Scorching Heat Melts Highway in Australia
Extreme weather is blasting opposite ends of the globe.
According to the New York Times, triple-digit temperatures reached “life-threatening levels" over the weekend in many parts of the continent:
"Penrith, a suburb of Sydney, reached 47.3 degrees Celsius on Sunday, or just over 117 degrees Fahrenheit. It was the hottest day on record in Penrith, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales, and the hottest anywhere in the Sydney area since 1939, when a temperature of 47.8 degrees—118 degrees Fahrenheit—set a record that still stands.
At 40.1 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit, Melbourne, 550 miles southwest, was comfortable only by comparison."
On Friday in the Australian state of Victoria, with temperatures hitting 104 degrees Fahrenheit, traffic slowed to a crawl due to melting tar on a six-mile stretch of the Hume Highway in Broadford.
The heat caused the asphalt to become "soft and sticky" and the road's surface to bleed, a spokeswoman for VicRoads, which manages the state's road systems, explained to Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Traffic at a stand still on the Hume outside Broadfoard due to melting tar @7NewsMelbourne @Y7News https://t.co/mUocn6vzmN— Steph Harris (@Steph Harris)1515122604.0
"This heat is a killer," Victoria ambulance commander Paul Holman warned, adding that the heat was “like a blast furnace" and residents should stay indoors.
Similarly, last year, a devastating heat wave in New Delhi also melted roads after temperatures neared 122 degrees Fahrenheit.
The heat in Australia—as well as the “bomb cyclone" in the U.S.—comes as 2017 earned the dubious distinction of Earth's second-hottest year on record. Signs of climate change include devastating wildfires to diminishing Arctic ice, the Copernicus Climate Change Service, a European Union monitoring center, noted. This follows 2016, when Earth's surface temperatures were officially the hottest since record-keeping began in 1880.
"It's striking that 16 of the 17 warmest years have all been this century," Jean-Noel Thepaut, head of Copernicus, told Reuters, noting the scientific consensus that man-made emissions has exacerbated climate change.
Experts say that unusually cold weather does not disprove global warming. Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe pointed out that the record snowfall in the lakefront city of Erie, Pa. late last month could be explained by warmer temperatures increasing the risk of lake-effect snow.
But President Donald Trump, who famously asserted that climate change was "created" by the Chinese to hurt U.S manufacturing, tweeted recently that the bitter cold East Coast "could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming."
"In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year's Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against," Trump tweeted while vacationing in Palm Beach, Florida. "Bundle up!"
In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old G… https://t.co/tCjF8xdXep— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1514505707.0
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.