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Aerial view of Florence, Nichols, Conway and Waccamaw, South Carolina, impacted by floodwaters on Sept. 21. South Carolina Air National Guard

By Sharon Kelly

2018 is set to rank as the fourth warmest year on record—and the fourth year in a row reflecting a full degree Celsius (1.8° Fahrenheit) temperature rise from the late 1800s, climate scientists say.

This was the year that introduced us to fire tornadoes, bomb cyclones and in Death Valley, a five-day streak of 125°F temperatures, part of the hottest month ever documented at a U.S. weather station.

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Seismic airgun blasting has been proposed within the same main range of imperiled North Atlantic right whales. NOAA

A coalition of attorneys general from nine states added their clout to a South Carolina-based lawsuit against the Trump administration to block seismic airgun blasting off the Atlantic coast.

Democratic attorneys general from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Delaware, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York filed a motion on Thursday to intervene in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by several conservation groups and South Carolina coastal communities.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Hurricane Florence caused flooded roads in Mullins, SC on Sept. 20. U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Jorge Intriago

By Rhea Suh

A widening madness threatens the world, only one thing can avert catastrophe, and we're running out of time.

That's no Hollywood action film trailer. It's the sobering and all-too-real warning sounded by the world's top climate scientists in an authoritative report released this week. We can still prevent runaway climate disaster, they conclude, but only by taking "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented" action now to shift to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future. We can do this, the report says, but we have about a decade—tops—to get it right.

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A truck submerged by Florence flooding in Lumberton, NC. ALEX EDELMAN / AFP / Getty Images

Hurricane Florence, downgraded to a tropical depression, pummeled the Carolinas this weekend, killing 18 so far and instigating flooding that officials said could last through mid-week, CNN reported Monday.

Florence, which scientists predicted would be more than 50 percent wetter due to climate change, is expected to dump 40 inches of rain on parts of southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina, with some swollen rivers not cresting until later in the coming week.

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Astronaut Rickey Arnold took this photograph of Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station on Sept. 10. NASA

By Kristy Dahl

Hurricane Florence is currently making its way as a Category 4 storm toward the southeast coast and is expected to make landfall sometime on Thursday, most likely in North Carolina. Our hearts are with those who are looking at the storm's predicted path and wondering what this means for their homes, families and communities.

As millions of residents in the storm's path make preparations to stay safe, our hearts are also with the thousands of people who have faced similar risks in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico in the past year. If you are in the Carolinas, please do take care to heed local warnings and evacuation orders—and know that we are all hoping for your safety.

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NOAA satellite image shows Hurricane Florence as it travels west southeast of Bermuda on Sept. 10. NOAA via Getty Images

After starting off as a tropical storm, Florence has rapidly intensified and is expected to become a major hurricane that could make landfall in North and South Carolina later this week.

The storm is now a Category 4 hurricane, the National Hurricane Center's Atlantic branch tweeted in its latest update Monday.

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Westinghouse Electric's nuclear fuel plant. HighFlyer

A nuclear plant in Richmond County, South Carolina with a history of contaminating groundwater has leaked radioactive uranium into the soil below the plant, The State reported Tuesday.

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The V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. South Carolina Electric & Gas Company

By Tom Clements

South Carolina Electric & Gas Company (SCE&G) announced Monday that it will cease construction of the two new nuclear units at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station.

The decision to abandon the V.C. Summer project is of monumental proportion and is a full admission that pursuit of the project was a fool's mission right from the start. The damage that this bungled project has caused to ratepayers and the state's economy must be promptly addressed by SCE&G, Santee Cooper and regulators and all effort must be made to minimize that damage. SCE&G and Santee Cooper must now take on a large part of the project's cost.

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By Jeff Masters

Powerful Hurricane Matthew made landfall on the southwestern tip of Haiti near 7 a.m. EDT Tuesday as a Category 4 storm with 145 mph winds. Matthew's extreme rains, large storm surge and Category 4 winds are likely to be catastrophic for Haiti.

Figure 1. Infrared satellite image of Hurricane Matthew as it made landfall over the southwestern tip of Haiti at 7:19 am EDT Oct. 4, 2016.wunderground.com

The hurricane is the third strongest one ever recorded in the impoverished nation, and their strongest hurricane in 52 years. The only Haitian hurricanes stronger than Matthew were two Category 4 storms with 150 mph winds: Hurricane Cleo of 1964 and Hurricane Flora of 1963. The last major hurricane to make a direct hit in Haiti was Category 3 Hurricane David of 1979, which crossed over the nation from east to west with 115 mph winds.

We don't have many weather stations in Haiti, so it is difficult to say what the conditions are on the ground. A personal weather station (PWS) on the south coast Haiti at Aquin, about 70 miles east of Matthew's landfall, recorded a wind gust of 59 mph at 6:50 a.m. EDT Tuesday. A PWS near Port-Au-Prince, Haiti recorded about 1.70" of rain during the 36-hour period ending at 7 a.m. EDT Tuesday. At the Port-Au-Prince airport, top winds on Tuesday as of 8 a.m. EDT were 34 mph, gusting to 52 mph.

An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft arrived at Matthew's center near 8 a.m. EDT Tuesday, when the eye was over land. The plane did not fly directly into the center of the eye, since that would have risked penetrating through extreme turbulence over land, but the aircraft was able to measure a central pressure of 944 mb at the edge of the eye. The peak winds measured by their SFMR instrument were 135 mph, so Matthew was definitely a solid Category 4 storm at landfall.

Satellite loops on Tuesday morning showed that the encounter with land had weakened the storm, with the eye much less distinct. Light wind shear of 5 - 10 knots is affecting the storm, and Matthew is over warm ocean waters of 29°C (84°F) and has plenty of moisture to work with—70 - 75 percent relative humidity at mid-levels of the atmosphere, as analyzed by the SHIPS model.

NRL Tropical Cyclone Page

Figure 2. Microwave image of rainfall rates in Hurricane Matthew from the F-16 polar orbiting satellite taken at 5:02 a.m. EDT Oct. 4, 2016. At the time, Matthew was a Category 4 storm with 145 mph winds. Rainfall amounts in excess of 1"/hour (orange colors) were occurring along the coasts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Extreme Rains Near the Haiti/Dominican Republic Border

Extreme rains from Matthew are a huge concern for the entire island of Hispaniola, thanks to an unusual area of extra spin and low pressure that has been embedded on the east side of Matthew's circulation for days. This feature began rotating ashore over southern Haiti and the Dominican Republic early Monday morning, and continues to affect the Dominican Republic this morning. The mountainous terrain of the island has caused tremendous uplift to the thunderstorms moving ashore, resulting in extremely intense rainfall. A personal weather station (PWS) in Cabo Rojo, on the southern coast of the Dominican Republic near the border with Haiti, recorded 22.89" of rain on Monday, including a remarkable 5.33" in the hour from 6 to 7 a.m. An additional 3.73" fell on Tuesday as of 8 a.m. EDT, for a storm total of 26.62". While PWS data is often suspect, these are believable rainfall amounts based on the satellite presentation of Matthew.

Intensity Forecast for Matthew

Landfall in Haiti on Tuesday morning and on eastern Cuba on Tuesday evening will disrupt the hurricane, and could cause it to weaken by one Saffir-Simpson category, to a Category 3 storm. However, Matthew is a very large and well-organized storm, and it may take it only a day to recover from its disruption. The latest SHIPS model forecast predicts that wind shear will remain light to moderate, 5 - 15 knots, through Friday. Ocean temperatures will be very warm, between 29 - 30° C (84 - 86°F) and the heat content of the ocean will be high to very high, which argues for intensification of Matthew. Our top three intensity models—the HWRF, LGEM, and SHIPS models—were predicting on Tuesday morning that Matthew would be at Category 3 or 4 strength through Friday.

Track Forecast for Matthew

The significant westward shift in computer model guidance on Hurricane Matthew that occurred yesterday is holding, and we now have increased confidence that Matthew will bring severe impacts to the Southeast U.S. coast from South Florida to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

Matthew will continue northwards after clearing the southwest tip of Haiti Tuesday morning, then make a second landfall in eastern Cuba at about 6 pm EDT Tuesday. Matthew will turn north-northwest and then northwest on Wednesday, and traverse The Bahamas from southeast to northwest Wednesday morning through Thursday morning. In their 5 a.m. EDT Tuesday Wind Probability Forecast, NHC gave highest odds of hurricane-force winds in The Bahamas to Great Exuma (57 percent), New Providence (46 percent), and Grand Bahama (37 percent).

Late Thursday morning, Matthew will be very close to the coast of South Florida, and is expected to turn more to the north-northwest, almost parallel to the coast, at that time. The latest 00Z and 06Z Tuesday runs of our top two models for predicting hurricane tracks—the GFS and European models—did not show a Florida landfall, but brought the hurricane so close to Florida—within 50 miles—that most of the coast of Florida from West Palm Beach to Daytona Beach would experience sustained winds of at least 50 mph, if these forecasts verified. Keep in mind that the diameter of NHC's cone of uncertainty two days into the future is about 100 miles; the cone is about 130 miles across three days into the future. On average, about two-thirds of all hurricanes stay within the cone, but some hurricanes are tougher to predict than others, and Matthew certainly falls into that category. Thus, it would not be a surprise to see Matthew make landfall in Florida.

Two of the four members of the Euro "high-probability" cluster—the ensemble forecasts that most closely match the operational run—depicted Matthew making landfall on Florida's East Coast near West Palm Beach on Thursday. In their 5 a.m. EDT Tuesday Wind Probability Forecast, NHC gave highest odds of hurricane-force winds in Florida to Ft. Pierce (22 percent), West Palm Beach (21 percent), and Cocoa Beach (19 percent). Update: At 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday, NHC placed the Florida coast from Deerfield Beach to the Volusia/Brevard county line under a Hurricane Watch, with a Tropical Storm Watch in effect southward from south of Deerfield Beach to the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys, including Lake Okeechobee.

Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN)

Figure 3. Track forecasts from the four European model ensemble members [gray lines] that most closely match the operational run [red line] during the first 72 hours, starting at 00Z Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. The red line is a version of the 00Z Tuesday operational model track that has been adjusted and calibrated using a proprietary technique to account for systemic model errors, and shows Matthew barely missing landfall along the Southeast U.S. coast. All four of the ensemble forecasts showed Matthew making landfall in the U.S., in Florida or South Carolina (though one looked like an improbable outlier, with a looping track off the coast.) The high-probability cluster (grey lines) perform better than other ensemble members at forecast times of five days and beyond.

Matthew is expected to turn more to the north and then north-northeast on Friday, which will keep the storm very close to the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. At this time, our top models suggest that the greatest probability for a U.S. landfall by Matthew is in South Carolina on Friday night or North Carolina on Saturday morning. In their 5 a.m. EDT Tuesday Wind Probability Forecast, NHC was giving the coast of Georgia, South Carolina, and southern North Carolina 3 - 7 percent chances of receiving hurricane force winds. However, I expect those probabilities to rise significantly by tomorrow, given the latest model data.

After its closest approach to the coast of North Carolina, we have a number of reliable models predicting that Matthew will continue north-northeast and hit New England on Sunday, with eastern Massachusetts being at greatest risk. Landfall in New England would very likely not be at hurricane strength, due to the potential for Matthew to pass over a lot of land before getting there. The risk to New England is not clear at this point, though, since we have some model guidance predicting a more northeasterly path for Matthew, keeping the center of the storm several hundred miles east off the Northeast U.S. coast.

Reposted with permission from our media associate WunderBlog.

Aerial spraying of the pesticide naled in a South Carolina county, done in an attempt to prevent Zika-infected mosquitoes from gaining a foothold in the state, resulted instead in the massacre of millions of honeybees.

On one farm in Summerville, South Carolina, 46 hives were wiped out instantly, killing 2.5 million bees.Flowertown Bee Farm and Supplies Facebook

While 43 Zika cases have been reported in the state, all but one were from travelers who were infected abroad. The other was a sexually transmitted case. No one in South Carolina has been locally infected by a mosquito. Nevertheless, county officials sprayed a 15-square mile area early Sunday morning. Dorchester County officials said they announced the spraying on Friday and via a Facebook post on Saturday, but many residents said they received less than 10 hours notice.


43 cases of Zika reported in South Carolina to date. Credit: South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control

The scenario reprises the days of DDT spraying that prompted Rachel Carson's seminal book, Silent Spring. The 1962 book by the former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service writer detailed the disastrous effects on birds from the widespread use of synthetic pesticides following World War II. The leading culprit, DDT, was shown to cause reproductive failure in bald eagles, ospreys, brown pelicans and peregrine falcons. Indiscriminate aerial spraying laid a film of the pesticide where birds would pick it up.

Naled, the pesticide used in South Carolina, is an organophosphate first registered for use as a pesticide in 1959. Organophosphates were developed in the 1940s as biological warfare agents. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently authorizes use of naled for mosquito control. It is currently being applied by aerial spraying to 16 million acres of the mainland U.S., including highly populated areas. The EPA says that the chemical does not pose risks to people, although it recommends staying indoors during aerial spraying.

However, the agency appears to underplay the risks to honeybees. Its website states:

Applications made between dusk and dawn, while bees are not typically foraging, can reduce exposure to honey bees.

Although we do not anticipate significant exposure to bees, beekeepers can reduce exposure to bee colonies even more by covering colonies and preventing bees from exiting colonies during designated treatment periods, or if possible, relocating colonies to an untreated site. Providing clean sources of food (supplemental sugar water and protein diets) and clean drinking water to honey bee colonies during application can further reduce exposure.

Contrary to the EPA's recommendation, however, the spraying in South Carolina took place from 6:30 - 8:30 a.m.

Toxipedia, the online toxicology encyclopedia, is far more circumspect on the potential dangers of naled. They call it a severe skin and eye irritant, and cite a study that showed exposure to the chemical resulted in chronic nervous system damage in dogs and rats. Toxipedia also states that naled is "highly toxic to many bird species especially Canadian geese" and affects reproduction in Mallard ducks. They also note that its use "puts many endangered species at risk." With respect to honeybees, they couldn't be more clear:

It is toxic to bees and stoneflies (#EXTOXNET, 1996).

In April, EcoWatch reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was silencing its own bee scientists. A Feb. 7, 2014 story documented the EPA's approval of two other pesticides known to be highly toxic to bees. The EPA's action came despite the concerns of beekeepers facing colony collapse.

On one farm in Summerville, South Carolina, 46 hives were wiped out instantly, killing 2.5 million bees. Compounding the problem was the weather: hot, 90 degree temperatures caused bees to leave their hives in order to cool down. That meant the bees were active during the widespread spraying.

As many residents became aware of the insecticide spraying, they tried to contact Dorchester County Mosquito Abatement by phone, as the notices had stated. No one answered. A resident who has started a petition on change.org wrote, "To our knowledge not one phone call was returned and no answers were given." The petition asks for the spraying to be stopped, for more information on the chemicals used and for a public forum to discuss their concerns. By Tuesday, Dorchester County had issued an apology, but there is no word to date on whether they will compensate beekeepers for the destruction of their hives.

The honeybee genocide in South Carolina came as a study published on Monday by the National Academy of Sciences links high demand and federal subsidies for corn and soybean crops to the loss of grassland in the Great Plains that bees need to survive. The study says that expansion of these crops in the Northern Great Plains is "altering the landscape in ways that are seemingly less conducive to beekeeping." The area in the study is home to more than 40 percent of the U.S. bee colonies.

Honeybees are nature's best pollinators. Without them, important crops including almonds, blueberries, apples, asparagus and broccoli would be threatened. It is estimated that bees are responsible for some $19 billion of U.S. crop production. The agricultural impact of the South Carolina disaster is not yet known.

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