Category 5 Cyclone Harold Slams Vanuatu
Cyclone Harold made landfall as a Category 5 storm on the island nation's north and west after strengthening off the coast on Sunday, The Guardian reported.
"For those in Vanuatu it doesn't get much worse than this," WeatherWatch.co.nz head forecaster Philip Duncan said.
Vanuatu's islands are currently surrounding the eye of Severe Tropical #CycloneHarold, a chart-topping category 5 s… https://t.co/SF60AdaZ6L— Ben Domensino (@Ben Domensino)1586149621.0
The storm moved slowly over very warm ocean waters as it approached Vanuatu, Duncan said. The climate crisis is expected to make tropical cyclones stronger and more intense as they are fueled by warmer waters. It also makes them more devastating to islands like Vanuatu already battling sea level rise.
"As the Pacific battles to contain the spread of Covid-19, Tropical Cyclone Harold is a reminder that climate change represents yet another existential threat to nations like Vanuatu, that is not of their making," Greenpeace Australia Pacific head of Pacific Joseph Moeono-Kolio said in a statement.
Harold made landfall with winds of up to 133 miles per hour around 1 p.m. local time in Sanma province, located on the country's largest island and home to its second-most populated city, Luganville, Reuters reported.
While there are no reports of injuries, images shared on social media show buildings flattened by the storm.
#CycloneHarold #Vanuatu #TCHarold #Santo First images coming in from main street of #Luganville on Espiritu Santo… https://t.co/v62EdBzt90— Sandra in Vanuatu (@Sandra in Vanuatu)1586136841.0
"Communications to Santo and Malekula [Vanuatu's two largest islands] are cut now, so we don't know what's happening," Eric Durpaire, the chief of UNICEF Pacific's Vanuatu's field office, told The Guardian. "The latest information we had was that the roof of the municipality building of Santo has collapsed and there is flooding."
The Vanuatu meteorology department recorded wind speeds of 135 miles per hour in Sanma and gusts of up to 145 miles per hour, according to BBC News.
The last time that Vanuatu weathered a Category 5 storm was when Cyclone Pam struck in 2015. It needed massive amounts of international aid to recover, but help this time will be complicated by the global coronavirus pandemic.
"Restrictions to international borders and travelers won't be lifted after the cyclone. Humanitarian workers who wanted to come and assist, won't be able to, or they will have to do 14 days quarantine," Durpaire told The Guardian.
The coronavirus complicated cyclone preparation as well. Vanuatu has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, but is trying to keep it that way, as it is afraid its health system would be unable to handle an outbreak.
Cyclone Harold, a category 4 storm and Earth's most powerful weather event so far in 2020, has just made landfall i… https://t.co/AM1WXEO5cW— Eric Holthaus (@Eric Holthaus)1586140696.0
To prevent the arrival and spread of the virus, Vanuatu has closed its borders, instituted a curfew and banned gatherings of five or more, though some of these measures were relaxed to allow people to gather in emergency shelters ahead of the storm.
Cyclone Harold has already proved deadly. On Friday, when it was just a Category 2 storm, it swept 27 people off a ferry in the Solomon Islands. Police said Sunday they had recovered the bodies of three women and two men, while 22 others remain missing.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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