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A Requiem for Flooded Cities: Russian Flood Disaster Worsens, Amur River to Hit 30 Feet

Khabarovk Flooding

(Image source: RIA Novosti / Sergey Mamontov)

Earlier this month, Russia experienced a Song of Flood and Fire in which massive burning of Siberia’s tundra transitioned to the worst flood event in Russian history. Now, the still ongoing and worsening flood has become a haunting requiem for flooded cities as more than 100,000 homes have been devoured or damaged by the still-rising waters.

As of today, news reports indicate that flood waters have risen as high as 7.6 meters (about 24 feet) along the Amur River shattering a previous record of 6 meters and moving on toward a predicted high of an unprecedented 9 meters (30 feet). These record high water levels are the worst seen in the 120 years of record keeping along the Amur River, a rate of flooding and rainfall that numerous Russian scientists are now attributing to climate change.

The Amur floods come just one year after a record flash flood in Krymsk killed 171 people and resulted in 600 million dollars in damages. The current Amur floods are expected to reach nearly 1 billion dollars in losses, Russia’s most costly flood disaster in its history.

A brief break in the clouds over this heavily flooded region allowed for satellites to provide pictures of the heavily flooded Amur. What follows is nothing short of eye-opening as the Amur River appears to expand to the size of a large inland bay.

Here is a picture of the Amur River on July 11:

Amur River July 11

Amur River July 11

(Image source:  Lance-Modis)

This shot shows an approximately 500 mile length of the Amur River running along the border between Russia and China. In this shot, we see the river ranging between 1-3 miles in width. By August 21, the situation is remarkably transformed:

Amur River Flooding August 21

Amur River Flooding August 21

(Image source: Lance-Modis)

In the above image, the Amur and its tributaries have swollen to between 5 and 20 miles in width devouring both forest lands and cities alike. The August 21 image was taken at a time when the Amur levels were about 7 meters, at another half meter in height and with more flooding on the way, even this remarkable picture is just a prelude to end flood levels.

Damages from flooding have resulted in the losses of about half a million hectacres of crops in the region, pushing food prices, on average, about 10% higher. Hungry brown bears displaced by the flood waters are increasingly encroaching on villages and towns in the region with Russian officials resorting to airlifting bears away from an at-risk human population.

Russian officials seem both stunned and taken aback by the rapacity and violence of these floods.

“I’m not going to read letters and telegrams that are coming from citizens in my address. We’ll discuss those at a separate meeting,” Putin said Thursday. “But I want to turn your attention to the fact that not everything is as smooth as we’d like to think.”

An increasing number of Russian meteorologists and scientists are linking these events to climate change, all while they lament a general lack of Russian government response.

“It is quite possible that such showers are indeed consequences of global warming. How else to explain this constant change in the climate?” Svetlana Ageyeva, head of the meteorological center in the Khabarovsk region, told RIA Novosti. “I would not laugh at those who say such things.”

Russian government has deep ties to its petroleum industry and preference goes to oil producing entities with little thought to the consequences of climate change. Most scientists in Russia expect little or no response from government unless the situation there continues to grow worse to the point where it begins to affect the profitability of government entrenched businesses.

Large, wet weather systems continue to converge over the Amur region as the Jet Stream delivers a stream of storms from the west and as Arctic storm systems ride down from the north along a deep trough. These converging rivers of air and moisture brought powerful storms, once again, to the already battered region today.

Amur Rain August 29

Amur Rain August 29

(Image source: Lance-Modis)

A similar Jet Stream pattern and moisture delivery system has been in place since late July, when evaporation spilling off the top of the Ocean Heat Dome near Shanghai dumped even more water vapor into an already overwhelming convergent flow. Since that time, a trough plunging down from the Arctic and a Jet Stream rushing across the continent have continued to link up over Amur, delivering storm after storm after storm. This is the kind of fixed, global warming-induced, weather pattern Dr. Jennifer Francis alluded to in her recent work at Rutgers and in her even more recent briefings to the US Congress.

(Hat Tip to Colorado Bob)

Links:

Lance-Modis

RIA Novosti

Ecologists Link Far East Floods to Global Warming

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Tropical Storm and Monsoonal Flow Collide Over Super-Heated Pacific to Dump Two Feet of Rain on Manila

Yesterday, tropical storm Trami churned through an abnormally hot Pacific Ocean toward an inevitable date with downpour over Taiwan and Southeastern China. There, a procession of tropical storms and monsoonal moisture had set off record floods which, by Tuesday, had resulted in the deaths of over 200 people. The now saturated region expects the arrival of Trami today, but not after the tropical monster, loaded with megatons of moisture, clashed with an already amped monsoonal flow to drench the Philippines as it emerged from a broiling Pacific Ocean.

Throughout the past month, an ocean heat dome had caused surface water temperatures to soar above 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) over a vast swath of the Pacific Ocean just to the east of China and to the south of Japan and Korea. This powerful pool of latent Pacific heat was a major factor in the delivery of record heatwaves to China, Korea and Japan which resulted in thousands of hospitalizations and at least 100 lives lost. But yesterday, the heat and moisture rising off the Pacific would play its highly energetic part in an entirely different anomalous weather event — the inundation of the Philippine capital city of Manila.

Trami Collides with Monsoonal Flow to Produce Record Rainfall over Phillippines

Trami Collides with Monsoonal Flow to Produce Record Rainfall over Philippines

(Image source: NASA/Lance-Modis)

As Trami made her way over these hot and moisture rich waters, she grew in size until her cloud area covered a width of more than one thousand miles. Ocean temperatures soaring between 2 and 4 degrees (Fahrenheit) above average helped to pump its immense bulk full of moisture even as it became wrapped in a dense flow of monsoonal moisture proceeding from west to east off the continent.

By Monday, Trami was moving in from the east, lashing the Philippines with her dense, thunderstorm laden, spiral bands even as monsoonal storms came into collision with these bands from the west. The combination of a moisture rich tropical storm colliding with an equally rain dense monsoonal flow over a Philippines surrounded by anomalously hot water set off an extraordinarily intense rain event in which the capital of Manila was inundated by a powerful deluge.

Rainfall rates for this sprawling city hit a stunning 2 inches per hour and maintained that record shattering pace for almost twelve hours running. In total, more than 23.5 inches of rainfall was recorded at rain gauges across the capital. Many residents, whose homes were flooded in a rising rush of water, were forced to evacuate and initial reports indicate that at least 100,000 of Manila’s 12 million residents have now relocated to emergency shelters. So far, at least 8 deaths and millions of dollars in damages have been attributed to the storm. But with local levees and damns under threat of over-topping and collapse, the initial reports and estimates may just be the beginning.

Satellite and water vapor imagery taken on Tuesday showed rains continuing over the Philippines, albeit at a less intense rate, as Trami turned her great bulk of moisture northwestward toward the already soaked regions of Taiwan and southeastern China. Trami is expected to intensify into a category 1 Typhoon this afternoon and is likely to deliver severe rains and flooding to already soaked regions.

Trami Rakes Taiwan and Philippines

Trami Rakes Taiwan and Philippines

(Image source: NOAA)

You can see Trami raking both Taiwan and the Philippines with massive and rain-dense cloud bands in the most recent NOAA water vapor imagery. In this image, the storm appears to intensify as it bears down on the already storm-soaked shores of China and Taiwan.

Conditions in Context

The Philippines is hit by a total of 20 tropical cyclones each year. So heavy rainfall and floods are a regular aspect of life there. However, the nearly 24 inches of rainfall during a 12 hour period experienced yesterday is unprecedented, breaking even a number of Manila’s very high record rainfall totals. The conditions that led to these records, just one year after another severe rainfall event, include anomalous heating of the Pacific Ocean under a powerful Ocean Heat Dome during late July and early August, a rather strong and thick monsoonal flow that has tended to meander a bit further north than is usual, and a very large tropical cyclone fed by both the anomalous heat and added moisture.

Climate research has shown that we can expect more intense rainfall events worldwide as the hydrological cycle increases by 6% with a .8 degree Celsius temperature rise. Similar research has found evidence of more frequent tropical cyclones as oceans warm and seasons in which hurricanes may develop continue to lengthen. This region of the Pacific Ocean, in particular, has shown an increasing number of cyclones as Earth has continued its human-driven warming trend, with temperatures increasing by .2 degrees Celsius per decade over the last 30 years. Since the vast Pacific Ocean forms a kind of moisture trap in this steamy region, it is likely the area will experience some of the worst flooding and storm effects coming down the pipe due to human-caused warming.

Trami’s expected delivery of powerful storms to China and Taiwan will also, unfortunately, probably not be the last for this season. Water temperatures are still stunningly high and moisture flows from both the Indian Ocean and the Pacific are likely to churn out many more storms before the tropical cyclone season ends months from now.

Links, Credits and Hat Tips:

NASA/Lance-Modis

NOAA

Tropical Storm Trami Threatens Taiwan, China as the Philippines Floods

Commenter Steve

 

 

 

China Falls Under Suspicion of Covering Up Deaths as Ocean Heat Dome Expands to Blanket Korea and Japan

US Weather Fatalities by Type

US Weather Fatalities by Type

(Image source: NOAA)

According to recent reports from NOAA and the CDC, heat is the most lethal form of weather in the United States. Death and injury rates have been on the rise as human-forced temperature increases have expanded, surging northward into major metro areas such as New York City. The CDC report showed a growing number of heat deaths and injuries for this northern region, with the New York Metro area seeing an average of 13 deaths and over 440 heat injuries each year during the period from 2000 to 2011. Nationwide, the average number of heat fatalities surged to 117 during a period from 2003 to 2011.

Heatwaves have hit the NYC region time and time again over the past decade, driving the death and injury rate inexorably higher. However, the heat impacting that area is paltry when compared to the extreme and deadly temperatures that have broiled southeastern China since late July. For more than three weeks, the Shanghai region of China has experienced almost daily temperatures in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit and sweltered under very high humidity for such hot conditions. This combination has pushed wet bulb temperatures (a measure that simulates the temperature of human skin) into a range of 29 to 32 degrees Celsius, very close to the lethal human limit of 35 degrees C.

On Sunday, an extreme heat pulse sent thermometers soaring to 109 degrees Fahrenheit in the city of Shengxian — its hottest temperature ever recorded and a scorching 32.3 degree wet bulb temperature. Meanwhile, on the same day, Hangzhou had hit a new all time record high temperature of 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit, the twelfth time since July 24th that Hangzhou has tied or broken its old all time temperature record which, in some cases, was set just the day before.

High heat and humidity of this kind is deadly to humans because as temperatures approach 35 degree C wet bulb readings, it is nearly impossible for the human body to carry away the excess heat it generates through evaporation. Never has a wet bulb temperature of 35 degrees C been recorded by humans. However, climate scientists such as James Hansen have asserted that it’s just a matter of time under the current regime of human-caused warming before we hit that ominous mark.

So have thousands died?

Road Sing Burns in Shanghia Region

Road Sign Burns Under Record Heat in Shanghai Region

(Image source: Shenzhen Daily)

As reports of vehicle fires and sporadically smoldering infrastructure in the massive Chinese heatwave flared, suspicions emerged that Chinese officials are covering up what are potentially thousands of heat-related deaths.

According to Chinese news agencies, the official report is that about two dozen have died so far in Shanghai’s record-shattering heatwave. But similar heat in Europe and Russia resulted in tens of thousands of deaths over the past decade. At issue is the fact that China’s current record heat and humidity are at levels never before experienced in its weather history and that this event is even more intense than the deadly heatwaves of Europe and Russia. Add to this extraordinarily dangerous event the fact that more than 400 million people live in the region of China currently being socked by record heat and the vague reports coming out of China seem highly incongruent.

Never before has such high wet bulb temperatures hit a region of so dense a population. Yet China has only continued to report the vague ‘dozens’ estimate.  It was this discrepancy that caused WeatherUnderground Historian Christopher Burt to speculate that China may be covering up a catastrophic rash of fatalities:

Eastern China, where about 30% of the population of the country and 5% of the global population reside (approximately 400 million people) has undergone a heat wave unprecedented in its history. No one really knows how many have died as a result of the heat wave (Chinese news sources claim ‘about two dozen’), but statistically it is almost certain that many thousands must have perished as the result of the heat over the past month.

If Christopher Burt’s, quite rational, analysis ends up proving true, we can expect reports of fatalities to begin to slowly trickle out of China. Misreporting and under-reporting of Chinese heatwave casualties would also be yet one more instance of government officials and mainstream media downplaying and under-reporting the effects of catastrophic events related to human-caused climate change. Such under-reporting is yet one more manifestation of a dangerous and paralyzing denial that has so hampered an effective response to these increasingly dangerous and self-inflicted events.

Making such a call, however, is possibly premature as residents of this region are more acclimated to excessive heat than Europeans or Russians. As Burt notes:

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that it is ALWAYS hot and humid in eastern China during the summer (unlike Russia and Western Europe), so perhaps the population has learned to adapt to extreme heat.

The Ocean Heat Dome Expands to Cover Korea and Japan

Ocean Heat Dome

Ocean Heat Dome Over China, Korea and Japan

(Image source: NASA/Lance-Modis)

A sprawling heat dome high pressure system that has scorched a region stretching from coastal China to a large expanse of the Pacific Ocean shifted eastward into Korea and Japan over the weekend. Southern Japan saw temperatures surge into the 100s with Shimanto recording the highest temperature ever measured in Japan of 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius). Tokyo, meanwhile, broke the record for its hottest minimum temperature at 86.7 degrees Fahrenheit (30.4 C).

South Korea, over the same period, reported 8 deaths as temperatures soared to 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit (39 C) in Busan. Temperatures in Seoul hit the still hot, but more moderate, 90s (32 C +).

Both South Korea and Japan are surrounded on multiple sides by water. This geographic feature would usually provide a cooling effect as ocean temperatures are typically many degrees cooler than land temperatures. But, in this case, a massive heat dome is baking the ocean itself to unprecedented high surface water temperatures. As a result, a large area of open ocean now shows readings above 30 degrees Celsius ( 86 Fahrenheit). This extremely hot, near 90 degree water, has formed the central pulse of the current heatwave even as it has pumped extraordinarily humid air for such hot conditions over adjacent land areas. A shift to the north of this large and still growing region of extraordinarily hot ocean water led to the record steamy conditions over Japan and Korea during the past few days — both of which can expect little relief from the now, very hot, water.

Asia in Hot Water

Ocean Heat Dome Puts Asia in Hot Water

(Image source: Weather Online)

Forecasts for Shanghai, Korea, and Japan call for slightly less sweltering temperatures in the upper 90s with more isolated readings in the 100s as clouds are expected to move in and increase chances of rainfall by later this week. A slight improvement but a welcome change, nonetheless. Meanwhile, hot ocean conditions create a risk for continued very hot temperatures for much of this coastal region.

(Hat Tip to Colorado Bob for the head’s up)

Ocean Heat Dome Steams Coastal China: Shanghai to Near Very Dangerous 35 Degree Celsius Wet Bulb Temperatures This Week

Shanghai Under Ocean Heat Dome

Shanghai, southeast China swelter under Ocean Heat Dome.

(Image source: NASA/Lance-Modis)

An ocean heat dome that formed over a broad area of the Pacific Ocean, the South and East China seas, and a large stretch of coastal China during late July continues to create a dangerous combination of record hot temperatures and high humidity.

According to reports from AccuWeather, the sweltering coastal China town of Shanghai hit a new all-time record high temperature of 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees C) on Tuesday. But this marker may just be a milepost to what is predicted to be a 107-108 degree scorcher on Wednesday and Friday. With humidity predicted to be around 50% and barometric pressure readings expected to hit 1005 millibars, these represent extraordinarily dangerous conditions.

The human wet bulb limit: 35 C

Recent climate papers by former NASA scientist James Hansen have issued warnings of the potential for wet bulb temperatures on the surface of the Earth to start to exceed levels that are lethal for humans at 35 degrees C  for longer and longer periods as humans continue to warm the atmosphere. Hansen notes:

One implication is that if we should “succeed” in digging up and burning all fossil fuels, some parts of the planet would become literally uninhabitable, with some time in the year having wet bulb temperature exceeding 35°C. At such temperatures, for reasons of physiology and physics, humans cannot survive, because even under ideal conditions of rest and ventilation, it is physically impossible for the environment to carry away the 100 W of metabolic heat that a human body gene rates when it is at rest.

Different from direct air temperature, wet bulb readings measure what air feels like on the surface of the skin. The measure simulates the cooling effect caused by human sweat evaporating from the skin surface. In very dry, hot conditions, human skin temperature can remain below this lethal level as the rate of evaporation increases due to dryness. Since most of the world’s hottest regions are very dry, humans can withstand air temperatures of 120 degrees (Fahrenheit) and above. Thankfully, it is very rare that extraordinarily hot and humid conditions occur in the same locations. This is generally due to a cooling affect provided by an adjacent ocean mass — as most damp regions are also near or surrounded by cooler ocean air.

The Ocean Heat Dome

Enter the weather conditions forecast for Shanghai tomorrow and Friday…

A massive heat dome high pressure system has settled, not just over land areas of China, but directly over a large region of the Pacific Ocean and adjacent China seas. The result is that sea surface temperatures are now ranging 1-4 degrees Celsius above the already warm 1971-2000 average with a large area showing temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit). This large region of hot water and corresponding hot ocean air is pumping both heat and humidity into the Shanghai region. Hot ocean air is being pumped over Southeast Asia where it mixes with the already baking land mass air to form a brutal brew of very high heat and high humidity. The clockwise flow of the heat dome then pulls this mixture of record hot and humid air over the highly populated regions of Shanghai.

These ocean-based heat dome conditions are not normal, with typical heat dome conditions usually forming over land. The danger in this particular set of conditions is that very high heat combines with higher than usual humidity to result in much greater heat injury risks for humans.

Ocean heat dome

Sea surface temperatures under Ocean Heat Dome

(Image source: Weather Online)

Forecasts for tomorrow and Friday are showing Shanghai temperatures will probably reach at least 107-108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 C) in an area where relative humidity is forecast to be 50% and where barometric pressures are forecast to remain around 1005 millibars of mercury. This brings us to the extraordinarily dangerous high wet bulb temperature of 33 degrees Celsius.

Please do your best to stay safe

In such instances, the best defense is to find a cool, shaded location and limit exposure to heat during the hottest times of the day. Drinking cold fluids can also aid in reducing core body temperatures. A common heat mitigation aid is freezing a bottle of water and carrying it in a pocket next to your thigh. The cold bottle will contact the skin near the femoral artery, cooling blood there and transporting this cooler blood throughout the body. If extreme heat is still too much, placing the bottle in direct contact with the large veins in the neck will provide even more efficient cooling. This simple cooling pack also doubles as a means to replenish vital fluids.

Under such conditions, it is also important to be alert for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke to include:

  • Confusion
  • Dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration)
  • Dizziness
  • Profuse sweating
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • A lack of sweating

China has also activated emergency operations facilities and is providing information and aid in the hardest hit regions.

Unfortunately, record heat is expected to continue over Shanghai through at least next Wednesday with only one day expected to see below 100 degree (F) readings. With so many already dealing with heat stress, our best hopes are that all there will have the means to remain safe.

Hat Tips and People I Just Feel Like Promoting:

Colorado Bob

Prokaryotes

Dark Snow

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