Stay tuned this week as I review the year's social, environmental and economic events that have impacted human health and the environment. I begin by reviewing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) report, State of the Climate Global Analysis, that provides global weather data for November 2011.
According to NOAA, all around the globe there were warming trends throughout the month of November making it the 12th warmest November since record keeping began in 1880. China, Western Australia, Eastern Africa, Colombia and Italy experienced extreme, heavy rains. Australia experienced its wettest November since 1975 and second wettest November since records began in 1900. Colombia's heavy rain resulted in a deadly mudslide in the city of Manizales and about 250,000 people were affected by the rains and floods.
Also in November, Mexico experienced dry conditions, the worst in 70 years that affected nearly 70 percent of the country, and Germany was the driest since national records began in 1881. Norway experienced its warmest November since national records began in 1900, the Northeastern U.S. had above average temperatures in September and November after experiencing one of its wettest falls on record, and the United Kingdom had its second warmest November since 1994.
The most powerful storm since 1974 broke out in the Bering Sea and Hurricane Kenneth was the strongest late-season hurricane ever experienced in the Eastern North Pacific basin.
Arctic sea ice extent was the third smallest on record for November at 11.5 percent below average. Additionally, La Niña conditions continued throughout the month and are expected to continue through the winter.
The NOAA report detailed the following:
Global temperature highlights: November
- The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for November 2011 was the 12th warmest on record at 55.81 F (13.35 C), which is 0.81 F (0.45 C) above the 20th century average of 55.0 F (12.9 C). The margin of error associated with this temperature is +/- 0.13 F (0.07 C).
- Separately, the global land surface temperature was 1.10 F (0.61 C) above the 20th century average of 42.6 F (5.9 C), making this the 16th warmest November on record and the coolest month since February 2011. The margin of error is +/- 0.20 F (0.11 C). Warmer-than-average conditions occurred across central and eastern North America, Northern and Western Europe, northern Russia, most of China and the Middle East, southeastern Australia, and southern South America. Cooler-than-average regions included Alaska, western Canada, much of Eastern Europe, Kazakhstan, and southwestern Russia.
- The November global ocean surface temperature was 0.70 F (0.39 C) above the 20th century average of 60.4 F (15.8 C), making it the 12th warmest November on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.07 F (0.04 C). The warmth was most pronounced across the north central and northwest Pacific, the Labrador Sea, and portions of the mid-latitude Southern oceans.
- November 2011 marks the 321st consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last month with below average temperatures was February 1985.
Global temperature highlights: September – November
- The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the September - November period was 0.94 F (0.52 C) above the 20th century average of 57.1 F (14.0 C), making it the 12th warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.16 F (0.09 C).
- The September - November worldwide land surface temperature was 1.57 F (0.87 C) above the 20th century average, the seventh warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.31 F (0.17 C). The global ocean surface temperature for the year to date was 0.70 F (0.39 C) above the 20th century average and was the 12th warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/-0.07 F (0.04 C).
Global temperature highlights: Year to date
- The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January - November period was 0.94 F (0.52 C) above the 20th century average of 57.2 F (14.0 C), making it the 11th warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.16 F (0.09 C).
- The January - November worldwide land surface temperature was 1.51 F (0.84 C) above the 20th century average, the seventh warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.36 F (0.20 C). The global ocean surface temperature for the year to date was 0.74 F (0.41 C) above the 20th century average and was the 11th warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/-0.05 F (0.03 C).
Polar sea ice and precipitation highlights
- The average Arctic sea ice extent during November was 11.5 percent below average, ranking as the third smallest November extent since satellite records began in 1979. The extent was 502,000 square miles (1.3 million square kilometers) below average. This marks the 18th consecutive November and 126th consecutive month with below-average Arctic sea ice extent.
- On the opposite pole, the Antarctic sea ice extent during November was 0.5 percent below average, the 11th smallest on record. This is the first November since 2002 with below-average Antarctic ice extent.
- Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent was much-above average during November with the 4th largest November snow cover extent in the 46-year period of record. Both the North American and Eurasian land areas had above-average snow cover extents.
- Much of Europe experienced extreme dryness during November. Both Germany and Austria reported their driest Novembers on record. Much-wetter-than-normal conditions occurred across parts of South Asia and northeast Africa.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.
Scientists, researchers and leaders in government and industry use NOAA’s monthly reports to help track trends and other changes in the world's climate. This climate service has a wide range of practical uses, from helping farmers know what and when to plant, to guiding resource managers with critical decisions about water, energy and other vital assets.
Typhoon Molave is expected to make landfall in Vietnam on Wednesday with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding and landslides, according to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the powerful storm that already tore through the Philippines, Vietnam is making plans to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people along the central coast, as Reuters reported.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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