A weather research station on a bluff overlooking the sea is closing down because of the climate crisis.
The National Weather Service (NWS) station in Chatham, Massachusetts was evacuated March 31 over concerns the entire operation would topple into the ocean.
"We had to say goodbye to the site because of where we are located at the Monomoy Wildlife Refuge, we're adjacent to a bluff that overlooks the ocean," Boston NWS meteorologist Andy Nash told WHDH at the time. "We had to close and cease operations there because that bluff has significantly eroded."
Chatham is located on the elbow of Cape Cod, a land mass extending out into the Atlantic Ocean that has been reshaped and eroded by waves and tides over tens of thousands of years, The Guardian explained. However, sea level rise and extreme weather caused by the climate crisis have sped that change along.
"It's an extremely dynamic environment, which is obviously a problem if you are building permanent infrastructure here," Andrew Ashton, an associate scientist at Cape-Cod based Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told The Guardian. "We are putting our foot on the accelerator to make the environment even more dynamic."
This was the case with the Chatham weather station. It used to be protected from the drop into the ocean by about 100 feet of land. However, storm action in 2020 alone washed away as much as six feet of land a day.
"We'd know[n] for a long time there was erosion but the pace of it caught everyone by surprise," Nash told The Guardian. "We felt we had maybe another 10 years but then we started losing a foot of a bluff a week and realized we didn't have years, we had just a few months. We were a couple of storms from a very big problem."
The Chatham station was part of a network of 92 NWS stations that monitor temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed and direction and other data in the upper atmosphere, The Cape Cod Chronicle explained. The stations send up radiosondes attached to weather balloons twice a day to help with weather research and prediction. The Chatham station, which had been observing this ritual for the past half a century, sent up its last balloon the morning of March 31.
"We're going to miss the observations," Nash told The Cape Cod Chronicle. "It gives us a snapshot, a profile of the atmosphere when the balloons go up."
The station was officially decommissioned April 1, and the two buildings on the site will be demolished sometime this month. The NWS is looking for a new location in southeastern New England. In the meantime, forecasters will rely on data from stations in New York and Maine.
Nash said the leavetaking was bittersweet, but inevitable.
"[M]other nature is evicting us," he told The Cape Cod Chronicle.
About 70% of the buildings in Kalbarri were damaged and tens of thousands are without power by winds gusting over 100 miles per hour. Climate change, caused by humans' extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, is making cyclonic storms more extreme by increasing air and ocean temperatures, which effectively supercharges the storms.
"You just thought, this is it. I would have thought that when we opened the door, that there would be nothing around us except that roof," Kalbarri resident Debbie Major told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "We are a small town. Half of it has been flattened." Seroja devastated regions of Indonesia and Timor-Leste last week, where it triggered deadly flash floods and landslides.
#CycloneSeroja: homes & units before & after the cyclone hit #Kalbarri, 170kmh gusts causing major damage. #7NEWS https://t.co/WYFL2QOlwB— Paul Kadak (@Paul Kadak)1618186830.0
For a deeper dive:
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Climate change, the coronavirus pandemic, and growing inequality will exacerbate global volatility over the coming decades, a report by top U.S. intelligence officials released Thursday warns.
The Global Trends report, released every four years by the National Intelligence Council, predicted the impacts of climate change – rising temperatures, intensifying extreme weather and droughts that increase food insecurity, health risks, and conflict – would accelerate the trend of massive migration, and with it, global instability.
COVID, the report said, exposed the fragility of the world order, worsening "more and cascading global challenges, ranging from disease to climate change to the disruptions from new technologies and financial crises," the authors wrote.
"The international system – including the organizations, alliances, rules, and norms – is poorly set up to address the compounding global challenges facing populations."
Under the best-case scenario, democracies would take advantage of the opportunity to use pandemic recovery efforts to reorient national and international priorities toward solutions that would plan and adapt for climate change and other crises.
Unfortunately, said Maria Langan-Reikhof, the director of the council's strategic futures group, "greater divisions, increasing fracturing… [are] likely to continue and probably worsen."
For a deeper dive:
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By Kenny Stancil
The concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide surged past 420 parts per million for the first time in recorded history this past weekend, according to a measurement taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii.
When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) research station "began collecting CO2 measurements in the late 1950s, atmospheric CO2 concentration sat at around 315 PPM," the Washington Post reported. "On Saturday, the daily average was pegged at 421.21 PPM—the first time in human history that number has been so high."
Climate activist Greta Thunberg took notice of NOAA's most recent data on CO2 levels. She described the first-ever documented eclipse of 420 PPM of CO2 in Earth's atmosphere as "truly groundbreaking."
Is this is confirmed, then it is truly groundbreaking to say the least. And I don’t mean that in a good way... https://t.co/vwFOENLcWQ— Greta Thunberg (@Greta Thunberg)1617619321.0
Exceeding 420 PPM of the heat-trapping gas "is a disconcerting milestone in the human-induced warming of the planet, around the halfway point on our path toward doubling preindustrial CO2 levels," the Post noted, adding:
There is special significance in reaching and surpassing a concentration of 416 PPM. It means we've passed the midpoint between preindustrial CO2 levels, around 278 PPM, and a doubling of that figure, or 556 PPM.
The record of 421 PPM reached Saturday is just a single point and occurred as CO2 levels are nearing their yearly peak. But the levels over the past two months, of more than 417 PPM, signal that the annual average concentration is likely to exceed 416 PPM.
While the growing concentration of atmospheric CO2—which increases the global average temperature and the number and severity of extreme weather events—is a long-term trend that corresponds with the rise of fossil fuel-powered capitalism, it has accelerated particularly rapidly since the 1970s.
CO2 concentration at the Mauna Loa Observatory reached a daily record of 421.21 Parts Per Million (PPM) on April 3.… https://t.co/2KYjC8IntE— Steve Bowen (@Steve Bowen)1617640923.0
The doubling of atmospheric CO2 is expected to increase Earth's temperature by 2.6 to 4.1ºC above preindustrial averages, a level of planetary heating that would "rul[e] out more modest warming scenarios," as the Post noted.
"Even if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were to plummet overnight, the planet would continue warming for years to come," the Post added. That's because, as Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at the Breakthrough Institute in California, told the newspaper: "The amount of warming that the world is experiencing is a result of all of our emissions since the industrial revolution—not just our emissions in the last year."
As the Post reported, CO2 isn't the only GHG with "worrying trends." Emissions of methane and sulfur hexafluoride have spiked, too.
Although methane doesn't remain in the atmosphere as long as CO2, it absorbs heat much more effectively, which means that it greatly exacerbates the climate crisis. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, methane is 84 times more potent than CO2 in the first two decades after its release.
Here's the Post on sulfur hexafluoride, a GHG that "results from the production of insulators used on electrical grids [and] also reached all-time records of 10 parts per trillion":
While its concentration remains orders of magnitude more dilute than that of most other major greenhouse gases, its rate of increase in the atmosphere has doubled since 2003.
Sulfur hexafluoride is also thousands of times more potent—a single molecule can cause 23,900 times more warming than a molecule of CO2. And a single molecule of sulfur hexafluoride can stick around in the atmosphere for more than three millennia.
While the Paris climate agreement seeks to limit the rise in annual mean global temperature to 1.5°C above preindustrial averages by the end of the 21st century, the World Meteorological Organization warned last year that there is a 20% chance the world will hit or surpass that level of warming in at least one year by 2024.
"The science is clear," United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in December. "Unless the world cuts fossil fuel production by 6% every year between now and 2030, things will get worse. Much worse."
As forest ecologist Giorgio Matteucci tweeted Monday, "We have to act!"
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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The state's wildfire season got an early start thanks to an early snow melt, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. So far this year, more than 320 fires have scorched more than 1,500 acres, nearly reaching the total of 1,630.13 acres that were burned in all of 2020, according to the declaration.
"With nearly the entire state experiencing high or very high fire risk, protecting Wisconsinites from the destructive dangers of wildfires is a top priority," Evers said when announcing the order, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The emergency order gives the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which usually handles firefighting in the state, additional resources. It will now receive support from other state agencies, as well as the Wisconsin National Guard and their Black Hawk helicopters, the DNR noted in a press release.
The announcement comes three days after brush fire erupted in Menomonee Falls, forcing some people to evacuate their homes, WISN reported. The fires burned 400 acres of marshland, the largest single burn so far this year, but luckily all of the homes were spared. Only a deer stand burned down.
However, the dry and windy conditions that fueled those fires are expected to persist in the state, leading Evers to declare an emergency.
"[B]ased upon weather predictions from the National Weather Service, Wisconsin will experience a period of warmer temperatures, lower humidity, and high winds that can quickly ignite wildland and create rapidly spreading fires," the order read.
Dry leaves and grass are also fueling the flames, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The majority of counties are at high risk for fire, NBC News reported, and the DNR has suspended annual burning permits while asking people to avoid setting fires.
"To help us keep Wisconsinites safe, the DNR is asking you to avoid all outdoor burning including limiting the use of campfires and making sure to extinguish and dispose of cigarettes properly," the DNR said in its press release.
While wildfires can occur in Wisconsin any time of the year, the primary season runs from March until May, The New York Times reported. The state's wildfire risk may also be increasing because of the climate crisis. The group Climate Power 2020 told the Wisconsin Examiner that wildfires were becoming more common. While high humidity usually lessens fire risk, Wisconsin experienced two climate-related droughts between 2009 and 2016 that cost $45.9 billion in damages, and future droughts could increase fire danger.
Nationwide, the climate crisis is certainly driving fire risk; 2020 alone brought a devastating wildfire season to the Western U.S., NBC noted. However, this spring wildfires have taken off in the Upper Plains, Rockies, Great Lakes and Southwest.
"Fire season can be at any time," Bureau of Land Management Spokesperson Carrie Bilbao told NBC News. "We just don't really have those wet seasons consistently anymore."
By Sam Baker
What really makes this reporter's stomach churn thinking about climate change? Thawing permafrost. A scenario where it all melts, releasing copious amounts of CO2 and methane (it holds twice as much carbon as the atmosphere holds right now), and there's no going back.
But what's at the top of the list of concerns for those who study how climate change is unfolding – on ice sheets and urban street corners, in oceans and farm fields – the climate scientists themselves?
DW asked a dozen experts spanning climatology, entomology, oceanography and yes, permafrost research, what keeps them up at night when it comes to the climate.
The Greatest Unknown – People
Nana Ama Browne Klutse studies changing weather with climate models at the University of Ghana. While she says tipping points like permafrost thaw worry her, she also worries how individuals will handle changing climates.
"What can you do as an individual to avoid the impact of climate change?" she asked. "We need government policies for resilience, building of community, city resilience. Then we need that global action."
Climate scientist Ruth Mottram studies the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and sea level rise for the Danish Meteorological Institute, but it's not the science that worries her.
"I'm less concerned that there are unknown processes going on that we don't understand, and there could potentially be some unforeseen catastrophe on the way," she said. "We know what a lot of the impacts are going to be. I think what keeps me awake at night in a metaphorical sense is really the interaction between the physical system and how human societies are going to handle it."
Giving the example of sea level, she says we will see a meter rise this century — in our lifetimes or that of our children — and will have to make tough decisions about our coastal cities. But she says it won't end there.
"I think that human societies have not really grasped what that means and that adaptation to sea level rise is going to be a long process and we are going to be doing it for hundreds of years," said Mottram, suggesting that we start thinking in terms of the lifetimes of cities (hundreds of years) rather than just human lifetimes.
Protecting the Vulnerable
Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Permafrost Laboratory, said that while he thinks about how what happens in the Arctic will affect the rest of the world, his concerns are much more local.
"We should remember that there are still some people living in the Arctic," he said. Around 4 million people in fact who would have to deal with the real-life consequences of solid ground thawing beneath their feet and houses. "Changes in these local or regional kind of climates and environments, they impact these people and some of these impacts could be very severe."
Closer to the planet's other pole, Carolina Vera fears that existing inequalities will only be exacerbated by climate change.
"Climate change is already impacting the most vulnerable sectors of our planet," said Vera, who studies climate variability as a principal researcher for the National Council of Science of Argentina, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires and chief of staff for Argentina's Ministry of Science and Technology. Her work has led her to incorporate local knowledge and data collection into studies, involving communities that are balancing the problems of deforestation with their need to farm.
Heat and New Extremes
Perhaps not surprisingly, global heating is a key concern for many researchers, like Dim Coumou, who studies extreme weather at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Of most concern to him are heat and humidity extremes in the tropics – especially highly populated parts like West Africa, Pakistan and India – which will make it unbearable to be outside. When cooling down by sweating is no longer possible, people can't work outside and therefore can't grow food. The likely result being mass migration.
But it's not just the tropics.
Closely related to heat is the increase in extreme weather brought on by a warming climate. Coumou and his colleagues' research shows how changes to the jet stream will lead to more extreme weather in Europe, including floods and droughts.
This increase in extreme weather is climate scientist Abubakr Salih Babiker's biggest climate concern.
"A warmer atmosphere can hold more water in it and when it rains, it rains heavily leading to floods. A warmer ocean can lead to stronger tropical cyclones," said Babiker, who works for the East African Climate Center ICPAC in Nairobi. He explained that cyclones gain more energy from warmer water.
"We have seen evidence of all these events," he said. "The strongest tropical cyclones to impact the Arabian Peninsula, Somalia, and Mozambique occurred in the past 20 years!"
Science for Solutions
Pests, drought and flooding are on Esther Ngumbi's mind too.
An entomologist and professor of African American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she said that what keeps her up at night is the thought: "How can my science truly help?"
Ngumbi's work on pest and drought-resistant crops is driven by her concerns for vulnerable farmers who live in countries lacking social safety nets, where one season of crop devastation due to insects can mean going hungry and being unable to pay for their children's education.
"That truly makes me wake up every day and go to the lab to understand how my research can contribute to solutions that we need," she said.
Natasha Picone – an urban climatologist at the National University of Central Buenos Aires – says it's the solutions that occupy her thoughts too.
"With the pandemic, I realized that we are not doing enough for changing our cities to be more livable," she said. Her research informs urban planners about phenomena such as the urban heat island effect, air pollution and urban run-off that can lead to flooding. "If we don't change the path now, it will be really difficult to go back."
Weighing on the mind of oceanographer Renata Hanae Nagai at the University of Parana in Brazil is her four-year-old nephew and what his life will look like in a warmer world, but he also gives her hope. During a recent trip to the beach to watch nesting turtles, he warned others to leave the turtles alone.
She sees this same care in her students – learning about problems and coming up with solutions.
"People are the solution," she said. "We try, even under the hardest conditions."
'Scientists are Humans' Too
"For me, that's like morally totally unacceptable what they do – they lie," said the climate physicist from Maynooth University in Ireland, reflecting on encountering such people at public talks. "I mean, you can't argue with climate."
But this only pushes Caesar to better communicate what the science shows.
They Worry About Us
A common thread of this (rather unscientific) survey is that while we laypeople might be worrying about what the science says, climate scientists are often worrying about us.
"Scientists always think about what are the results of their studies, how are they important for, you know, for usual people, for normal people," the permafrost scientist told me. While doing his research, Romanovsky said he's always thinking about "how this could be used to make life of people easier or more predictable."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
Wildfires burned across the Midwest and Great Plains over the weekend as dry, windy conditions induced 'Red Flag' warnings across the Central Continental U.S.
The entire western portion of North Dakota faces either 'severe' or 'extreme drought' and the entire state is under a statewide fire emergency. On Saturday, shifting winds there destroyed a fire truck near Willison, about 100 miles north of Medora, which was forced to evacuate due to a separate fire last week.
"We're just getting started into a tough fire season," North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum warned Friday. Climate change makes wildfires worse by heating air temperatures and worsening droughts. Firefighters also battled a wildfire in Menomonee Falls, northwest of Milwaukee on Friday. A wildfire also forced evacuations of two towns near Topeka, Kansas, and another burned more than 300 acres at Indiana Dunes National Park.
For a deeper dive:
By Cameron Oglesby
Since 1960, about 21 percent of global agriculture production, including livestock, tree farming, and traditional crops such as corn and soybeans, has been negatively impacted by climate change, according to a new study.
In the research published Thursday in Nature Climate Change, agriculture production is defined not just as crop yields or the amount of food or livestock grown, but the overarching energy and input it takes to produce food. This includes manual labor, fertilizers, water, and land. Unsurprisingly, agriculture production worldwide has grown over the last 60 years as a result of improved technologies and greater efficiency, primarily in higher income countries.
But the new study provides the latest evidence that climate change — and the subsequent increase in droughts, flooding, and extreme heat — has held back agricultural gains and impeded global food security efforts.
"People don't yet realize that the climate has already changed," Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, a Cornell economist and lead author of the new study, told EHN. "That's not something that we often talk about, just about what the impacts will be 50 years from now."
Climate Change Wipes Out Improvements
Using models similar to those created by climatologists to predict future climate trends, Ortiz-Bobea and his team charted climate data between 1960 and 2020, and compared it to a model where human-caused climate change never occurred.
They compared the "total factor productivity" between models: how does actual agricultural productivity over time compare to what it could have been without climate change?
"Climate change has basically wiped out about seven years of improvements in agricultural productivity over the past 60 years," Ortiz-Bobea said in a statement.
In other words, if the world were to wave a magic wand and halt the planetary changes associated with greenhouse gas emissions and a warming climate, global agricultural production would have reached the level it is today back in 2013, said Ortiz-Bobea.
Ortiz-Bobea compared the situation to someone running with a strong wind at their front: As a runner attempts to make their way to the finish line, the wind is constantly pushing them back. They're making progress but it's slow compared to a windless day. In this scenario, climate change is the strong wind and the runner's progress is farm production growth.
He noted that if climate change gets worse, a growing possibility as countries fail to set commitments that meet Paris agreement targets, it's only a matter of time until agriculture production stalls. "[Climate change has] been happening for years, and as the magnitude keeps rising and rising it's going to get harder to ignore," he said
Ortiz-Bobea wasn't expecting such a significant difference in farm production between models with and without climate change. "I didn't even think that the result would be statistically significant," he said. "I was expecting something much smaller, something almost imperceptible. But no matter how we sliced the data or looked at different variations of the econometric model, it was pretty consistent that it's a substantial negative effect."
Developing Countries Suffer
The greatest climate impacts are seen in countries that are historically warmer such as those in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. As developing regions are often without the same technological advancement or management systems for agriculture, they face the greatest losses as unpredictable weather and warming events threaten crops and livestock. Ortiz-Bobea noted that this issue is as much an equity issue as it is an economic one.
The agriculture sector faces a unique problem in the way of climate change. Historically, the industry has relied on unsustainable practices that further greenhouse gas emissions. One example is in Brazil, where massive Amazon deforestation has taken place in an attempt to grow the country's economy around cattle and soybean farming. The transformation of forests, a crucial carbon sink, into crop lands also contributes to rises in atmospheric carbon levels.
In addition, increased global meat consumption and subsequent cattle production is a common source of methane emissions, a greenhouse gas about 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
So what is the best way to produce more food without contributing to a cycle of climate change?
Ortiz-Bobea said that the solution is in a mix of mitigation and adaptation. "Despite all the new, very exciting technologies that we are coming up with like CRISPR, they will still take decades to have an impact," she said. CRISPR is an increasingly popular technology that allows geneticists to modify DNA sequences and gene functions. Often touted as the solution to harmful birth defects in human genomes, conversations have arisen around the use of gene editing to increase food production for a rapidly growing population.
Ortiz-Bobea also highlighted the potential for soil-based strategies. "There are ways to increase soil health that allow soils to improve their water holding capacity, for example," he said. "And so that improves the crop yields and allows farmers to weather the storm, no pun intended there, while at the same time it helps capture carbon from the atmosphere."
Reposted with permission from Environmental Health News.
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Three wildfires raging in South Dakota have shuttered Mount Rushmore and forced hundreds to flee their homes.
The largest blaze is the Schroeder Fire, first reported at 9:22 a.m. Monday one mile west of Rapid City, according to a Facebook update. It has since spread to 1,900 acres and forced up to 500 people to flee their homes, the Rapid City Journal reported Monday evening. Authorities attributed the fire to human causes, but its spread to environmental factors.
"We are at record-dry conditions along with high winds playing a major factor in this fight," South Dakota Wildland Fire Division Director Jay Esperance said in the Facebook update.
Today's Schroeder Fire Pictures https://t.co/I4eMcpp8MU— penncofire (@penncofire)1617080041.0
As of the most recent update, there were 250 firefighters battling the flames. The fire has destroyed at least one home and two pole barns, the Pennington County Sheriff's Office confirmed on Facebook. No injuries have been reported, The Associated Press said.
Meanwhile, Mount Rushmore National Memorial was forced to close because of two other fires, the Keystone Fire and 244 Fire, CNN reported. The 244 fire is located 1.5 miles southwest of Keystone. It spread to around 75 acres as of Monday afternoon, according to the interagency website Great Plains Fire Information. The Keystone Fire has successfully been reduced from 30 to 15 acres as of 7 p.m. Monday, the website said.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said that the fires were not directly threatening Mount Rushmore, The New York Times reported. However, strong winds made the situation unstable.
"I do want to remind everybody that this is an incredibly fluid situation," CNN quoted Noem at a press conference. "That these winds are a major factor and that as they shift and change and we get those gusts, that's when the can jump and we're going to have to stay pretty mobile."
Parts of South Dakota are under a red flag warning for ideal fire conditions until 8 p.m. Tuesday, The New York Times reported. However, wind speeds are predicted to decrease on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Rapid City Journal reported.
"Humidity is going to be low so... we're going to stay dry, but the winds will be diminishing gradually so that's definitely good news," Matthew Bunkers, a National Weather Service Rapid City meteorologist, told the Rapid City Journal.
Wildfires are expected to become more frequent in South Dakota's Black Hills due to the climate crisis as temperatures rise and humidity declines, according to a study published in Ecology Evolution. South Dakota State Fire Meteorologist Darren Clabo told KOTA TV that this would have a profound impact on the state's landscape.
"I think the long-term effects of all these fires are there's going to be some places that have fundamental ecological shifts," Clabo said. "Which basically means that the ecosystems that are there currently aren't going to exist in those areas anymore, our climates shifted too far away from where those ecosystems can naturally exist and so I think we are going to start seeing some very large broad landscape-level changes out there."
Yet another study has confirmed the unprecedented impacts of the climate crisis: Sea levels along the eastern U.S. are rising at their fastest rate in 2,000 years.
Researchers led by a team at the University of Rutgers studied sea level rise at six sites along the Atlantic coast. They found that the rate of change between 1900 and 2000 was more than double the average for the period between year 0 and 1800, Rutgers Today reported.
"The increasing influence of the global component is the most significant change in the sea-level budgets at all six sites," the study authors wrote.
The research, published in Nature Communications on Tuesday, focused on sea level sites in Connecticut, New York City, North Jersey, South Jersey (Leeds Point and Cape May Courthouse) and North Carolina. The scientists examined sea-level budgets, which are the totality of regional, local and global factors that influence sea level change. Examples of regional factors include land subsidence, or sinking, while local factors include groundwater withdrawal, Rutgers Today explained. The study is the first to examine these factors across a large time frame at the Atlantic sites. Most sea level budget studies have only focused on the 20th and 21st centuries, and only on the global level.
The research found that the dominant force driving sea level change had shifted. During the totality of the 2,000 year period, land subsidence caused by the retreating Laurentide ice sheet drove the change.
However, in the last century, global forces took over.
"Where it used to be this regional land sinking being the dominant force, now it's this global component, which is driven by the ice melt and warming of the oceans," Jennifer S. Walker, lead author and Rutgers University-New Brunswick postdoctoral associate, told CNN.
Since 1950, the global climate crisis has driven 36 to 50 percent of sea level rise at all six sites, the authors determined.
The findings aren't only important for understanding the scale of the current crisis, but also for helping policymakers deal with its consequences. Rising sea levels can increase sunny-day floods and make storms such as 2012's Hurricane Sandy more extreme.
"The impacts from a big storm like that are just going to be exacerbated on top of (the rising seas)," Walker told CNN.
That is why the study chose to study individual locations across a wide period.
"Having a thorough understanding of sea-level change at sites over the long-term is imperative for regional and local planning and responding to future sea-level rise," Walker told Rutgers Today. "By learning how different processes vary over time and contribute to sea-level change, we can more accurately estimate future contributions at specific sites."
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At least five people have died in a tornado outbreak that roared across the U.S. South Thursday and Friday, destroying homes and downing power lines.
As many as eight tornadoes may have touched down in the state of Alabama on Thursday, Birmingham National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist John De Block told AL.com. One of them travelled around 100 miles across the state. The deadliest scythed diagonally through the rural Calhoun County.
"Five people lost their lives and for those families, it will never be the same," Calhoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade said at a Thursday evening briefing reported by The Associated Press.
Long lived supercell continues to produce a tornado in northern Calhoun County. Radar confirmed tornado will move j… https://t.co/YbpIBwDmXy— NWS Birmingham (@NWS Birmingham)1616702448.0
The tornadoes also caused injuries and extensive damage, including in the counties around Birmingham.
In the city of Pelham, 60 homes were damaged, 22 of them majorly, AL.com reported. Rick Partridge, who lives with his wife in the Cahaba Valleys Estates community in Pelham, said more than a dozen homes in the community were damaged or destroyed.
"It was horrible," Partridge said. "It didn't take 10 seconds."
The storms also wreaked havoc on an airport in Centreville.
"Airplanes strewn like toys, it was unreal," Centreville Mayor Mike Oakley told AL.com.
Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Brian Hastings estimated that the number of homes damaged or destroyed across the state was in the hundreds, as NPR reported. At the height of the storms, around 30,000 people were without power.
De Block said the Alabama tornadoes were part of a "super cell" that later moved on to Georgia. A tornado likely touched down in the city of Newman, which is located southwest of Atlanta, around midnight Friday, NPR reported. The storm downed power lines and knocked out power for around 5,000 people, according to The Associated Press. It damaged buildings, including Newman High School.
"Crews tell me they've never seen a storm cause this much damage here," Atlanta-based journalist Sabrina Silva tweeted.
The storm severely damaged parts of Newnan High School. Crews tell me they’ve never seen a storm cause this much… https://t.co/kwxru9at2d— Sabrina Silva (@Sabrina Silva)1616748240.0
Extreme weather lashed a large swathe of the South, threatening flooding and thunderstorms in Tennessee, Kentucky and the Carolinas, as The Associated Press reported. In Ohio, thunderstorms knocked out power for more than 100,000 people.
There is evidence that the traditional "tornado alley" is shifting east, away from the Great Plains and towards the U.S. South. This makes tornadoes deadlier, since the South is more populated and people are more likely to live in vulnerable mobile homes. In addition, tornadoes in the region often strike at night. There is some evidence that the climate crisis is behind the shift.
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When back-to-back hurricanes struck Central America last November, families in the region were already facing a food shortage, violence and economic decline from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Four months later, people affected by Hurricanes Eta and Iota are struggling to recover, and the impacts of the storms are just beginning to be felt by agriculture communities, prompting some experts to link climate change to the recent surge in migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border, Vox reported.
"The hurricanes were... the last in the series of what was a devastating year," Meghan López, the International Rescue Committee's regional vice president for Latin America, told CNN. "To have the pandemic on top of that, to have aid to the region cut, all of these things create this pressure cooker where there's no escape valve... And the only escape valve is to try to flee the terrible situation people are living in... People are making desperate decisions."
The hurricanes left "200 people dead and another 5.3 million people in need of assistance, including more than 1.8 million children," according to UNICEF, Vox reported. They also came at the same time as harvest, causing some regions to lose 40 percent of corn crops and 65 percent of bean crops.
"(Hurricane) Eta – plus the pandemic – left us with nothing," a Honduran father told CNN, after being deported by U.S. authorities to Reynosa, Mexico.
When major storms have hit the region in the past, farmers tended to move to urban areas for better employment opportunities, said Kayly Ober, a senior advocate and program manager for the Climate Displacement Program at Refugees International. Yet due to the pandemic, these same opportunities haven't been available, Vox reported.
The pandemic is also limiting opportunities at the border, where an increasing amount of unaccompanied minors are being held beyond legal limits in facilities because the Department of Health and Human Services has run out of space to house people, CNN reported.
In the U.S., political leaders are struggling to determine the best approach to solving the border crisis. "Politically, it's never the "right time" for immigration reform," Veronica Escobar, a Democratic representative from El Paso, Texas, wrote in a recent opinion piece published in The New York Times. "The good news is that we now have an administration willing to work on the issue."
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced that Vice President Kamala Harris would lead the way in addressing immigration issues on the southern border. Harris' approach will focus on slowing the flow of migrants by determining "the root causes" of why people are coming north in the first place, POLITICO reported.
While running for president, Biden "proposed spending $4 billion over four years to tackle violence, climate change and government corruption in the Northern Triangle region — comprised of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras," POLITICO reported. Ober told Vox that the Biden administration is putting too much emphasis on stopping migrants from coming north, rather than viewing it "with a humanitarian lens."
Other experts have criticized the U.S. for its lack of international aid, leaving migrants with no other choice but to come north. "Many families have nothing to go back to and are now left with little options to survive," Laurent Duvillier, a spokesperson for UNICEF's Latin America and Caribbean regional office, told Vox. "Unless more humanitarian support is provided to Central American countries affected by these tropical storms, unless conditions are created in communities for people to be able to stay, it is expected that more families will migrate north in search for a better future for their children."