans have precipitated in the great biogeochemical cycles of the planet, to the doom of all.
Check out Desdemona’s doomiest posts of previous years:
- 2013 doomiest graphs, images, and stories
- 2012 doomiest graphs, images, and stories
- 2011 doomiest graphs, images, and stories
- 2010 doomiest graphs, images, and stories
HURON, California, 30 May 2014 (Los Angeles Times) – The two fieldworkers scraped hoes over weeds that weren't there.
"Let us pretend we see many weeds," Francisco Galvez told his friend Rafael. That way, maybe they'd get a full week's work. […]
The slowly unfurling disaster of California's drought is catching up to him. Each day more families are leaving for Salinas, Arizona, Washington — anywhere they heard there were jobs.
Even in years when rain falls and the Sierra mountains hold a snowpack that will water almonds and onions, cattle and cantaloupes, Huron's population swells and withers with the season.
These days in Huron — and Mendota and Wasco and Firebagh and all the other farmworker communities on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley — even the permanent populations are packing up.
"The house across the street from us — they all left yesterday," Galvez said. "Maybe this town won't be here anymore?" […]
Huron already whispered of the ghost town it could soon be: It has a $2-million deficit. Only about 1,000 people in a town with a permanent population of 7,000 are registered to vote, and of those, only some 200 actually do. No one has declared for the two open City Council seats — including the incumbents. Each week at school, Galvez's children have fewer classmates.
The bed of the Almaden Reservoir in San Jose was cracked-dry in early February. By the end of April 2014, 100 percent of the state of California was in a drought. Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP
Folsom Lake, 20 June 2011
Folsom Lake, 16 January 2014
25 February 2014 (NBC News) – Northern California's Folsom Lake on 16 January 2014.
The reservoir, 25 miles northeast of Sacramento, has shrunk from 97 percent capacity in 2011, to just 17 percent capacity this past January, according to a news release from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).
NASA is combining forces with DWR to combat and understand future droughts.
Cachuma Lake, the source of drinking water for 200,000 people on the southern coast of Santa Barbara County, California, is disappearing. In the past, rain would always come to the rescue. But that’s not on the horizon now. This map shows land areas exposed in 2013 by California's record drought. Graphic: Los Angeles Times
Jaguari Reservoir, 16 August 2013
Jaguari Reservoir, 3 August 2014
23 October 2014 (NASA) – Southeastern Brazil is suffering through one of its worst droughts in decades. The situation is worst near the city of São Paulo (home to about 20 million people) and in São Paulo state. Rainfall totals for the year are 300 to 400 millimeters (12 to 16 inches) below normal, and reservoirs have dwindled to 3 to 5 percent of storage capacity.
The Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite acquired these two natural-color views of the Jaguari Reservoir in Brazil. The bottom image shows the area on 3 August 2014 (the most recent cloud-free view of Jaguari); the top image shows the same area on 16 August 2013, before the recent drought began. Jaguari is one of five reservoirs in the Cantareira System, which supplies water to roughly half of the people in the São Paulo metropolitan area.
A Sao Paulo state worker stands next to water markers at Jaguari dam, 100km from Sao Paulo, 28 October 2014. Photo: Reuters
A resident looks out of her apartment in a building painted with a drought-related mural, painted by Brazilian artist Mundano, depicting a man getting water from a cactus plant, in Sao Paulo, 25 November 2014. Photo: Nacho Doce / Reuters
4 March 2014 (Climate Progress) – The Iditarod, the annual sled-dog race across 975 miles of Alaska, started in earnest on Sunday. While much of the local buzz is on whether the usual strong slate of Alaskan mushers can hold off the Norwegians, much of the attention has turned to how the race will be affected by the warm weather Alaska experienced earlier this year.
“It’s a minefield out there,” said former Yukon Quest champion Hugh Neff. “It’s the roughest I’ve ever seen,” said Jeff King, a 22-time race finisher. Aliy Zirkle reported “No snow. Zip. Zero. None.” Many suffered crashes, busted knees, bruises, and sprained ankles. Several are out of the race already.
The abnormally warm weather melted snow in Alaska, which made a return toward more normal cooler temperatures in much of February create a different kind of dangerous condition: ice, and hard debris.
“The problem has been frequent mild days, which have been knocking down the snowcover,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jack Boston.
Researcher Claude Duguay stands on the cracked ice of an Arctic lake. Arctic lakes have been freezing up later in the year and thawing earlier, creating a winter ice season about 24 days shorter than it was in 1950, a University of Waterloo study has found. Photo: Claude Duguay / University of Waterloo
6 April 2014 (The Siberian Times) – The past week saw record warm weather in western Siberian cities including Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Kemerovo, Barnaul, and Gorno-Altaisk.
Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoi warned a conference chaired by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev: “The forest fire situation is tense in Russia this year. Due to a shortage of precipitation the forest fire season has begun almost one and a half months ahead of the norm.”
By 2 April, 17 forest fires had been registered across 2,000 hectares. Among the areas now at risk after a faster-than-usual snow melt are the south of Siberia to the territory of the Far Eastern Federal District, to Baikal and the Amur regions.
“It was the hottest April 1 on record for several western Siberian cities, including Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Kemerovo, Barnaul, and Gorno-Altaysk,' said Renad Yagudin, of the Novosibirsk meteorological service. 'The average temperature in Russia increased 0.4 degrees every ten years. Overall, the temperature in the area is 6.5-16.2 degrees Fahrenheit (2-9 Celsius) higher than the record set in 1989.”
Some parts of Russia have shown even more extreme warming. In the Arctic, south Chukotka and Kamchatka regions temperatures rose 150 to 200 per cent more than in the rest of the country, reported RIA Novosti.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska, 30 September 2014 (Associated Press) – Pacific walrus that can't find sea ice for resting in Arctic waters are coming ashore in record numbers on a beach in northwest Alaska.
An estimated 35,000 walrus were photographed Saturday about 5 miles north of Point Lay, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The gathering of walrus on shore is a phenomenon that has accompanied the loss of summer sea ice as the climate has warmed.
Pacific walrus spend winters in the Bering Sea. Females give birth on sea ice and use ice as a diving platform to reach snails, clams and worms on the shallow continental shelf.
Unlike seals, walrus cannot swim indefinitely and must rest. They use their tusks to "haul out," or pull themselves onto ice or rocks.
In recent years, sea ice has receded north beyond shallow continental shelf waters and into Arctic Ocean water, where depths exceed 2 miles and walrus cannot dive to the bottom.
A man watches fires burn out of control in Valparaiso on Saturday, 12 April 2014. 'It's been one of the worst fires in history,' said Fernando Reseio, the fire superintendent in Vina del Mar. The fires were worsened by heavy winds and unusually high temperatures in the zone for this time of year, the Southern Hemisphere's autumn. Photo: Felipe Gamboa / AFP / Getty Images
15 May 2014 (Los Angeles Times) – "May Gray" and "June Gloom" usually offer a cool respite for firefighters as they prepare for the summer and fall's hot weather and heavy winds.
But for much of this month, May Gray has failed to materialize. Instead of the low clouds and chill common to Southern California around this time, May has brought heat waves and blistering Santa Ana winds. And that has sparked fires like the ones in San Diego County that are considered highly unusual for the month.
"Poor May Gray. Everybody whines about it, but they are pining for it now," said Bill Patzert, a climatologist for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
So far this year, California has seen double the number of brush fires than average. Because there was so little rain this year, the moisture level in the brush is incredibly low.
Fire officials said the conditions are the byproduct of three years of bone-dry winters.
A sculpture titled 'We're fryin' out here' at a beach in Sydney, Australia, during the hottest spring on record in 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Aerial view of flooding along the Thames River, 10 February 2014. Flooded homes along the River Thames were evacuated and thousands more were at risk, with water levels rising for the next 24 hours. Several Thames gauges showed their highest levels since being installed in the 1980s and 90s. Photo: BBC News
18 May 2014 (Associated Press) – Floodwaters triggered more than 3,000 landslides across the Balkans on Sunday, laying waste to entire towns and villages and disturbing land mines leftover from the region's 1990s war, along with warning signs that marked the unexploded weapons.
The Balkans' worst flooding since record keeping began forced tens of thousands of people from their homes and threatened to inundate Serbia's main power plant, which supplies electricity to a third of the country and most of the capital, Belgrade.
Three months' worth of rain fell on the region in three days, producing the worst floods since rainfall measurements began 120 years ago. At least two dozen people have died, with more casualties expected.
MAGLAJ, Bosnia, 17 May 2014 (AP) – Packed into buses, boats and helicopters, carrying nothing but a handful of belongings, tens of thousands fled their homes Saturday in Bosnia and Serbia, seeking to escape the worst flooding in a century.
Authorities said 20 people have died but warned the death toll could rise further.
Three months' worth of rain has fallen on the region in just three days, creating floods that meteorologists say are the worst since records began 120 years ago.
Observed from the air, almost a third of Bosnia, mostly its northeast corner, resembled a huge muddy lake, with houses, roads and rail lines submerged under water. Admir Malagic, a spokesman for Bosnia's Security Ministry, said about a million people, or over a quarter of the country's population, live in the affected area.
9 September 2014 (BBC News) – Tens of thousands of people are still stranded in Indian-administered Kashmir after the worst floods in half a century. With road and communication links cut off, the Indian military is using helicopters and boats to reach those in distress.
The stories emerging are the definition of heart-rending. Here’s one, from the Seattle Times:
“It’s much worse than everyone’s been saying,” said the firefighter, who did not want to be named. “The slide is about a mile wide. Entire neighborhoods are just gone. When the slide hit the river, it was like a tsunami.”
The most immediate cause of the mudslide is a near-record pace of rainfall for the area so far in the month of March.
The Pacific Northwest has had an exceptionally wet finish to its rainy season, as storms that historically would have hit California were re-routed northward by a semi-permanent dome of high pressure that’s been mostly responsible for the intensifying drought there.
20 August 2014 (Associated Press) – At least six people were confirmed dead and 22 were missing after rain-soaked hills in the outskirts of Hiroshima gave way early on Wednesday in several landslides.
Damage from land and mudslides has increased over the past few decades due to more frequent heavy rains, despite extensive work on stabilising slopes. In the past decade there have been nearly 1,200 landslides a year, according to the land ministry, up from an average of about 770 a year in the previous decade.
In October 2013 multiple mudslides on Izu-Oshima, an island south of Tokyo, killed 35 people, four of whose bodies were never recovered. Those slides followed a typhoon that dumped a record 824mm (more than 32 inches) of rain in a single day.
20 April 2014 (AP) – Political and military elites are seizing protected areas in one of Africa's last bastions for elephants, putting broad swaths of Zimbabwe at risk of becoming fronts for ivory poaching, according to a non-profit research group's report that examines government collusion in wildlife trafficking.
The report describes a toxic combination of conflict, crime, and failures of governance throughout Africa that threatens to wipe out the continent's dwindling elephant herds.
China, the world's largest market for ivory, is compounding the threat, the report said.
Chinese companies have won lucrative contracts in Zimbabwe for mining and construction projects near remote elephant habitats, bringing waves of workers and new roads that can be exploited by East Asian crime organizations, the report said.
10 June 2014 (The Huffington Post) – At least 442 rhinos have been slaughtered in South Africa this year, hunted for their horns that can often be worth more than their weight in gold. Despite ongoing attempts to save this endangered species, poachers are killing these animals in record numbers, leaving many newborns to fend for themselves, including a 4-month old rhino named Gertjie.
Rescuer workers at South Africa's Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre have been rehabilitating the little fellow since May after he was found next to his dead mother, who had been killed by poachers.
“It was a devastating sight, as the tiny animal would not leave her side, and was crying inconsolably for her," the group wrote in a blog post.”
18 May 2014 (Sea Shepherd Operation Grindstop 2014) – Latest report of today’s appalling slaughter is that 25 to 30 beautiful pilot whales have been massacred.
10 September 2014 (takepart.com) – While the world’s attention focuses on Japan’s annual dolphin-killing season under way in Taiji, Iceland has been quietly escalating the hunting of endangered fin whales.
But no one seems to be paying much attention, according to a report released Wednesday on the eve of the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which enforces an international ban on the commercial hunting of whales.
“Iceland’s escalating whale hunts are clear and willful abuses of the IWC’s moratorium as well as the ban on international commercial trade in whale products,” states the report issued by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC).
7 February 2014 (mongabay.com) – Last month scientists released a study warning that one quarter of all sharks and rays are threatened with extinction.
The research, published in the open-access journal eLife on January 21, was the result of collaboration between 300 scientists from 64 countries. It concluded that overfishing is the biggest threat to the most number of species, noting that up to 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins alone.
"Fins, in particular, have become one of the most valuable seafood commodities," the authors write, "It is estimated that the fins of between 26 and 73 million individuals, worth US$400-550 million, are traded each year."
27 August 2014 (euronews) – Is the sun setting on Japan’s tuna fishing industry? Faced with a recent report that the bluefin tuna population is close to collapse, Tokyo has done an about-turn and decided to slash catches by half.
September 2014 (Tico Times) – Costa Rica’s National Police have seized what is likely the biggest illegal stash of poached sea turtle eggs this year, just outside of Nicoya, Guanacaste.
In a separate incident, two women, including a 15-year-old girl, were caught with 223 illegal turtle eggs on Tuesday afternoon at Playa Bejuco, on the central Pacific coast.
National Police spokesman Jesús Ureña said the eggs likely are from olive ridley sea turtles, which come ashore to nest this time of year. Ureña told The Tico Times the eggs probably would be destroyed due to their poor condition.
LIMA, Peru, 3 February 2014 (AP) – More than 400 dead dolphins were found last month on the Pacific Ocean beaches of northern Peru where twice that amount were encountered in 2012, officials said Monday.
Authorities never established the cause of the deaths in 2012. They are doing autopsies on the latest dolphins found during January in the Lambayeque region on the northern coast.
Autopsies of some of the more than 870 dolphins found in 2012 were inconclusive. Speculation ranged from biotoxins in the sea to seismic testing to an unknown ailment.
30 September 2014 (Duke Environment) – Pollution in urban and farm runoff in Hawaii is causing tumors in endangered sea turtles, a new study finds.
The study, published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed open-access journal PeerJ, shows that nitrogen in the runoff ends up in algae that the turtles eat, promoting the formation of tumors on the animals’ eyes, flippers and internal organs.
“We’re drawing direct lines from human nutrient inputs to the reef ecosystem, and how it affects wildlife,” said Van Houtan, who is also a scientist in NOAA’s Turtle Research Program.
(NASA) – Satellite view of river delta changes in China. China's Huang He (Yellow) River is the most sediment-filled river on Earth. Each year, it transports millions of tons of soil from a plateau it crosses to a delta it has built in the Bohai Sea. These images show the delta's growth from 1985 to 2014. The latter image also shows another change: ponds that hold shrimp and other seafood (seen here as dark geometric shapes along the coastline) were built on what were once tidal flats.
2 April 2014 (CNN) – Another debris field, another new and so-far futile focus in the search for Flight MH370.
More than three weeks after the Malaysia Airlines jet disappeared, one thing has been made clear: the ocean is full of garbage, literally.
"It isn't like looking for a needle in a haystack," Conservation International senior scientist M. Sanjayan said of the difficulty in finding the Boeing 777 aircraft. "It's like looking for a needle in a needle factory. It is one piece of debris among billions floating in the ocean."
Environmentalists like Sanjayan have warned for years that human abuse of the planet's largest ecosystem causes major problems for ocean life and people that depend on it.
With the world's eyes now scouring Asian waters for any trace of the plane that was more than 240 feet long and weighed more than 700,000 pounds, the magnitude of the ocean debris problem has become evident.
Two objects floating in the southern Indian Ocean, including one nearly 80 feet long, initially were called the best lead to date when a satellite detected them last week.
So far, though, search planes have yet to find them or any other plane debris, with speculation mounting that the larger item was a shipping container lost at sea.
6 May 2014 (CNN) – Tree poaching conjures up the lawless Amazon jungle, but America's magnificent redwood forests now face a piecemeal but steady assault by poachers too, California officials say.
Thieves are cutting massive chunks from the base of the champion trees, which are the tallest on Earth and are up to 2,000 years old. While state officials say the damage is far from any Amazonian deforestation, they do rank the desecration alongside elephant tusk poaching.
Under the cloak of darkness, bandits are poaching the burl from the old-growth redwoods in Redwood National and State Parks in California, and that lumpy feature from the tree base is then sold for thousands of dollars to make furniture, bowls and even souvenirs, officials say.
"We've seen a peaked increase (of theft and damage)," says Candace Tinkler, chief of interpretation and education at the park. "Unfortunately I feel that it's more than we can keep track of."
Tinkler compares the theft to elephants being killed for their ivory tusks. She has been with the parks for three years and has noticed a spike in thefts during her tenure, she said.
"The distribution goes beyond what we could have imagined. There's a black market for this stuff, and it goes well beyond California borders," she said Tuesday.
28 February 2014 (NASA) – Dense smoke cloaks central Sumatra, Indonesia, in these images taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The smoke is coming from fires in Riau province, where palm oil and pulpwood plantations are abundant. Though illegal for all but small landowners, fire is frequently used to clear brush and trees for farming, especially plantations. The forest and peat soil produce dense smoke when burned, as shown in these images.
The fires and resulting air pollution have forced the Riau government to declare a state of emergency. The smoke has caused illness, closed schools for the past two weeks, and reduced visibility.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 1 February 2014 (Washington Post) – In a country where about 20 percent of residents lack basic utilities, generations of poor and rural Pakistanis have relied on timber to make it through the winter. But severe energy shortages are turning even wealthier families into wood scavengers.
They snap branches, uproot saplings and hack trees, and they carry their bounty any way they can — by truck, motorcycle and even bicycle. And with each trip, Pakistan loses another piece of its tree canopy, an alarming trend for one of the world’s least forested countries.
Environmentalists and government officials fear Pakistan is now at a tipping point, having retained just 2 to 5 percent of its tree cover. Officials fear the deforestation will contribute to more lethal floods, disruptive landslides, bacteria-ridden drinking water and stifling air pollution. The country may also become more vulnerable to climate change.
“This is a very dangerous situation for Pakistan,” said Pervaiz Amir, a local forestry and agriculture expert. “The middle class are now cutting trees and burning trees.”
18 March 2014 (NASA) – Fire and smoke dominate the landscape in this image of Southeast Asia taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite on 18 March 2014. Marked in red, the fires burn largely in the subtropical forests common in northern Indochina. Most fires in this region are deliberately set for a variety of reasons, including slash and burn agriculture. When a plot of land becomes exhausted, farmers shift cultivation to another plot where they cut the trees and brush at the beginning of the dry season in January and February. Once the dead plant material has dried, they set fire to it. Such fires peak in March and April.
23 May 2014 (theguardian.com) – Drilling for oil in a part of the Amazon rainforest considered one of the most biodiverse hotspots on the planet is to go ahead less than a year after Ecuador's president lifted a moratorium on oil drilling there.
Last August, Rafeal Correa scrapped a pioneering scheme, the Yasuní Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) initiative, to keep oil in the ground under a corner of the Yasuní national park in return for donations from the international community.
He said only $13m (£8m) of the $3.6bn goal had been given, and that "the world has failed us", giving the green light to drilling.
On Thursday, environment minister, Lorena Tapia, said permits for drilling had been signed for the 6,500-square-mile reserve, known as block 43, and oil production might begin as soon as 2016.
The permits allow Petroamazonas, a subsidary of the state oil company, to begin construction of access roads and camps to prepare for drilling.
Esperanza Martinez, an environmental activist in Ecuador, was quoted in a leading national daily as saying Petroamazonas had a bad record on oil spills and it could not be trusted to drill safely in the Yasuní-ITT.
[Yes, this is satire, but still, all too real. –Des] REDDING, CA, 11 April 2014 (The Onion) – Long considered among the nation’s premier zoos, northern California’s Redding Wildlife Park has continued to earn praise from visitors and industry observers alike for its progressive commitment to housing all of its animals in their natural destroyed habitats, sources reported this week.
The cutting-edge zoological park, which houses some 3,000 animals from more than 500 species within its grimy and litter-strewn enclosures, reportedly spends tens of millions of dollars each year to maintain a vast variety of polluted and decimated habitats that closely replicate living conditions in the outside world.
“Our zoo is dedicated to providing every one of our animals with surroundings that mimic their natural homes as closely as possible, which is why we’ve built dozens of modern habitats that contain the precise types of discarded plastic and styrofoam packaging, acidified water sources, and industrial byproducts they typically encounter in the wild,” zoo director Michael LaForge said of the facility’s trailblazing enclosures, which occupy more than 100 acres of largely drought-ravaged and eroded land abutting a chemical processing plant. “In the past year alone, we’ve spent over $20 million to systematically contaminate dozens of exhibits for our animals, from our freshwater pond tainted with hydraulic fracturing runoff to our temperate woodlands that we reduce in size every month through systematic deforestation.”
Actor Harrison Ford with an orphaned orangutan baby. Harrison Ford stirred up quite a flutter during his reporting trip to Indonesia when he bore down upon the country's foreign minister, asking repeatedly nothing was being done to curb illegal logging. Photo: Earth Island Institute
Ivanpah Dry Lake, California, 18 August 2014 (Associated Press) – Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant's concentrated sun rays — "streamers," for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair.
Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one "streamer" every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator's application to build a still-bigger version.
The investigators want the halt until the full extent of the deaths can be assessed. Estimates per year now range from a low of about a thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group.
NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman tweeted an image of Super Typhoon Vongfong in the western Pacific Ocean from the International Space Station on 9 October 2014, commenting, “I've seen many from here, but none like this.” Photo: Reid Wiseman / NASA
6 December 2014 (AFP) – Typhoon Hagupit tore apart homes and sent waves crashing through coastal communities across the eastern Philippines on Sunday, creating more misery for millions following a barrage of deadly disasters.
The typhoon roared in from the Pacific Ocean and crashed into remote fishing communities of Samar island on Saturday night with wind gusts of 210 kilometres (130 miles) an hour, local weather agency Pagasa said.
The wind strength made Hagupit the most powerful storm to hit the Philippines this year, exceeding a typhoon in July that killed more than 100 people.
Aerial view of damaged coconut trees at a remote village in Dolores, Eastern Samar, central Philippines, after Typhoon Hagupit made landfall, 9 December 2014. Photo: Erik De Castro / REUTERS
6 November 2014 (Oxfam) – There are 205,000 families living in ‘unsafe’ areas and only 1 percent of houses are built, said a new report published by Oxfam today called, In the Shadow of the Storm: Getting Recovery Right One Year After Typhoon Haiyan.
Oxfam said that significant progress had been made in the aftermath of the typhoon. However, the Philippine government now needs to show leadership in the relocation process for families.
Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on 8 November 2013. It killed 6,000 people and made 4 million people homeless, with many unable to return to their houses. An estimated 1 million homes were destroyed or severely damaged. It was the strongest recorded storm to have made landfall. Almost a year after the storm families continue to struggle, with risks of deepening poverty.
According to the report, 205,000 families are still waiting to be re-housed. The families live in poor, makeshift shelters in areas prone to being hit by typhoons. As of October, less than 1 percent of homes had been built due to difficulties in buying safe land in the right place. Local authorities are straining because they lack skilled people, resources and clear policies from the government.
9 November 2014 (AccuWeather.com) – A powerful storm has moved into the Bering Sea and has become the most intense storm to ever impact the region.
The former Super Typhoon Nuri has tracked northward into the Bering Sea, located in between Alaska and Russia, and has lost all tropical characteristics.
The system has undergone rapid intensification, producing howling winds as the central pressure plummets to near record levels.
On Friday night, the Ocean Prediction Center analyzed the central area of low pressure to be 924 millibars.
This means that the storm has become the most powerful storm to ever move over the Bering Sea in recorded history in terms of central pressure.
Previous to this storm, the old record stood at 925 millibars from a powerful storm that moved over the Bering Sea on Oct. 25, 1977.
To put this in perspective, the lowest pressure recorded in Hurricane Sandy was 940 millibars.
10 December 2014 (NASA) – The mountains surrounding Kashmir Valley now trap air a bit like they once trapped water. The high ridges can set up airflow patterns that concentrate smoke and other airborne pollutants near the valley floor, causing outbreaks of haze. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of haze in the valley on December 5, 2014.
Much of the haze visible in the image likely had its origins in charcoal production or the burning of biomass. Charcoal is widely used to heat homes in the Kashmir Valley in the winter and emits several types of polluting gases and aerosol particles into the atmosphere.
“You can tell this is pollution and not fog or mist by exploring the aerosol data available on Worldview,” explained Hiren Jethva, a NASA atmospheric scientist. “You can see that the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI), the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), and the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) picked up a clear aerosol signal over the valley on December 5, as it did on several days in November as well.”
4 December 2014 (Climate Progress) – A nature reserve has been flooded with oil and more than 80 people have been hospitalized from exposure to toxic fumes after approximately 600,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from a pipeline in southern Israel on Wednesday, according to media reports there.
The massive spill, which resulted from a breach in the 153-mile Trans-Israel pipeline, has been described as “one of the gravest pollution events in the country’s history.” That’s according to Israel Environmental Protection Ministry official Guy Samet, who also said the spill could take months, maybe years, to fully clean up.
“This is one of the State of Israel’s most serious pollution events,” Samut told Israel Radio. “We are still having trouble gauging the full extent of the contamination.”
3 March 2014 (theguardian.com) – Doctors have warned of serious health risks to people living around the Morwell coalmine fire, due to a carcinogenic air pollutant reaching levels up to 20 times the average level.
The Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) group, which spoke to a rally of Morwell residents on Sunday, is also renewing calls for federally regulated monitoring and reporting requirements to warn people of increasing risks as they occur.
Thousands of Victorians are being affected by smoke from the coal which has been burning for three weeks and looks to continue for many months to come. The fire was discovered to have been deliberately lit during one of Victoria’s most serious fire situations since Black Saturday.
16 October 2014 (The Atlantic) – Scotty Lucas is the former mayor of a town that no longer exists. This double obsolescence seems to faze him little, which is not all that surprising considering that he has outlived his wife, one of his children, and the town he spent most of his 81 years in.
Lucas’s one-story brick home, with a bass boat in the driveway and wrought-iron patio furniture, is one of the few still standing in Cheshire, Ohio. This riverside village became briefly famous in 2002, when American Electric Power, the utility that operates two large coal-fired power plants here, bought it for $20 million—a deal the company preferred over dealing with residents’ ongoing complaints about air pollution.
23 September 2014 (Mother Jones) – Presidents and diplomats aren't the only ones calling for climate action at the United Nations. During the opening ceremony of today's climate summit, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner—a 26-year-old poet from the Marshall Islands—spoke eloquently about the threat that rising seas pose to her country.
Jetnil-Kijiner warned delegates of the high price of inaction and described the current challenge as a "race to save humanity."
"Those of us from Oceania are already experiencing it first hand," she said. "We've seen waves crashing into our homes … We look at our children and wonder how they will know themselves or their culture should we lose our islands."
"We need a radical change of course," she added. "It means ending carbon pollution within my lifetime. It means supporting those of us most affected to prepare for unavoidable climate impacts. And it means taking responsibility for irreversible loss and damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions."
12 June 2014 (Slate) – Well, if there’s one thing you can always count on when it comes to organized global warming denial, it’s how Orwellian it is.
After all, that’s the only reasonable explanation for the group that calls itself “Friends of Science”. Because friends certainly don’t act the way they do. Ignoring all of science and then saying whoppers about it isn’t something I’d consider exactly friendly to science. For evidence, I present to you a billboard they put up in Calgary recently.
It says, “The Sun is the main driver of climate change. Not you. Not CO2.”
This is, to phrase it carefully, a huge load of stuff that comes out of the wrong end of a bull.
The Sun is not the main driver of climate change. At least, not modern climate change. In fact, the opposite is true, as Skeptical Science shows: The amount of energy emitted by the Sun has gone down slightly over the past few decades as temperatures have risen.
In this billboard, Friends of Science is using a mantic trick. Climate change over very long timescales is linked to the Sun, sure, but the modern upward surge in global temperatures is clearly not linked to the Sun. In fact, it can be shown it must be due to human influence.
9 June 2014 (Distractify) – It's no secret that the city of Detroit is not the thriving industrial city that it once was, but as things decay over time, it's sometimes hard to notice just how drastic some of the changes have been. Redditor Scarbane has compiled a startling collection of images from Google Street View showing just how much things have deteriorated in just a few years. These pictures broke my heart a little bit…