2018: A Year of Deadly Climate Disasters and an 'Ear Splitting Wake-Up Call'
2018 is set to rank as the fourth warmest year on record—and the fourth year in a row reflecting a full degree Celsius (1.8° Fahrenheit) temperature rise from the late 1800s, climate scientists say.
This was the year that introduced us to fire tornadoes, bomb cyclones and in Death Valley, a five-day streak of 125°F temperatures, part of the hottest month ever documented at a U.S. weather station.
2018 also brought the world's highest-ever low temperature, as nighttime temperatures fell to a sizzling 109°F in Quiryat, Oman, on June 28, smashing a 2011 record-high low.
A startling 95 percent of the oldest and thickest Arctic sea ice is now gone—and we're losing Arctic ice at a rate of 14,000 tons per second, according to recent research, three times as fast as roughly three decades ago.
It was a year notable both for its overwhelming, climate-fueled impacts as well as its gut-wrenching predictions for what climate change still has in store for us if we fail to act. So much happened, frankly, that it's been hard to keep it all straight.
Actively eroding coastal permafrost bluff on Barter Island, located on the northern coast of Alaska, July 3, 2018 Shawn Harrison, U.S. Geological Survey
The year delivered increasingly powerful warnings from scientists and international agencies about the need to shift away from fossil fuels and slash greenhouse gas emissions. In the U.S., 2018 saw a presidential administration and Republican-controlled Congress packed with politicians and administrators who refuse to recognize the scientific consensus that the climate is changing because of fossil fuel pollution and other human activities.
(How strong is that consensus? We've known for years that the probability that greenhouse gas pollution is causing climate change is more than 95 percent—and that's according to a panel of 1,300 scientific experts from all over the world who were brought together by the United Nations.)
In fact, in 2018, the Trump administration's own U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published a 1,656 page National Climate Assessment, which warns of hundreds of billions of dollars in damage on the horizon from climate change.
The Trump administration sought to bury that report—but it couldn't bury a UN report, published in October, which warned that we have 12 years to slash greenhouse gas emissions worldwide if we're to stave off the worst impacts of a changing climate.
"This report by the world's leading climate scientists is an ear-splitting wake-up call to the world," UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote in a statement. "It confirms that climate change is running faster than we are—and we are running out of time."
The new @IPCC_ch report is a wake-up call to the world: it confirms that climate change is running faster than we a… https://t.co/FRjtlAsCmv— António Guterres (@António Guterres)1539041730.0
Greenhouse gas emissions had climbed to a record high in 2017, after a three-year period where carbon emissions held relatively steady. Levels of methane, another powerful greenhouse gas, also broke records in 2017, following a relatively steady period of recorded global levels from 1999 to 2006.
"We are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes," added Panmao Zhai, who helped prepare the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report for the UN.
Indeed, 2018 brought some of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history—many of them linked to climate change, scientists have said.
In November, Paradise, California suffered a horrific wildfire that killed at least 85, destroyed 14,000 homes and seared images of traffic jams on roads surrounded by walls of fire into the minds of millions, as those fleeing posted terrifying videos of their escapes online.
Escaping the 'Camp Fire' in Butte County youtu.be
In southern California, the Woolsey Fire near Malibu killed three and burned 1,600 buildings, including homes belonging to Neil Young, Miley Cyrus and other celebrities, and leaving a dark scar visible from outer space in NASA images.
"California is vulnerable—not because of poor forest management as DT (our so-called president) would have us think," Neil Young wrote in a statement calling for action on climate change after his home was destroyed. "We are vulnerable because of Climate Change; the extreme weather events and our extended drought is part of it."
The Camp Fire was the most deadly wildfire in the U.S. in a century, spurred by a long-running drought and the spread of tree-killing bark beetles into newly warming regions—which together left 129 million dead trees in the parched state.
Dead trees along a mountain road in the Sequoia National Forest in November 2016U.S. Forest Service
But while some in Paradise plan to rebuild, to literally raise their town from ashes, a less-noticed piece of the U.S. was more permanently wiped off the map. An 11-acre Hawaiian island virtually disappeared below the waves, the victim of sea level rise and Hurricane Walaka.
California was hardly the only place to experience extraordinary wildfires in 2018. The Mallard Fire in Texas in May grew so hot that it formed its own pyrocumulous clouds, or fire clouds, which caused a supercell thunderstorm and one-inch hail north of Wheeler, Texas.
And in July, wildfires burned inside the Arctic Circle following an unprecedented drought, with locals in Sweden comparing the glow from the blaze to the Northern Lights. Horrific wildfires also burned across Greece in July, killing 100 people and forcing hundreds more to flee into the sea to escape the fire.
A #firenado came dangerously close to these emergency vehicles as they battle the Carr fire near Redding, Californi… https://t.co/Ldkky1Sh3a— CNN Weather Center (@CNN Weather Center)1532695429.0
The year began with the Montecito mudslides on Jan. 9, which killed 27 Californians and destroyed 130 homes, after a 200-year rainstorm dumped a half inch of rain in just five minutes onto steep slopes which were stripped barren of vegetation by the Thomas wildfire, which in early January became—at the time—the largest wildfire in California's history. That one-two punch bore the fingerprints of a changing climate.
"It wasn't just the drought; it wasn't just the fire; it wasn't just the rain. It was the compound effect," Leah Stokes, a climate policy researcher at UC Santa Barbara, told The Independent in January, discussing the Montecito disaster. "Climate change causes all kinds of abnormal events—you can really think of it as 'climate disruption' or 'global weirding.'"
Flooding and Hurricanes
2018 saw an unusually high number of violent storms, particularly in the Pacific, which saw "the most intense hurricane season ever recorded," according to Popular Science, including 10 storms that reached Category 4 or 5.
Climate scientists proposed the creation of a "Category 6" for hurricanes more powerful than any yet seen. "Scientifically, [six] would be a better description of the strength of 200 mph (320km/h) storms, and it would also better communicate the well-established finding now that climate change is making the strongest storms even stronger," climatologist Michael Mann told CBS News.
The Atlantic coast was hit by two of the most devastating storms to hit the continental U.S., following a 2017 in whic three Category Four storms, Harvey, Irma and Maria, smashed all records for hurricane damage and did over $300 billion in damage.
A year after Maria, Puerto Rico was still recovering, and the official death toll was recognized this year as 3,057 people—after Governor Ricardo Rossello accepted a report raising the number of recognized deaths from 64.
This year's worst Atlantic hurricanes, Michael and Florence, left much of the southern U.S. underwater at points.
Michael, America's strongest-ever October hurricane, carried sustained winds of 155 miles an hour and struck the Florida panhandle, flattening towns like Mexico Beach.
HURRICANE MICHAEL'S WRATH: Stunning drone footage shows the cleanup in Mexico Beach, Florida, after the storm ravag… https://t.co/uoPGUCly1d— CBS News (@CBS News)1539551429.0
Florence, meanwhile, spurred officials to call for the evacuation of more than 1 million people, then left parts of the Carolinas flooded for weeks, after it slowed to a crawl and deluged more than 8 trillion gallons of water into the region.
"When people say the wildfires, hurricanes and heatwaves they're experiencing are unlike anything they've seen before," Brenda Ekwurzel, director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement in November, "there's a reason for that and it's called climate change."
Even before Florence hit, one study found that the storm would be 50 miles wider, and dump 50 percent more rain, because of the impacts of burning fossil fuels and other greenhouse gas pollution.
Heatwaves and Noreasters
The year started with a prolonged run of winter storms in the Northeastern U.S., including winter storms dubbed Riley, Quinn, Skylar and Toby, which some researchers warned may have been tied to climate change—showing just how inapt the term "global warming" can be. When the jet stream began to wobble, it allowed cold air that would normally be trapped over the Arctic to make its way down to the continental U.S.—making the weather warmer up north and colder farther south.
The cold spell was so pronounced in New York and southern Canada that Niagara Falls froze on New Year's Day.
That freezing weather was followed by a summer heatwave that prompted heat warnings for 100 million Americans in the summer, and caused 93 deaths in Montreal.
More than 30,000 people were hospitalized in Japan for heatstroke as summer temps soared there as well.
And while droughts hit hard in Germany, drying up the Rhine river, Baltimore, Maryland has seen nearly 70 inches of rain. A flash flood in Ellicott City, Maryland, swept away cars as roadways abruptly became rivers.
Flash flooding hits Ellicott City, Maryland youtu.be
"The evidence, if we needed any more, continues to stack up. The record-high heatwaves, record-low Arctic sea ice, above average tropical cyclones and deadly wildfires are an alarm bell impossible to ignore," Jens Mattias Clausen, who represented Greenpeace at the UN COP24 climate talks in Poland, told The Guardian this month. "It's no longer our future that is in peril; our today is at risk."
9 #Renewable Energy Highlights of 2018 https://t.co/roGl0U14Jq https://t.co/RfjHi9UkmK— Clean Coalition (@Clean Coalition)1545966304.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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