Climate Adaptation

CLIMATE ADAPTATION

I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.


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Early warning, communication, training, and “safe rooms” combined to save thousands of lives from the Okla. monster tornado. It is a very clear example of how cities have designed adaptation systems to respond to local weather conditions.

How could so many have survived the Okla. tornado?

Viewers glued to TV following Monday’s tornado that hit here with the destructive force of an atomic bomb very likely expected to wake up Tuesday to a death and injury toll in the thousands.

How could anyone have survived the apocalyptic destruction of a worst-of-the-worst EF5 category storm? Miraculously, most did, despite an official warning coming just 16 minutes before the twister cut a 17-mile war-zone-like path through this city of 56,000.

Local, state and federal officials credit luck, happenstance, timing, faith, heroics, preparation and the seasoned experience that comes with living in the heart of Tornado Alley for the relatively low victim count.

"If they say there’s a chance of severe tornadoes, people take it really seriously," said Tyler Porter, who lives in Oklahoma City, 10 miles north of Moore. "They pretty much know when it’s time to take cover."

Excellent coverage by USA Today

thesmithian:

“Our climate is changing, the weather is becoming more intense…It’s going to cost a lot of money and a lot of lives…The big issue (is) how do we adapt…because it doesn’t look like the people who are in charge are going to do what it takes to really slow down this climate change, so we are going to have to adapt. And adapting is going to be very, very expensive.” 

California Governor Jerry Brown

…in an airplane hangar filled with trucks, airplanes and helicopters used by the state to fight fires.

Thank you, doctorswithoutborders:

Behind the Scenes: MSF Casualty Training

Working in the field involves situations that require our staff to make quick, smart, lifesaving decisions. We conduct training exercises to prepare our staff for casualty incidents. Watch this video of an exercise that involved 60 staff members from 32 countries playing the parts of medical staff, logisticians, and patients.

Nebraska governor promises help with wildfires

kohenari:

Uh-oh! Here come the creeping tendrils of the big bad federal government that some conservative politicians love to hate until they desperately need its help:

Gov. Dave Heineman says he’s willing to seek additional state money from the Legislature if needed to help pay for firefighting in drought-parched Nebraska.

Heineman said Wednesday he wouldn’t be surprised if more money is required to reimburse local fire departments and other agencies for their expenses.

Wildfires sparked by dry lightning have scorched tens of thousands of acres in central and western Nebraska. State officials say they don’t yet know the exact cost, but Nebraska Emergency Management Agency assistant director Al Berndt estimates that the state has spent around $7.5 million so far.

Berndt says his agency started the year with about $10 million available for emergencies. He says state officials will start conducting damage assessments next week to see if Nebraska can qualify for federal aid.

newyorker:

Summer floods are common in this region, and yet the authorities were unprepared and under-equipped. They had at least three hours for an emergency warning: officials had learned about the imminent disaster around 10 P.M., and the water didn’t begin to rise dramatically until 1 A.M. But there was hardly any warning at all.

 Masha Lipman: The public’s grief is now mixed with a deep distrust of the government after a horrific flood in southern Russia.  Click-through to read more: http://nyr.kr/NrpPCY

Now reading.

"End of the Road," by Dean Zulich. “Mother nature has not been kind to the Pacific Northwest this winter. Here is one of the examples; this washout is about 500 meters long, with another one just down the road…”

ShortFormBlog: New York City could suffer massive financial losses from hurricane

shortformblog:

  • 95.5% the odds that a hurricane will hit the Miami area in the next 50 years
  • 6.6% the odds a hurricane will hit NYC in the next 50 years source

» But if one does hit NYC, it’ll cost a bundle: CoreLogic, a data-analysis firm, estimates that the area most in danger of major financial loss if a hurricane hits it is New York City — with some estimates reaching as high as $100 billion in insured losses. To give you an idea of how bad it could be in NYC, Hurricane Irene, which was a fairly minor tropical storm when it hit the city last summer, still caused $6 billion in damage in the New York/New Jersey region.

Communities in California are learning harsh lessons of sea-level rise. The rate of beach erosion increases, which in turn destroys much of what people have built. At this beach in San Fransisco, parking lots, bike lanes, and buried utility lines are being destroyed by faster than predicted erosion. Thus, there is a choice: build a bigger wall to hold back the sea, or retreat. Some cities have chosen to retreat.

Up and down the California coast, some communities are deciding it’s not worth trying to wall off the encroaching ocean. Until recently, the thought of bowing to nature was almost unheard of.

But after futile attempts to curb coastal erosion — a problem expected to grow worse with rising seas fueled by global warming — there is growing acknowledgment that the sea is relentless and any line drawn in the sand is likely to eventually wash over.

“I like to think of it as getting out of the way gracefully,” said David Revell, a senior coastal scientist at ESA PWA, a San Francisco-based environmental consulting firm involved in Goleta and other planned retreat projects.

The issue of whether to stay or flee is being confronted around the globe. Places experimenting with retreat have adopted various strategies. In Britain, for example, several sites along the Essex coast have deliberately breached seawalls to create salt marshes, which act as a natural barrier to flooding.

Excellent story via the Washington Post

PSA from FEMA: National Flood Insurance Program Could Expire May 31, 2012, if Not Reauthorized

Should tax payers pay to help insure people who choose to live in hazardous areas? This is a tough conversation to have, but we should have it. (Dearest libertarians, please exit the convo here).

Simply, people’s homes and businesses are often located in dangerous areas. The most popular danger is flooding, and millions(!) of properties are located in flood plains. It’s very risky. Property owners need insurance to help lower risk and protect their ‘investment.’ The higher the risk from environment, the higher the insurance premium.

But, there comes a point in that risk equation where insurance companies will stop offering insurance to cover at-risk buildings and properties. So of course this creates a problem for property owners. If private insurance companies refuse to insure risky property, who should? Should you?

For one example (again simplified), in order to get a mortgage from a bank, the property owner has to show proof of insurance. But how can they get insurance if their home is deemed a high risk? The answer is tax payers. FEMA covers insurance for at-risk property owners through something called the National Flood Insurance Program. It’s funded by taxpayers, and (again simplified) insures millions of properties that cannot obtain insurance on the market. If one of these properties is flooded, part of the cost (not all of it) is paid for by you, the taxpayer.

Now, the portion of FEMA’s budget that covers the NFIP is about to expire, and FEMA put out this press release:

"Many businesses, commercial owners, homeowners and renters purchase flood insurance to reduce the escalating costs of repairing damage to buildings and their contents caused by floods.

As we approach a potentially active hurricane season, FEMA’s Administrator, W. Craig Fugate, is engaging Congress to strongly recommend reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which will expire on May 31, 2012.

The NFIP plays a key role in our Nation’s efforts to prevent and recover from flood disasters. Reauthorization of the NFIP before it expires on May 31, 2012, is essential to our Nation’s efforts to prevent and recover from flood disasters. Floods are the number one natural disaster in the United States in terms of lives lost and property damaged. The NFIP identifies areas of flood risk; it encourages communities to implement measures to mitigate against the risk of flood loss; it provides financial assistance to help individuals recover more rapidly from flooding disasters; and it lessens the financial impact of flood disasters on individuals, businesses, and all levels of government.

In recent years, a series of short-term reauthorizations and temporary suspensions of the NFIP have eroded confidence in the program among stakeholders, including state governments, tribal governments, local communities, individual policyholders, mortgage lenders, and the private insurance industry. In addition to disrupting the program’s day-to-day operations, short-term reauthorizations and temporary suspensions create significant uncertainty regarding the federal government’s long-term commitment to underwriting and indemnifying flood losses. In the absence of such a commitment, our stakeholders are less likely to make the investments needed to successfully sustain, strengthen, and grow the program — thereby undermining the NFIP’s effectiveness and efficiency over time.

A two year re-authorization will send a clear signal to citizens, communities, and private sector partners that the federal government will continue to support our nation’s efforts to manage flood risk. If Congress does not re-authorize the NFIP before it expires on May 31, 2012:

  • Property owners will be unable to complete new mortgage transactions. Property owners who would normally be required to purchase flood insurance to fulfill lending requirements will be unable to obtain affordable coverage. The National Association of REALTORS estimates that a lapse in authorization jeopardizes an estimated 1,300 sales each day or about 40,000 mortgage closings per month.
  • The Disaster Relief Fund will bear additional costs when flood strike. Property owners who are unable to obtain flood insurance coverage may seek and be eligible for assistance from the Disaster Relief Fund. Consequently, failure to reauthorize the NFIP will result in transferring a portion of the costs of flood losses that otherwise would have been paid by the NFIP to the taxpayer through the Disaster Relief Fund.
  • The NFIP may have to halt payment of claims for recent events, including Hurricanes Irene and Lee, if a lapse in authorization substantially reduces cash flow into the program from premiums or a significant flood event follows the lapse and drains the remaining, non-renewable funds.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.”

Tell me what you think? Should the National Flood Insurance Program continue to be funded? Should anything be put in its place?

Excellent insight into what NOAA satellites do. Pay attention to Kathy Kelly at the end, she jussstt nearly breaks a tear. Recall that Republicans want to cut these programs because prayer.

The Nation runs on NOAA satellites.

NOAA’s satellites provide the bulk of the information for generating weather models, advisories, and warnings to the nation and world. Maintaining the operations and data acquisition from these satellites is a 24/7 process. This video was filmed at the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland where command, control, and data distribution systems are located.

U.S. cities try to adapt to climate change

Adapt to climate change? While some members of Congress debate its scientific validity, U.S. cities are going beyond efforts to mitigate climate change with lower greenhouse gas emissions. They’re at the forefront of an emerging trend: adaptation.

"It’s a new field," says Brian Holland, director of climate programs at ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA. His association launched a Climate Resilient Communities program last year to help cities study effects of climate change and finance ways to adapt. Nearly 600 local governments, representing one-fourth of the U.S. population, have signed on.

As extreme weather continues to sweep the nation and Americans struggle to deal with heat waves and flooding, Holland says many are convinced they need to act. “We’re already seeing consequences of climate change,” he says, “and those will only intensify.”

Read the rest at USA Today

"This Old House" tv show premiers an episode about a house at risk to climate impacts

RI Delegate Grover Fugate Talks Coastal Hazards on “This Old House”

The long-running PBS series “This Old House” will tackle a project remodeling a coastal home in Barrington, Rhode Island. Since building in a hurricane zone and along the coast has risks, Kevin O’Conner, the show’s host, met with the Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council and CSO Delegate Grover Fugate to discuss coastal hazards and what best practices the project, and all coastal property owners, should consider to make their homes more resilient to coastal storms, episodic erosion, and sea level rise.

Watch the video online at: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/tv/video (regional).

New Climate Central series on how reduced funding for scientific observations is affecting climate and weather research and forecasting

"On Sept. 7, 2011, a record deluge associated with Tropical Storm Lee struck Binghamton, N.Y., dumping 7.5 inches of rain in a 24-hour period — the most the city had ever seen in such a short time. Weather forecasters, emergency managers and rescue teams knew the nearby Susquehanna River was already rising from an unusually wet summer, and that this would further swell the engorged river. To predict the flooding and aid critical rescue efforts, they counted on a crucial network of rain and stream gauges positioned at various points along the river.

Data from these gauges was fed into the National Weather Service’s computer models, and as the waters rose and threatened to spill into Binghamton’s central business district, the forecasts enabled emergency managers to order the timely evacuation of 20,000 residents.  

If a similar event were to happen this year, though, the officials may have to rely on less accurate information, as budget cuts are forcing the shutdown of 19 stream gauges in New York’s portion of the flood-prone Susquehanna River Basin. These cuts would significantly reduce the accuracy of flood warnings and streamflow forecasts, according to water officials at the National Weather ServiceU.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

The timing of such cutbacks couldn’t be any worse. Global warming is increasing the frequency and severity of heavy rainfalls in the Northern Hemisphere, tilting the odds in favor of extreme events. This makes monitoring networks like stream gauges even more valuable.

The Empire State is not alone in facing the prospect of losing the gauges, either. The USGS operates a national network of about 7,800 gauges, funded with federal dollars and through partnerships with state, local and regional entities. While the total number of stream gauges has been increasing, many states are having an increasingly difficult time coming up with their share of the $17,000 to $18,000 per year required to operate each one, leading to significant losses of data in some areas.”

Read the rest at Climate Central