How prepared are American cities for increased natural disasters? Over the years, Americans have insisted on expanding and building cities and suburbs in locations that are clearly threatened by natural hazards. This week’s monster tornado in Oklahoma demonstrates this. Cities and states have encouraged people to live in these areas through city planning, architectural design, and the so-called need for “economic development.”
Thus, instead of encouraging people to not live in these hazard zones, city leaders have created methods to help people survive relatively normal lives there. Houses in California must meet specific earthquake design standards, buildings in Oklahoma have “safe rooms,” and countless structures must be stable enough to handle floods and erosion along American coastlines. These are adaptations. Not good adaptations (I believe people should not be encouraged to live in these areas), but there it is.
With the climate changing, the impacts on communities are likely to increase. Incidences of natural disasters are expected to rise, costing many lives and causing a need for an endless stream of disaster aid.
Researchers at MIT teamed up with the non-profit ICLEI to survey cities around the world. The goal was to compare how they were adapting to climate change impacts, or preparing for future impacts. Progress, the researchers found, is very slow in the US, while cities around the world are far more advanced.
It’s a great read, very visual so if you don’t have time you can skim it.
Could one of life’s simple pleasures, the apple, be endangered by changes in our climate?
It could, according to some experts, who maintain that apples, like other fruit, depend heavily on a certain amount of what is called “winter chill,” before they bloom in the spring.
“If there’s not enough winter chill that happens in a certain year there can be anywhere from a decreased production of fruit to a complete crop failure,” says Evan Girvetz, the senior scientist on climate change for the non-profit Nature Conservancy.
If that were to happen, it would be troubling news for the state’s apple industry, which according to the Pennsylvania Apple Marketing Program is the fourth biggest apple producer in the country.
“Invasive Species.” A clever tree made it onto Canada’s currency.
“It’s a species that’s invasive in Eastern Canada and is displacing some of our native species, and it’s probably not an appropriate species to be putting on our native currency,” Blaney told CBC News. Sean Blaney, senior botanist of the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, said he never expected to see the Norway maple leaf on a $20 bill.
Something is amiss! I witnessed about 300 Canadian Geese migrating NORTH today. Are they drunk? Is winter over? I can’t figure out the exact migration period for these species to return north but surely it’s not January, three weeks after winter started!
Fantastic map of Sahel movement and conflict. Natural resources and migration are the biggest drivers of both economic development and conflict in the region. But, over the past decade or so, both have escalated exponentially. Expect more conflict as the climate changes and water resources are more strictly controlled.
As the climate warms, plant species that prefer a colder environment are disappearing from the mountain ranges of Southern Europe. Since many of these species have small distribution areas, they are now threatened with extinction, according to two new studies from European researchers.
“These species have migrated upwards, but sooner or later the mountain reaches its summit,” said researcher and biologist Ulf Molau at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg. “Many alpine plant species are disappearing from mountain ranges in Southern Europe, and for some of them - those that are only found in a single mountain range - the outlook is extremely bleak.”
Over a period of 10 years, researchers around Europe have gathered samples from 13 different mountain regions.
Using digital technology and intensive on-site field work, they have been able to study a grid pattern of square meters, selected on different high mountain summits, from the treeline up to the highest peaks.
The digital photographs provide a detailed picture of which species have disappeared between 2001 and the present day.
“Every research square is digitally photographed so that we can find our way back to the exact same position after 10 years or more, with centimeter precision,” said Professor Molau. “By rolling out an analysis network, small 10 x 10 cm squares can be re-mapped.”
Today, the researchers are able to observe that species are migrating upwards and that the variety of species in Southern European mountain regions has declined during the 10 years in which samples have been taken.
“This finding confirms the hypothesis that a rise in temperatures drives Alpine flora to migrate upwards. As a result, rival species are threatened by competitors, which are migrating to higher altitudes. These changes pose a threat to high-mountain ecosystems in the long and medium term,” the authors state.
“Some birds are adjusting their migration patterns and adapting to climate change better than others, researchers found.
A study of bird flight patterns found that while some shift their migration as much as six days earlier in warmer weather, others are keeping the same habits, according to a report in the Public Library of Science.
Birds that aren’t adapting, like the Barn Swallow, could be threatened if the crop of insects they feed on aren’t available at the same time, for example, said Allen Hurlbert, the lead author, in a telephone interview.
“This is a new threat,” said Hurlbert, an assistant professor of biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “It’s an additional risk factor for the health of their population.”
Hurlbert’s study of 18 bird species is the first to examine the entire Eastern United States, he said. It’s also unique in using citizen bird watching data from more than 50,000 people logging into eBird, an online site created in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audobon Society.
On average, the birds shifted their migration almost a day earlier for every Celsius degree of warming spring temperature. Species that fail could be eliminated through natural selection.”
Bird-Watchers Revel in Unusual Spike in Snowy Owl Sightings
“From coast to coast across the northern United States, a striking number of snowy owls have been swooping onto shorelines and flying over fields this winter, delighting bird-watchers and stirring speculation about the cause of the spike.
The white, two-foot-tall birds, which live in the Arctic the rest of the year, are known to fly south in large numbers every few winters in what is known as an irruption. But this year, the numbers are unusually high, said Denver Holt, director of the Owl Research Institute in Charlo, Mont.
“There are so many across the country, everywhere, by the thousands,” Mr. Holt said. “It’s unbelievable. They are being seen from Boston, to the Great Lakes, the Ohio River Valley, Kansas, Vancouver and Seattle.”
“One showed up at the airport in Hawaii, and they shot it,” he added in astonishment. “It’s the first ever in Hawaii and they shot it!”
The owl was killed on Thanksgiving by federal officials who feared that the bird would interfere with landings and takeoffs.
Why so many more of the birds are showing up is largely a mystery, Mr. Holt said. “We do know they had a really good breeding year, and there was plenty of food last year,” he said. Instead of no chicks, or one or two, a single nest will produce five, six, seven or more fledglings in a good breeding year, he said.
The owls’ Arctic diet is 90 percent lemmings, although the birds, which are powerful hunters, also eat mice, voles, ducks, hares and even fish when they migrate south. Some ornithologists speculate that lemming populations crashed recently after a boom, which could have led to the push south, but researchers have not confirmed such a decline.
The irruption started in late fall and is expected to end by March or April. In few places are people as excited as in Kansas and Missouri, where snowy owls are exceedingly rare. Ninety have shown up in Kansas this winter and 40 in Missouri. Until this year, the highest number counted in Missouri had been eight.”
“It’s a Girl” is a jaw-dropping documentary about women killing their unwanted newborn daughters. I’ve written dozens of posts about women, women’s rights, and vulnerability to climate change, here. The climate connection can be found in my post on a report covering Adaptation, Gender, and Women’s empowerment, here.
“In India, China and many other parts of the world today, girls are killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls are missing in the world today because of this so-called “gendercide”.
This documentary film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice.
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
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