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Climate Change Could Increase 'Whiplash' Between Wet and Dry Years in California, Leading to More Disasters
California has had a rough eight years. From 2010 to 2016, it endured the worst drought in its recorded history. Then, massive rainfall in 2016 and 2017 forced 18,000 Californians to evacuate their homes as the emergency spillway of the Oroville Dam was threatened due to erosion. Summer 2017 also saw the worst wildfire in the state's history.
Researchers used the Community Earth System Model Large Ensemble of climate models and found that, if carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise through 2100, extreme dry-to-wet transitions could double, AFP reported Monday.
Researchers referred to a transition like 2016's as a "precipitation whiplash" and found that such whiplashes would be two times more common in southern California and 1.25 times more common in northern California, CNN reported.
According to CNN, while precipitation averages were not projected to change, individual extremely wet years would be 2.5 times more likely by 2100 and the number of dry sequences would increase from 80 to 140 percent during the same time.
But researchers said it was the "whiplash" between extremes that was particularly dangerous. This is partly because infrastructures such as dams and reservoirs, which California uses to safeguard against droughts, "become a liability during very wet years, when we need as much room to spare in reservoirs to maintain flood control," study lead author and University of California, Los Angeles climate scientist Daniel Swain told CNN.
"In a place like California, we really need to be thinking about both risks [drought and flood] simultaneously," Swain said.
The study indicates more disasters to come for the beleaguered state. It calculated the chance that California would see another incident like the Great Flood of 1862, in which 40 days of rainfall filled the Central Valley with enough water to submerge the millions of homes now located in Los Angeles, Orange County, the Bay Area and Sacramento Valley. The study found that equally intense storms would be five times more likely by the end of the century and that at least one such event was likely to impact major cities by 2060.
On the other extreme, "whiplash" transitions from wet to dry make wildfires more likely, as the vegetation increased by heavy rainfall dries out. Dry-to-wet transition years can also increase the risk of mudslides, CNN reported.
"This is a very important step forward in the climate community," University of Oklahoma assistant meteorology professor Jason Furtado, who was not involved with the research, told CNN.
"We are recognizing that the impacts of climate change are not just on long time scales but are also present in short-term, high-impact weather events," Furtado said.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.