Michigan floods: Evacuations after Edenville and Sanford dams breached
- Heavy rainfall has caused the failure of two dams in Michigan, prompting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to declare a state of emergency.
- „Please, get somewhere safe, now,” Whitmer said in a Tuesday evening address. „This is serious and it is time for people to take action.”
- „Our community is facing almost certain devastation by morning,” stated the official Twitter account for the County of Midland.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Parts of Michigan could be under nine feet of water by Wednesday morning after two dams failed in the wake of heavy rainfall, according to state and local officials.
„Please, get somewhere safe, now,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a Tuesday evening address, declaring a state of emergency and calling up the National Guard. „This is serious and it is time for people to take action.”
„This is unlike anything we’ve seen before,” she added, saying downtown Midland, Michigan, which is located about an hour and a half north of Lansing, could be under nine feet of water by morning.
The Edenville Dam on Wixom Lake failed Tuesday afternoon, followed by the breach of the downstream Sanford Dam. Video was captured of the Edenville Dam being breached:
„Over the past several days parts of Michigan have experienced heavy rainfall,” Whitmer’s emergency declaration notes. „As a result, the Edenville and Sanford Dam structures along the Tittabawassee River in the county of Midland have failed.”
The declaration also temporarily suspends the COVID-19 emergency order for the city and county of Midland.
Thousands of residents have already been evacuated, Whitmer said, with local officials predicting that the worst is yet to come.
„Our community is facing almost certain devastation by morning,” stated the official Twitter account for the County of Midland.
The National Weather Service issued a warning to local residents, according to a local news report.
„Life-threatening flash flooding of areas downstream from the Edenville Dam along the Tittabawassee River,” the warning stated.
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But confirming that through observations has been problematic, because of the relatively small number of hurricanes every year and the difficulty of obtaining data on their wind speeds and other characteristics. Even in the United States, storms that do not potentially threaten populations are measured less than others.
“We’re doing collectively a bad job of measuring tropical cyclones around the world,” Emanuel said. “We’ve all believed we should see more intense hurricanes. But it’s very very tricky to find it in the data.”
Kossin and his colleagues got around the limitations by using satellite images of storms worldwide and using computers to interpret them with a long-accepted pattern-matching algorithm, or set of instructions. They had done this before, in a study published in 2013, but that analysis only included imagery from 1982 to 2009 and the findings, while similar, were not statistically significant.
In the new study the researchers extended the data set by 11 years, using imagery from 1979 to 2017.
“The first time through we found trends but they hadn’t risen to the level of confidence that we would require,” Kossin said. The findings of the new study are statistically significant.
“This is saying, OK now, the historical observations are also in agreement” with the theory and models, he added.
The study looked at tropical storms worldwide because that provided a lot more data than looking at those in just one region. And every region has natural variability or other factors that can affect storm intensity and make it more difficult to tease out the effects of warming.
“When you look at the picture globally, it tends to wash away that regional variability,” Kossin said. “The trend rises above the noise.”
The North Atlantic has seen increased hurricane activity in recent decades, by a measure that combines intensity with other characteristics like duration and frequency of storms. On Thursday, NOAA will issue its forecast of activity for this season, which officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Forecasts by other organizations have suggested that this year may be an active one.
But the North Atlantic is one region where climate change may be overshadowed by other factors, Emanuel said.
“We do see clear signals and strong trends in the North Atlantic,” he said. “The problem is we can’t uniquely attribute that to greenhouse gases.”
Some scientists say that long-term natural variability in sea surface temperatures, on a time scale of decades, has played the major role in affecting North Atlantic storm activity. Others say that mandated reductions in sulfur emissions from fossil-fuel burning over the past few decades may be more important, by affecting ocean temperatures through a series of atmospheric connections.
Whatever the main factors are, the study suggests that climate change will play a long-term role in increasing the strength of storms in the North Atlantic and elsewhere, Kossin said. Planning for how to mitigate the effect of major storms must take this into account.
“From a short time scale, these trends are not going to change the risk landscape,” Kossin said. But over the long term, he said, “the risk landscape could change, and in a bad way, not in a good way.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
© 2020 The New York Times Company
Global warming is causing parts of Antarctica to turn green, as scientists reveal blooms of algae are forming near a penguin colony.
Warming temperatures due to climate change is causing summer ice to melt and reveal the brightly coloured aquatic plant underneath, which can be seen from space, according to researchers from the University of Cambridge and British Antarctic Survey.
Some 1,679 separate blooms of green algae were found on the snow surface of warmer areas of the continent, covering a total area of 1.9 square kilometres – with more than 60 per cent of the blooms located within five kilometres of a penguin colony.
Scientists also found the distribution of green snow to be influenced by marine birds and mammals, whose excrement acts as „a highly nutritious natural fertiliser” for the algae, allowing it to thrive.
The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, involved mapping the ecosystem of the microscopic algae on the Antarctic peninsula, combining satellite data with on-the-ground observations over two summers.
Dr Matt Davey from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences, who led the study, said: „This is a significant advance in our understanding of land-based life on Antarctica, and how it might change in the coming years as the climate warms.
„Snow algae are a key component of the continent’s ability to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.”
Andrew Gray, a researcher at the University of Cambridge and lead author of the paper, added: „As Antarctica warms, we predict the overall mass of snow algae will increase, as the spread to higher ground will significantly outweigh the loss of small island patches of algae.”
Once the wetbulb temperature crosses about 35°C, the air is so hot and humid that not even sweating can lower your body temperature to a safe level. With continued exposure above this threshold, death by overheating can follow.
A 35°C limit may sound modest, but it isn’t. When the UK sweltered with a record drybulb temperature of 38.7°C in July 2019, the wetbulb temperature in Cambridge was no more than 24°C. Even in Karachi’s killer heatwave of 2015, the wetbulb temperature stayed below 30°C. In fact, outside a steam room, few people have encountered anything close to 35°C. It has mostly been beyond Earth’s climate envelope as human society has developed.
But our recent research shows that the 35°C limit is drawing closer, leaving an ever-shrinking safety margin for the hottest and most humid places on Earth.
Heat beyond human tolerance
Modelling studies had already indicated that wetbulb temperatures could regularly cross 35°C if the world sails past the 2°C warming limit set out in the Paris climate agreement in 2015, with The Persian Gulf, South Asia and North China Plain on the frontline of deadly humid heat.
Our analysis of wetbulb temperatures from 1979-2017 did not disagree with these warnings about what may be to come. But whereas past studies had looked at relatively large regions (on the scale of major metropolitan areas), we also examined thousands of weather station records worldwide and saw that, at this more local scale, many sites were closing in much more rapidly on the 35°C limit. The frequency of punishing wetbulb temperatures (above 31°C, for example) has more than doubled worldwide since 1979, and in some of the hottest and most humid places on Earth, like the coastal United Arab Emirates, wetbulb temperatures have already flickered past 35°C. The climate envelope is pushing into territory where our physiology cannot follow.
The consequences of crossing 35°C, however brief, have perhaps been mainly symbolic so far, as residents of the hottest places are used to riding out extreme heat by sheltering in air-conditioned spaces. But relying on artificial cooling to cope with the growing heat would supercharge energy demand and leave many people dangerously exposed to power failures. It would also abandon the most vulnerable members of society and doesn’t help those who have to venture outside.
The only way to avoid being carried further and more frequently into uncharted heat territory is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero. The economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic is expected to slash emissions by 4-7% in 2020, bringing them close to where global emissions were in 2010. But concentrations of greenhouse gases are still rising rapidly in the atmosphere. We must also adapt where possible, by encouraging simple behavioural changes (like avoiding outdoor daytime activity) and by ramping up emergency response plans when heat extremes are imminent. Such steps will help to buy time against the inexorable forward march of the Earth’s climate envelope.
We hope that our research illuminates some of the challenges that may await us as global temperatures rise. The emergence of unprecedented heat and humidity – beyond what our physiology can tolerate – is just a portion of what could be in store. An even warmer and wetter world risks generating climate extremes beyond any human experience, including the potential for a whole host of “unknown unknowns”.
We hope that the sense of vulnerability to surprises left by COVID-19 invigorates global commitments to reaching carbon neutrality – recognising the value in preserving conditions that are somewhat familiar, rather than risking what may be waiting in a very novel climate ahead.
The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Astronomers have gazed into what appears to be a planetary maternity ward, observing for the first time within a huge disk of dense gas and dust surrounding a newly formed star a planet in the process of being born.
This large young planet is forming around a star called AB Aurigae that is about 2.4 times the mass of the sun and located in our Milky Way galaxy 520 light years from Earth, researchers said on Wednesday. A light year is the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).
The scientists used the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile to spot a spiral structure within the swirling disk around AB Aurigae generated by the presence of a planet. They detected a „twist” pattern of gas and dust in the spiral structure marking where the planet was coalescing.
„It takes several million years for a planet to be in its final stage, so birth is not well defined in time. However, we can say that we were likely able to catch a planet in the process of formation,” said Observatoire de Paris astronomer Anthony Boccaletti, who led the research published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
More than 4,000 planets have been discovered orbiting stars beyond our solar system. Scientists are eager to learn more about how they are born as cold gas and dust consolidate in these disks surrounding new stars.
The planet is located about 30 times further from its star than Earth’s distance from the sun – about the distance of the planet Neptune in our solar system, Boccaletti said. It appears to be a large gas planet, not a rocky planet like Earth or Mars, and may be more massive than our solar system’s largest planet Jupiter, Boccaletti added.
(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)