Toll low from China quake but villagers fear high cost to tourismBy Christian Shepherd and Thomas SuenView photosA crack runs through a mountain road as a police car approaches after an earthquake outside Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan province, China, August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas PeterBy Christian Shepherd and Thomas SuenJIUZHAIGOU, China (Reuters) – Businesses near the epicenter of an earthquake that struck an ethnically Tibetan mountainous region in southwest China fear the disaster will cripple tourism, their main source of income.Damage to the Jiuzhai Valley Scenic Area of Sichuan province may cause some of the hotels, restaurants, shops and stalls that serve the UNESCO-listed site to lose months – if not years – of income, leaving many jobless, workers told Reuters.Tuesday’s 7-magnitude quake killed 20 people and injured around 500, many of them in landslides in an area often hit by tremors. It also damaged lakes and waterfalls, according to state media.The damage does not compare with the Sichuan quake of May 2008 which toppled buildings and killed almost 70,000 people. Initial government estimates at the time put the cost to the province at more than $7 billion in lost tourism.But more than a dozen villagers in and around the Jiuzhai Valley Scenic Area told Reuters they feared for their future.”The whole of Ngawa Prefecture relies on the scenic area for economic income. People from all districts come here to work. A whole generation could lose job opportunities,” said Renda Caili, a Tibetan man who runs a guesthouse.Images shared online and confirmed by residents in touch with people inside the site show some of the brightly colored pools filled with mud, while some of the rolling waterfalls that connect them have partially collapsed.Authorities have blocked international journalists from accessing the site, which state media said was visited 7 million times in 2016.A Sichuan government spokesman said it could not yet make any estimates of the economic damage.Few of the buildings in Zhangza Town, the entrance to the valley where visitors typically stay, appeared to have suffered severe damage when Reuters visited on Thursday, though locals said they worried there could still be danger of collapse.A Tibetan woman with a four-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son said that their house partially collapsed.”We don’t dare go back. It’s too dangerous,” she said, declining to give her name as she said the quake was a sensitive issue for the authorities.Her family’s income was her greatest concern, she said: „My husband worked in a five-star hotel up near the epicenter. No one knows when it is going to reopen.”The glass and metal frame of the entrance to the InterContinental Resort Jiuzhai Paradise, close to the epicenter, was warped and broken when Reuters visited on Thursday.Authorities say the majority of the estimated 60,000 tourists had been evacuated by bus or ambulance, but residents say no transport has been made available for them. „There were no buses provided and we have nowhere to live up there now, so we are walking home,” a worker from a hotel said, declining to be identified, as he rushed down the road with belongings towards Jiuzhaigou from about 10 km away.The route into the town from the West was blocked by landslides. Boulders dislodged from the steep mountainside by regular aftershocks continued to crash on to the road on Thursday. A business owner surnamed Zhao told Reuters he expected it to take two years before his catering business, which serves thousands per day in peak season, returned to full operation.”Fortunately this time there have been very few deaths. It is nothing like as bad as Wenchuan,” he said, referring to the 2008 quake in central Sichuan which he said he felt in Jiuzhaigou.Many of the deaths then were caused by the collapse of old buildings, though some new school buildings collapsed because of a lack of reinforced concrete. Most of the buildings in Zhangza were relatively new, built in the domestic tourism industry boom under much tougher quality and safety regulations.”This area is a natural wonder – the United Nations has said so,” Zhao said. „Of course the tourists will come back.” (Reporting by Christian Shepherd and Thomas Suen; Editing by Nick Macfie)
El Nino’s Absence May Fuel a Stormy Hurricane SeasonTia Ghose Senior WriterWind, Rain, Heat: Health Risks Grow with Extreme WeatherThe hurricane season is likely to be extra active this year, thanks to a likely no-show from El Niño.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center released an updated hurricane season outlook today (Aug. 9). The new prediction ups the odds for a blustery, extremely active hurricane season – and possibly even the most active since 2010.”We’re now entering the peak of the season, when the bulk of the storms usually form,” Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said in a statement. „The wind and air patterns in the area of the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean where many storms develop are very conducive to an above-normal season. This is, in part, because the chance of El Niño forming, which tends to prevent storms from strengthening, has dropped significantly from May.” (El Niño is a climate phenomenon most distinguished by the shift of warm water from the western to the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.) One other factor fueling a more active hurricane season: The waters off the tropical Atlantic Ocean are warmer than usual.The new forecast puts the odds of an above-average season at 60 percent, up from the initial forecast of 45 percent in May. In addition, the forecast now predicts between 14 and 19 named storms, or those with sustained winds of 39 mph (62 km/h), and between two and five major hurricanes with sustained windspeeds of at least 111 mph (178 km/h).The NOAA center typically puts out an initial hurricane forecast in late May. This year, they initially predicted between 11 and 17 named storms and between two and four major hurricanes, and about even odds for an average and above-average season.So far, the season has already had six named storms, double what’s typically expected by this point. (The storms were Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin and Gert). Typically, it takes six months to rack up that many storms; an average season has 12 major storms, six of which become hurricanes and three of which are major hurricanes. Hurricane season typically lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30.Originally published on Live Science.
Soggy New Orleans looks warily at more rain, possible floods JANET McCONNAUGHEY State Of Emergency Declared In New OrleansNEW ORLEANS (AP) — With debris from last weekend’s flash flood still piled up on sidewalks and their city under a state of emergency, New Orleans residents looked ahead warily on Friday to the prospect of more rain to tax the city’s malfunctioning pump system.The city scrambled to repair fire-damaged equipment at a power plant and shore up its drainage system less than a week after a flash flood from torrential rain overwhelmed the city’s pumping system and inundated many neighborhoods.Annie Hutchins says she’s „traumatized” every time she sees clouds in the sky since an Aug. 5 flood. She had to walk through knee-high water to get to her house in the Treme neighborhood.”It’s a little bit unnerving that we were told everything was working, and the next day the story was a little bit different, and then the next day the story was a lot different,” she said. „I’m the kind of person that trusts anyone until they prove otherwise. So, I don’t feel like I have a lot of reason to trust what I’m being told anymore.”A control panel on one of two working turbines had been fixed by Friday morning, but the system remains well below full power, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a morning news conference. The turbine powers some of the city’s pumps.”We remain at risk until additional turbines are back up,” Landrieu said, adding that he hopes that will happen by the end of the month. Still, he said, „Panic is not where we need to be right now.”He said the latest to go offline will be powered up over 24 hours. Meanwhile, Landrieu said, 26 generators have been ordered and will remain through hurricane season.He also said a location was being set up Friday for residents to get sandbags should they want to take the extra precaution of sandbagging their homes.Schools closed for the week, and the mayor urged residents to park their cars on high ground.Gov. John Bel Edwards described his emergency declaration Thursday as a precautionary measure.The National Weather Service forecast a 60 percent chance of rain Friday, primarily during the late morning and afternoon, with a chance that heavy rainfall could lead to more flooding.The city’s infrastructure had been crumbling for years before the devastation unleashed in 2005 by levee breaches in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. The federal government earmarked billions of dollars for repairs and upgrades after the hurricane, but the problems have persisted.Streets are pockmarked with potholes and sinkholes. The city’s water system has been plagued by leaks from broken pipes and power outages leading to boil water advisories.New Orleans’ municipal pumping system is supposed to move water out of the low-lying city. Having the system crippled in August, the middle of hurricane season, could not come at a worse time for New Orleans.But officials feared that even a common thunderstorm would test the system’s reduced capacity.”With great prayer and a lot of hard work, hopefully we’ll be OK,” the mayor said.Earlier this week, city officials and spokespeople had said repeatedly that all 24 pumping stations were working at full capacity.But the system failed to keep up with a storm that dropped 9.4 inches (24 centimeters) of rain in three hours. While that was considerably more than the system is designed for, even when everything is working, it turned out the system was malfunctioning.City Council members were then told that pumping stations in two of the hardest-hit areas went down to half to two-thirds capacity Saturday, news outlets reported.”It is unacceptable that the public was not only uninformed, but misinformed as to our drainage system functionality during the flood,” Council Member LaToya Cantrell said in a statement.Cedric Grant, one of the mayor’s top deputies and head of the Sewerage & Water Board, told the City Council on Tuesday that he would retire at the end of hurricane season, which lasts through November.Public Works Director Mark Jernigan submitted his resignation shortly after the council meeting, when he was asked whether his agency had done enough to clean the catch basins that feed the drainage system._Associated Press writer Michael Kunzelman reported from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
U.S. With 8 threatening volcanoes, USGS says California deserves close monitoring
Science A large wildfire has been burning in Greenland for more than a week, and wait, what?!? Andrew Freedman,Mashable Thu, Aug 10 9:22 AM PDTIf shrubbery and peatlands catch on fire on a sparsely populated island that’s synonymous with snow and ice, will anyone notice? The answer, thanks to satellite monitoring, is an unequivocal „yes.” During the past several days, scientists have been keeping close tabs on an unusually large wildfire in southwest Greenland, about 90 miles northeast of the town of Sisimiut. This is one of at least two fires currently burning in Greenland.SEE ALSO: Nuclear war with North Korea ‘would be suicidal’, climate experts warnWhile fires are not unheard of along the ice-free edges of the island, the large one near Sisimiut is noteworthy for its size and duration, scientists say. Wildfires in Greenland are outpacing past years in terms of the number of satellite-detected incidents.The current fire is the largest wildfire spotted in Greenland since a NASA satellite instrument was turned on in 2002. While most of Greenland is covered by snow and ice, the edges of the island are covered by grasses, shrubs, mosses, and other vegetation that, when sufficiently dry, can burn. According to NASA, satellites first detected evidence of the fire on July 31, 2017. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument and the Suomi NPP satellite’s instruments collected daily images of smoke streaming from the fire over the next week. An analysis from Stef Lhermitte of the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands suggests that NASA’s MODIS instrument has spotted more wildfire activity in Greenland in 2017 than it has during any other year since the sensor began collecting data in 2000. The fire may be burning through peat, which would make it particularly destructive, since peatlands store large amounts of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane. It is not clear what triggered the fire, though it may have been human-caused since hunting and fishing are popular at this time of year.Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute, said the fire is occurring in an area „popular with hunters.” „I spoke to a Greenlandic journalist today who had spoken to the fire service, they have apparently also suggested the two [fires] currently burning are most likely human-caused fires,” Mottram said in an email. She also suspects it’s a peat fire, saying: „I have not been to this area, but it seems very likely it is a peatland area given other locations I’ve visited.” The area where the large fire is burning has been drier than average this year, with much less precipitation than usual in July, for example. Mottram hesitated to blame the fire on any climate change trends, though the Arctic is warming rapidly thanks to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. „It’s an arid area – and these low rainfall periods happen,” she said. „We can say that the mean temperatures in Greenland have been increasing though, based on observations.”Jason Box, a climate scientist who also closely studies the Greenland Ice Sheet, said the ongoing fires „are not abnormal,” but that the increase in shrubbery in the Arctic is a climate change-related trend that provides more fuel for fires to burn. ESA EarthObservation @ESA_EO#Greenland has fallen victim to a large #wildfire since the end of July. @CopernicusEU #Sentinel2, 3 combinations: http://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/Images/2017/08/Greenland_wildfire … pic.twitter.com/Kk3B0zVP7Q FollowESA EarthObservation @ESA_EO#Greenland #wildfire on 8 August – 3 #Sentinel2 data combinations: 1. natural colours, 2. highlighting the flames, 3. showing burnt areas. pic.twitter.com/6SepBduxDg · GreenlandBox said that studies have shown that there could be a „sharp increase in fire probability with increasing summer temperature,” and that fire frequency is expected to increase as global warming continues.Scientists are currently deployed across the Greenland ice sheet during the field campaign season, trying to get a better handle on how much of the ice sheet is going to melt, and how quickly, since this will help determine the fate of coastal cities worldwide from sea level rise. Interestingly, this summer has been unusually cold for a large part of Greenland. At the Summit Station on top of the ice sheet, a record low temperature for July was set on the 4th, when the temperature dipped to minus-30 degrees Celsius, or minus-22 degrees Fahrenheit. Then on July 28, the temperature climbed to 1.9 degrees Celsius, or 35 degrees Fahrenheit. The wildfire near Sisimiut began during that period of mild weather, illustrating the link between temperatures and wildfire. WATCH: Summer 2017 feels like it’s on steroids – and it’s only going to get worse
U.S. Nightmare Safari: Grandmother Attacked and Killed by Hippo During Family Vacation