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21 Dead, 62,000 Displaced in Deadliest Flooding to Swamp Jakarta in Years

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21 Dead, 62,000 Displaced in Deadliest Flooding to Swamp Jakarta in Years
Citizens' activities during flood conditions in the residential and commercial areas of Kampung Pulo, Jatinegara, Jakarta, Jan. 2. Dasril Roszandi / NurPhoto / Getty Images

At least 21 people have died in some of the deadliest flooding to swamp Jakarta in years, according to the latest report from Reuters.


Unusually heavy rain began to fall in and around the Indonesian capital Dec. 31, 2019: 377 millimeters (approximately 14.8 inches) were recorded New Year's Eve at an East Jakarta airport by the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG). That's the highest rainfall tally for a single day since records began in 1996, BBC News reported.

"This rain is not ordinary rain," the BMKG said in a statement reported by The Jakarta Post.

The BMKG said the extreme rainfall was caused by the combination of a monsoon and the fact that warmer Indian Ocean temperatures south of Java had allowed more water vapor to accumulate in the atmosphere.

The climate crisis generally is causing more extreme rainfall because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture and because more water is evaporating off the ocean, The Climate Reality Project explained. Jakarta is also especially vulnerable to flooding because it is the fastest sinking city in the world: a combination of sea level rise and land sinking caused by the drilling of groundwater wells and the weight of its buildings means much of North Jakarta could be underwater by 2050. Because of this, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced plans to relocate the capital last year.

The current New Year's flooding has displaced more than 62,000 people in Jakarta alone, according to Reuters.

"It has not flooded for so long here. We didn't have the chance to bring anything," 52-year-old evacuee Umar Dani told Reuters. "I have to live on the streets now."

The extreme weather also cut power and disrupted train service. Floodwaters swamped the runway at Jakarta's Halim Perdana Kusumah domestic airport, closing it and stranding around 19,000 people, Al Jazeera reported.

The death toll is the highest for flooding since 2013, BBC News reported. The victims, aged between eight and 82, died from hypothermia, drowning and landslides. One 16-year-old boy, Arviqo Alif Ardana, was electrocuted, Al Jazeera reported.

"I did not know what had happened until his younger brother came and told me that his brother had died and when I came to the scene, people said that my child was electrocuted when he was holding a lamp post and tried to be rescued by local residents (but failed and died)," his father, Al-Latif Ilyas Darmawan, said.

Widodo told reporters Thursday that evacuations and safety precautions would be prioritized, Reuters reported. He also said on Twitter that flood mitigation projects had been delayed since 2017 because of problems with land acquisition.

Heavy rains are expected to last until Jan. 7, according to Indonesia's Cabinet Secretary. But Dwikorita Karnawati, head of the geophysics agency, told reporters rains could fall until mid February.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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