brad brace

8/2/2014

Typhoon Neoguri

Filed under: japan,weather — admin @ 5:03 am

typhoon neoguri

8/1/2014

Disaster-Prone Caribbean Looks to Better Financing

Filed under: agriculture,caribbean,climate change,disaster,weather — admin @ 4:58 am

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Jun 15 2014 – A freak storm, followed by heavy floods in December 2013, will go down in history as the most destructive natural disaster to have hit the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with reported total damages and losses of at least 103 million dollars.

Six months later, the country, which is a member of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), is still in the recovery phase of this crisis, but Tourism Minister Cecil McKee said several lessons have been learned, making the country better prepared for future catastrophic weather events.

“Although Caribbean nations have contributed little to the release of the greenhouse gases that drive climate change, they will pay a heavy price for global inaction in reducing emissions.” — Hela Cheikhrouhou, executive director of the Green Climate Fund “We have been dealing with our river defences and our coastal defences,” McKee told GIP, adding that the government is not only repairing damaged homes but also “relocating a number of persons whose homes are situated on river banks in areas that are obviously going to put them at risk should we have a reoccurrence of such events.”

A slow-moving, low-level trough on Dec. 24 dumped hundreds of millimetres of rain on the Caribbean island states of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Dominica, killing at least 13 people.

Scientists have called the floods the worst disaster in living memory for the small countries, caused by higher-than-average rainfall of 15 inches, which overwhelmed the water systems’ ability to facilitate smooth run-off.

For Mckee, the Christmas disaster was a reminder that “climate change is going to be here with us for some time.”

“If we look at the events of Christmas Eve 2013, I think we can all agree that climate change is affecting not only St. Vincent and the Grenadines but the entire Caribbean in a significant way,” he asserted.

But simply understanding the problem is not enough – many of the island nations in the Caribbean are in dire need of financial resources to assist with mitigation and adaptation.

Caribbean looks to climate finance

Flooding is commonplace in the Caribbean, with Guyana, one of the most flood-prone countries in the region, recently benefitting from a multi-million-dollar credit scheme to guard against flooding. A statement from the World Bank said more than 300,000 people from the flood prone region of East Demerara will benefit from reduced flooding and climate risks as a result of an 11-million-dollar loan from the International Development Association (IDA).

Nearly 90 percent of Guyana’s population lives in this narrow coastal plain, largely below sea level and, therefore, highly vulnerable to climate change.

Extreme rainfall in 2005 resulted in flooding and damages estimated at nearly 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), or 465 million dollars at the time.

The impact on poverty was evident and many subsistence farmers, small business operators and vendors were affected.

Sophie Sirtaine, the World Bank’s country director for the Caribbean, said the funds would assist in providing opportunities for all Guyanese by reducing vulnerability to climate change.

“To boost competitiveness, it is essential to address the vulnerability to climate risks and ensure that the skills learnt in the classroom lay the foundation for future work-place success,” she told GIP.

Specifically, the project will upgrade critical sections of the East Demerara Water Conservancy dams and channels; improve drainage capacity in priority areas along the East Demerara coast; and increase flood preparedness by installing instruments to monitor hydro-meteorological data.

The IDA credit to the Government of Guyana has a final maturity of 25 years, with a five-year grace period.

During its annual board of governors meeting held in Guyana last month, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) President Dr. Warren Smith said the Caribbean was becoming more aware of the severe threat posed by climate change on a daily basis. “Seven Caribbean countries…are among the top 10 countries, which, relative to their GDP, suffered the highest average economic losses from climate-related disasters during the period 1993-2012.

“It is estimated that annual losses could be between five and 30 percent of GDP within the next few decades,” he added.

According to Smith, despite the region’s high vulnerability and exposure to climate change, Caribbean countries have failed to access or mobilise international climate finance at levels commensurate with their needs.

Caribbean countries are hoping that the South Korea-based Green Climate Fund (GCF) would prove to be much more beneficial than other global initiatives established to deal with the impact of climate change.

GCF Executive Director Hela Cheikhrouhou, who delivered the 15^th annual William Demas Memorial lecture during the CDB meeting, said that the concern expressed by Small Island Developing States all over the world finds a strong echo in the Caribbean, where the devastating effects of hurricanes have been witnessed by many.

“Although Caribbean nations have contributed little to the release of the greenhouse gases that drive climate change, they will pay a heavy price for global inaction in reducing emissions,” Cheikhrouhou warned.

The GCF came into being at the 16^th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UFCCC) held in Cancun, Mexico.

Its purpose is to make a significant contribution to global efforts to limit warming to two degrees Celsius by providing financial support to developing countries to help limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

There are hopes that the fund could top 100 billion dollars per annum by 2020.

“Our vision is to devise new paradigms for climate finance, maximise the impact of public finance in a creative way, and attract new sources of public and private finance to catalyse investment in adaptation and mitigation projects in the developing world,” Cheikhrouhou said.

Selwin Hart, climate change finance advisor with the CDB, said the GCF provides an important opportunity for regional countries to not only adapt to climate change but also to mitigate its effects.

McKee said the region is also putting measures in place to mobilise financial support in events similar to what affected the three OECS countries in December 2013.

“Countries are being asked to place monies in regional holding systems that would allow the region to respond more [efficiently] and I think that we are looking more and more to the international bodies and the more developed countries”, which are largely responsible for climate change, for assistance, he told GIP.

CODRINGTON, Barbuda, Jun 30 2014 (GIP) – The 1,800 residents of the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda are learning to adapt as climate change proves to be a force to reckon with, disrupting not just the lives of the living but also the resting places of those who died centuries ago.

United States-based archaeologist Dr. Sophia Perdikaris said when Hurricane Georges hit in 1998, it did a lot more than turn the spotlight on the island’s shrinking coastline. “One of the sure things that will happen as a result of climate change is that one-third wetlands will engulf the one-third lowland…so that will leave us with 21 square miles of usable land.” — John Mussington

“In the early years when I first started coming to Barbuda, it was because hurricane activity had exposed a lot of archaeology and it was an effort to do rescue. A human skeleton from 450 AD was exposed in the area called Seaview,” Perdikaris told GIP.

“In fact, some of the archaeology [including the human skeleton] that we are now housing in the newly formed museum was excavated by Hurricane Georges.”

Perdikaris, a professor of anthropology and archaeology at the City University of New York, Brooklyn College, said some of the findings coming out of Barbuda point to climatic shifts in weather conditions at the same time that the northern part of Europe was experiencing the little Ice Age.

“Similar signatures are coming out of Barbuda that actually have the same stories in Greenland, Iceland and the North Coast of Africa,” she said. “Hence, Barbuda is not just a small island in the Caribbean but actually a major part of bigger weather events in the circum Atlantic.”

Perdikaris said one of the things that Barbudans are faced with today is “a big word, climate change – what does it really mean and how is it affecting people’s lives and what can they do to change it?”

But she noted that the residents are very adaptive.

“We do find solutions with the help of the amazing expertise of the local people because they are the best experts for their local environment,” she said.

“We are trying to gather enough information to see what our challenges are and how we move forward; and then find the funding resources and technology to make that happen.

“We are monitoring erosion in many parts of the island and we also have been testing the wells to see whether the water is safe to drink or whether the salinity has been changing; all of these efforts in order to assess the three aquifers that are under Barbuda,” she added. Another project being developed on the island is aquaponics, the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics (growing plants without soil), amid a growing realisation that climate change will likely seriously threaten food security in Barbuda.

“There are diminishing resources in the sea. It is problematic to grow crops if you have a drought or if you only have salty water to water them so we have developed an aquaponics facility,” said Perdikaris.

Dr. Perdikaris said climate change has forced the residents of the island with a single village to make changes to their way of life and also to put measures in place to secure their future.

“As glaciers melt because of high temperatures what it’s doing to the rest of us is actually increase the sea level, and by increasing the sea level a number of things are taking place,” she said. “With a low-lying island like Barbuda, one of our main concerns is how much of the island, how fast, will actually be under water.

“As the sea waters are rising, they are not only claiming land but they are actually claiming the coral reefs,” Perdikaris added.

Marine biologist and environmentalist John Mussington said the warning by scientists that the 62-square-mile [161-square-kilometre] island is becoming one of the most vulnerable spots due to the consequences of climate change is not being taken lightly.

“Barbuda is flat; the highest point is just over 100 feet. Now with climate change predictions they are talking about several metres in terms of sea level rise. When you look at the present topography of Barbuda, it is 62 square miles. A third of Barbuda is taken up by lagoons and wetland systems. “Another third is what we call the lowlands. One of the sure things that will happen as a result of climate change is that one-third wetlands will engulf the one-third lowland to become two-thirds wetlands,” Mussington told GIP.

“So that will leave us with 21 square miles of usable land for sustaining communities. That is the reality we are facing.”

Barbuda’s culture is firmly based in a “living off the land concept” that Mussington said is fast becoming a thing of the past with the advent of climate change.

“We want to sustain the fact that Barbuda has a tradition of its people living off the land and one of the things we are going to face in terms of challenges from climate change is we are not going to be able to do that,” he said.

“If we are going to survive we have to overcome those challenges, hence the direction we are taking in terms of being able to continue to feed ourselves protein wise and vegetable wise.”

The entire population is being educated in aquaponics technology, a method of growing crops and fish together in a re-circulating system.

“We had a dream in 2012 of actually helping the situation in Barbuda by being able to guarantee that we can continue to get our protein source in the form of fish as well as to produce vegetables in spite of what was going to happen and what is happening from climate change,” Mussington said.

“In the aquaponics technology that we are pioneering we now house in our tanks 4500 tilapia.

“We have to find solutions in order to continue living on the island. That is why aquaponics turned out to be one of those things that we are pushing because the end result of the climate change consequences is that our coral reefs are going to suffer, our beaches are going to be shifting and changing,” Mussington added.

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Jun 26 2014 (GIP) – The Caribbean region’s bid to become food secure is in peril as farmers struggle to produce staple crops under harsh drought conditions brought about by climate change. But scientists are fighting back, developing drought-tolerant varieties which are then distributed to farmers in those countries most severely affected.

“We are mainly affected by issues of drought and…CARDI has been looking at methods of sustainable management of production using drought tolerant varieties. We are working with certain commodities and doing applied research aimed at producing them in the dry season,” Dr. Gregory Robin, CARDI representative and technical coordinator for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), told GIP.

“We’re starting first with the crops that are more significantly affected by drought. We take, for example, dasheen, which is a crop that requires a lot of moisture and I’m working with that crop in St. Vincent and St. Lucia,” he said.

“Validation will serve Jamaica, Grenada, Dominican Republic – all the islands that produce dasheen. Sometimes it’s not cost-effective to do activities in all the islands so some of the sweet potato work done here can be used in St. Kitts, Barbados and islands with similar agro-ecological zones and rainfall patterns,” he added.

The Trinidad-based CARDI (Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute), which has worked to strengthen the agricultural sector of member countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for more than 30 years, is at the forefront of the research.

“CARDI has a body of professionals around the region so if we have any issues of climate change and drought, CARDI is a body of scientists that is available to all the islands of the CARICOM region,” Robin said.

Another crop being given special attention is sweet potato. Robin explained that for the Caribbean region, sweet potato is very important as a food security staple and foreign exchange earner.

“We’re working with the crops that we think are going to be affected most. Sweet potato can take a certain amount of moisture stress but dasheen and crops that require a high level of moisture are not going to be standing up so well to moisture stress, so we are starting with those with a high requirement of moisture first,” he said.

Noting that irrigation is key to productivity, the CARDI official explained that, “I have been working here for the past seven years and it’s the first time I’ve seen it so dry and it’s highlighting the point that we need to look at our rainwater harvesting systems.”

Climate change has also forced Guyana, considered the bread-basket of the Caribbean, to develop new varieties.

“We have also been growing different varieties of crops that are resistant to salt water because one of the impacts of climate change is that the salt water will creep more into the inland areas and so we are looking at salt-resistant rice for example; looking at crops that are much more resilient to dry weather and that can withstand periods of flooding,” Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy told GIP.

“We’ve been doing things like shade technology, drip irrigation, using technology and methods and utilising animals and crops that are far more resilient to extreme weather conditions.”

In addition to developing drought-tolerant varieties, CARDI is also actively developing new technologies to assist farmers with irrigation.

“I remember when I started in agriculture probably 20 years ago farmers used to irrigate using a drum and a bucket,” Bradbury Browne told GIP.

But he said over the years CARDI has introduced drip irrigation technology and other types of irrigation technology.

“For example if I want to apply 3,000 gallons of water to an acre of sweet potato I can programme [the irrigation system] so that I don’t have to be there physically to be turning on a hose or a pipe and there would be no issue of flooding if I am called away on an emergency,” said Browne, who now serves as a field technician at CARDI.

Meanwhile, longtime legislator in Antigua and Barbuda Baldwin Spencer noted that more frequent and extreme droughts are expected to become a feature of Caribbean weather.

And he said the impact of such drought conditions will increase heat stress, particularly for the more vulnerable, such as the elderly.

“Despite the decline in the production and export of major agricultural commodities from the OECS, agriculture remains an important sector in the economic and social development of the region from the stand-point of food security, rural stability and the provision of input to other productive sectors,” said Spencer, who served as prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda from March 2004 until Jun. 12 this year.

“These benefits are at risk from climatic events and this risk only increases as the climate continues to change,” he said.

Experts project that decreased production levels of major crops combined with increasing food demand will pose large risks to all aspects of food security globally and regionally including food access, utilisation and price stability.

The World Bank said food security is consistently seen as one of the key challenges for the coming decades and by the year 2050, the world will need to produce enough food to feed more than 2.0 billion additional people, compared to the current 7.2 billion.

It said most of the population growth will be concentrated in developing countries, adding pressure to their development needs.

The World Bank added that to meet future food demand, agricultural production will need to increase by 50-70 percent, according to different estimates. And this will happen as the impacts of climate change are projected to intensify overall, particularly hitting the poorest and most vulnerable countries.

Typhoon Neoguri Will Likely Stop the Tanabate in Okinawa

Filed under: culture,japan,weather — admin @ 4:49 am

Tanabata, also called the `star festival,’ is a romantic holiday based on an ancient legend from China that falls on the seventh day of the seventh month. According to the legend, Hikoboshi (`Starboy’; Altair) and Orihime (`Weaver Girl’; Vega) fell in love and spent all their time together, losing interest in their work. Enraged by their negligence, the king of heaven banished them to opposite sides of the Milky Way. Since Tanabata then, the two lovers have been allowed to cross the Milky Way only once a year to meet each other on Tanabata. This is why people pray for a clear night on July 7th, so that the heavenly lovers will be able to meet. The history of Tanabata in Japan is very old. Manyoshu, the oldest existing book of poetry, contains many poems featuring this legend. Around the Tanabata festival, bamboo trees decorated with colorful strips of paper are a common sight. Each strip of paper bears a wish written on it. Many towns and cities in Japan host a Tanabata festival around July 7th, and the streets are festive with decorative bamboo displays.

It is said that if the weather is cloudy and the stars can not be seen then the two lovers can not make the journey across the Milky Way to see each other in their once a year rendezvous.

With Typhoon Neoguri already ushering in cloudy conditions in the southern Japanese islands and the rainy season front over mainland Japan this year I think there will be little hope for the couple this July.

If anything we can take some advice from them though. Dont travel during this Typhoon.

7/31/2014

Mysterious earthen rings predate Amazon rainforest

Filed under: architecture,brazil,weather — admin @ 4:41 pm

A series of square, straight and ringlike ditches scattered throughout the Bolivian and Brazilian Amazon were there before the rainforest existed, a new study finds.

These human-made structures remain a mystery: They may have been used for defense, drainage, or perhaps ceremonial or religious reasons. But the new research addresses another burning question: whether and how much prehistoric people altered the landscape in the Amazon before the arrival of Europeans. “People have been affecting the global climate system through land use for not just the past 200 to 300 years, but for thousands of years,” said study author John Francis Carson, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom.

Blemished Amazon?

For many years, archaeologists thought that the indigenous people who lived in the Amazon before Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas in 1492 moved across the area while making barely a dent in the landscape. Since the 1980s, however, deforestation has revealed massive earthworks in the form of ditches up to 16 feet deep, and often just as wide.

These discoveries have caused a controversy between those who believe Amazonians were still mostly gentle on the landscape, altering very little of the rainforest, and those who believe these pre-Columbian people conducted major slash-and-burn operations, which were later swallowed by the forest after the European invasion caused the population to collapse.

Carson and his colleagues wanted to explore the question of whether early Amazonians had a major impact on the forest. They focused on the Amazon of northeastern Bolivia, where they had sediment cores from two lakes nearby major earthworks sites. These sediment cores hold ancient pollen grains and charcoal from long-ago fires, and can hint at the climate and ecosystem that existed when the sediment was laid down as far back as 6,000 years ago.

Ancient landscape

An examination of the two cores one from the large lake, Laguna Oricore, and one from the smaller lake, Laguna Granja revealed a surprise: The very oldest sediments didn’t come from a rainforest ecosystem at all. In fact, the Bolivian Amazon before about 2,000 to 3,000 years ago looked more like the savannas of Africa than today’s jungle environment.

The question had been whether the early Amazon was highly deforested or barely touched, Carson said.

“The surprising thing we found was that it was neither,” he told Live Science. “It was this third scenario where, when people first arrived on the landscape, the climate was drier.”

The pollen in this time period came mostly from grasses and a few drought-resistant species of trees. After about 2,000 years ago, more and more tree pollen appears in the samples, including fewer drought-resistant species and more evergreens, the researchers report today (July 7) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Charcoal levels also went down, indicating a less-fire-prone landscape. These changes were largely driven by an increase in precipitation, Carson said.

The earthworks predate this shift, which reveals that the diggers of these ditches created them before the forest moved in around them. They continued to live in the area as it became forested, probably keeping clear regions around their structures, Carson said.

“It kind of makes sense,” he said. “It’s easier to stomp on a sapling than it is to cut down a big Amazonian tree with a stone ax.”

Questions answered

The discovery that the human activity came before the forest answers some questions, like how Amazonian people could have built in the rainforest with no more than stone tools (they didn’t have to), how many people would have been necessary to construct the structures (fewer than if clear-cutting had been required), and how the population survived (by growing maize).

The study also has wider implications for the modern day, Carson said. The question of how to preserve the Amazonian rainforest is difficult to answer; some people say humans need to get out, and others believe people and the forest can coexist. Ancient history could provide a guide, as well as a greater understanding of how the forest has recovered from earlier perturbations. (The Amazon also drives climate as well as responds to it, thanks to its ability to take up carbon from the atmosphere.)

The new study suggests that the modern forest is a coproduction between humans and nature, Carson said. Natural cycles drove the rainforest to sprout, but humans stayed on-site for 1,500 years afterward, he said.

“It’s very likely, in fact, that people had some kind of effect on the composition of the forest,” Carson said. “People might favor edible species, growing in orchards and things like that, [or] altered the soils, changing the soil chemistry and composition, which can have a longer-lasting legacy effect.”

Those long-range changes are next for Carson and his colleagues to investigate. “This kind of study has only just started in Amazonia,” Carson said.

Typhoon Neoguri Slams Into Okinawa, Generating 46-Foot Waves

Filed under: japan,weather — admin @ 4:38 pm

A powerful storm slammed through the southwestern Japanese island of Okinawa, leaving at least 28 people injured and 63,000 homes without power before swerving toward the bigger island of Kyushu on Wednesday.

The Okinawan government raised the injury toll to 28 from 17 the day before, two of them seriously. Separately, a man has already been reported missing from a fishing boat in rough seas off Kyushu to the north.

Typhoon Neoguri, one of the biggest storms to hit during Japan’s summer, appeared to be headed toward Kyushu, where it could land Thursday. Then it could travel across the main island of Honshu.

Neoguri, which means “raccoon dog” in Korean, was moving northward at 25 kilometers an hour (15 miles an hour) packing sustained winds of 126 kilometers an hour (78 miles an hours) by midday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Kyushu’s Fukuoka Prefecture issued warnings for strong winds, high tides and heavy rains, and advised people to stay indoors as much as possible.

On Okinawa, evacuation orders were issued to 125,000 households, or nearly 300,000 people, according to the prefectural government.

The main airport on Okinawa, Naha, was closed Tuesday but reopened Wednesday, although some morning flights were canceled.

“Rain has finally stopped, but there is still some wind, and we are checking into any damages at the airport,” said spokesman Takumi Higa, while adding that there were no reports of any damage so far.

Airports in Kyushu were still open, but late flights were canceled, and additional cancellations may be in the works.

Japan Airlines, the nation’s flagship carrier, cancelled 11 flights for Wednesday mostly flights leaving Tokyo for Kyushu, said spokesman Kentaro Nakamura.

Authorities in China and Taiwan have also warned ships to stay clear of the storm.

The torrents of rainfall set off by Neoguri could trigger landslides and floods. Heavy rainfall was expected to hit much of eastern Japan, setting off risks of lightning and tornadoes.

Neoguri left toppled trees, flooded cars and bent railings in its path, according to the Okinawan government, in what it said was the heaviest rainfall experienced there in a half century.

The first super typhoon of the season, Neoguri, continues to threaten lives and property in southern Japan. Neoguri’s center of circulation is now southwest of Kyushu, and it has weakened from “Very Strong” to a “Strong” typhoon (JMA).

Neoguri intensified into a super typhoon early on July 7, 2014 with winds peaking at 250 km/h (155 mph) before the typhoon began to weaken. Neoguri slammed parts of the Ryukyu Islands with wind gusting over 195 km/h (120 mph) on July 8, 2014. At least 10 people have been injured by the storm across Okinawa, where nearly 600 000 were advised to evacuate prior to the cyclone’s arrival. At this time, two deaths are reported. 105 000 homes have lost power across Okinawa across the prefecture.

Maximum sustained winds of 190 km/h (118.6 mph) were recorded at Tokashiki Island, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Peak winds at Kadena AB in Okinawa reached 162 km/h (101 mph). Waves reached heights of up to 14 m (46 feet).

Typhoon Neoguri captured by astronaut Reid Wiseman aboard International Space Station late on July 8, 2014. (Credit: Astro_Reid/ISS)

Neoguri continues to pass through an area of warm sea surface temperature (30 – 31?C) and low vertical wind shear, however, dry air wrapped into the cyclone continues to weaken the system. Visible satellite imagery shows that Neoguri lost it’s eye. According to JMA, the system is moving at speed of 25 km/h (15,5 mph) in northwestward direction. The central minimum pressure is 965 hPa. Maximum sustained winds are 120 km/h (75 mph) with gust up to 175 km/h (109 mph).

El Nino Triggers Drought, Food Crisis in Nicaragua

Filed under: agriculture,climate change,nicaragua,weather — admin @ 5:47 am

The Las Canoas lake in Tipitapa, near Managua, dries up every time Nicaragua is visited by the El Nino phenomenon, leaving local people without fish or water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores/IPS MANAGUA, Jul 10 2014 (IPS) – The spectre of famine is haunting Nicaragua. The second poorest country in Latin America, and one of the 10 most vulnerable to climate change in the world, is facing a meteorological phenomenon that threatens its food security.

Scientists at the Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies (INETER) say the situation is correlated with the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a weather cycle that periodically causes drought on the western Pacific seaboard and the centre of the country, in contrast with seasonal flooding in the north and the eastern Caribbean coast.

Crescencio Polanco, a veteran farmer in the rural municipality of Tipitapa, north of Managua, is one of thousands of victims of the climate episode. He waited in vain for the normally abundant rains in May and June to plant maize and beans.

Polanco lost his bean crop due to lack of rain, but he remains hopeful. He borrowed 400 dollars to plant again in September, to try to recoup the investment lost by the failed harvest in May. ENSO brings drought The warm phase of ENSO happens when surface water temperatures increase in the eastern and central equatorial areas of the Pacific Ocean, altering weather patterns worldwide. Experts at the Humboldt Centre said that in Nicaragua, the main effect is “a sharp reduction in available atmospheric humidity”, leading to “significant rainfall deficits” and an irregular, sporadic rainy season from May to October. Over the last 27 years there have been seven El Nino episodes, and each of them has been associated with drought, they said.

If the rains fail again, it will spell economic catastrophe for him and the seven members of his family.

“In May we spent the money we got from last year’s harvest, but with this new loan we are wagering on recovering what we lost or losing it all. I don’t know what we’ll do if the rains don’t come,” he said.

His predicament is shared by thousands of small producers who depend on rainfall for their crops. Some 45 kilometres south of Tipitapa, southwest of Managua, campesino (small farmer) Luis Leiva regrets the total loss of three hectares of maize and squash to the drought.

Leiva sells his produce in the capital city’s Mercado Oriental market, and uses the profits to buy seeds and food for his family. Now he has lost everything and cannot obtain financing to rent the plot of land and plant another crop.

“The last three rains have been miserable, not enough to really even wet the earth. It’s all lost and now I just have to see if I can plant in late August or September,” he said with resignation.

Rainfall in May was on average 75 percent lower than normal in Nicaragua. According to INETER, there was “a record reduction in rainfall”, up to 88 percent in some central Pacific areas, the largest deficit since records began.

Based on data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), INETER has warned that the drought could last until September.

The nightmare is affecting all farmers on the Pacific coast and in the centre of the country. Sinforiano C·ceres, president of the National Federation of Cooperatives, a group of 300 large farming associations, expounded the sector’s fears to the inter-institutional National Board for Risk Management.

“We have already lost the early planting (in May), and if we lose the late planting (in August and September) there will be famine in the land and a rising spiral of prices for all basic food products,” he said at a forum of producers and experts seeking solutions to the crisis. There is a third crop cycle, in December, known as “apante”.

The country’s main dairy and beef producers raised their concerns directly with the government. Members of the Federation of Livestock Associations and the National Livestock Commission told the government that meat and milk production have fallen by around 30 percent, and could drop by 50 percent by September if the ENSO lasts until then, as INETER has forecast.

Moreover, the National Union of Farmers and Livestock Owners said that over a thousand head of cattle belonging to its members have perished from starvation.

It also warned that the price of meat and dairy products will rise because some livestock owners are investing in special feeds, vitamins and vaccines against diseases to prevent losing more cattle on their ranches.

The agriculture and livestock sector generates more than 60 percent of the country’s exports and earns 18 percent of its GDP, which totalled 11 billion dollars in 2013, according to the Central Bank of Nicaragua.

In the view of sociologist Cirilo Otero, head of the non-governmental Centre for Environmental Policy Initiatives, a food crisis would have a particularly severe economic impact on a country that has still not recovered from a plague of coffee rust that hit plantations in Nicaragua and the rest of Central America over the last two years.

“Thousands of small coffee farmers and thousands of families who depended on the crop have still not been able to recover their employment and income, and now El Nino is descending on them. I don’t know how the country will be able to recover,” he said.

According to Otero, if ENSO continues its ravages for the rest of the rainy season, thousands of families will suffer from under-nutrition in a country where, in 2012, 20 percent of its six million people were undernourished, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

“Producers do not know how to mitigate the effects of climate change, nor the mechanisms for adapting to soil changes. Unless the government implements policies for adaptation to climate change, there will be a severe food crisis in 2014 and 2015,” he said.

The government has set up commissions to monitor the phenomenon, as well as information meetings with farmers and livestock producers.

The authorities have also expanded a programme of free food packages for thousands of poor families, and are providing school meals for over one million children in the school system, as well as a number of small programmes for financing family agriculture.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega ordered urgent imports in June of 20.5 million kilograms of beans and 73.5 million kilograms of white maize to supply local markets, where shortages were already being felt. The government’s intention is to lower the high prices of these products while hoping for a decent harvest in the second half of this year.

The price of red beans has doubled since May to two dollars a kilogram, in a country where over 2.5 million people subsist on less than two dollars a day, according to a 2013 survey by the International Foundation for Global Economic Challenge.

‘Everlasting storm’ has 1 million lightning strikes a year

Filed under: global islands,venezuela,weather — admin @ 5:38 am

There is a place on Earth where an “everlasting storm” appears almost every night, averaging 28 lightning strikes per minute for up to 10 hours at a time. Known as Rel·mpago del Catatumbo — the Catatumbo Lightning — it can spark as many as 3,600 bolts in an hour. That’s one per second.

This storm lives above a swampy patch of northwestern Venezuela, where the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo, and has provided near-nightly light shows for thousands of years. Its original name was rib a-ba, or “river of fire,” given by indigenous people in the region. Thanks to the frequency and brightness of its lightning, visible from up to 250 miles away, the storm was later used by Caribbean sailors in colonial times, earning nicknames like “Lighthouse of Catatumbo” and “Maracaibo Beacon.”

The lightning has also played an even larger role in South American history, helping thwart at least two nocturnal invasions of Venezuela. The first was in 1595, when it illuminated ships led by Sir Francis Drake of England, revealing his surprise attack to Spanish soldiers in the city of Maracaibo. The other was during the Venezuelan War of Independence on July 24, 1823, when the lightning betrayed a Spanish fleet trying to sneak ashore, helping Adm. JosÈ Prudencio Padilla fend off the invaders.

So what causes such a powerful storm to develop in the same spot, up to 300 nights a year, for thousands of years? Why is its lightning so colorful? Why does it not seem to produce thunder? And why does it sometimes vanish, like its mysterious six-week disappearance in 2010?

Lightning in a bottle The Catatumbo Lightning has sparked plenty of speculation over the centuries, including theories that it’s fueled by methane from Lake Maracaibo or that it’s a unique type of lightning. Although its exact origins are still hazy, scientists are pretty sure it’s regular lightning that just happens to occur far more frequently than anywhere else, due largely to local topography and wind patterns.

The Lake Maracaibo basin is surrounded on all but one side by mountains, pictured in the map below, that trap warm trade winds blowing in from the Caribbean Sea. These warm winds then crash into cool air spilling down from the Andes, forcing them upward until they condense into thunderclouds. All this happens above a large lake whose water evaporates vigorously under the Venezuelan sun, offering a steady supply of updrafts. The whole region is like a big thunderstorm machine.

But what about the methane? There are major oil deposits below Lake Maracaibo, and methane is known to bubble up from certain parts of the lake — especially from bogs near three epicenters of storm activity. Some experts think this methane boosts the conductivity of air above the lake, essentially greasing the wheels for more lightning. That hasn’t been proven, though, and some experts also doubt methane is significant compared with the large-scale atmospheric forces at work.

The colors of Catatumbo Lightning have similarly been attributed to methane, but that theory is even shakier. People often see the storm from 30 miles away, and dust or water vapor floating near the surface can distort faraway light, adding color to lightning much like sunsets and sunrises.

Another common Maracaibo myth also boils down to distance: the apparent lack of thunder. Observers have long speculated the storm generates silent lightning, but it doesn’t. All lightning produces thunder, whether it’s cloud-to-ground, intracloud or anything else. Sound just doesn’t travel as far as light, and it’s rare to hear thunder if you’re more than 15 miles away from the lightning.

Some scientists say the Catatumbo Lightning helps replenish Earth’s ozone layer, but that’s yet another cloudy claim. The lightning bolts do coax oxygen in the air to form ozone, but it’s unclear whether that ozone ever drifts high enough to reach the stratospheric ozone layer. Gone in a flash Although the Catatumbo Lightning doesn’t appear every night, it’s not known for taking extended breaks. That’s why people were alarmed when it vanished for about six weeks in early 2010.

The disappearance began in January of that year, apparently due to El NiÒo. The phenomenon had been meddling with weather around the world, including a severe drought in Venezuela that virtually eliminated rainfall for weeks. Rivers dried up, and by March there still hadn’t been a single night of Catatumbo Lightning. Before that, the longest-known hiatus was in 1906, after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake had caused a tsunami. Even then, however, the storms returned in three weeks.

“I look for it every night but there is nothing,” a local schoolteacher told the Guardian in 2010. “It has always been with us,” a fisherman added. “It guides us at night, like a lighthouse. We miss it.”

The rain and lightning eventually returned by April 2010, but some locals fear the episode could be repeated. Not only might another El NiÒo starve the area of rain — the Pacific Ocean has been flirting with El NiÒo conditions lately, for example — but the growth of man-made climate change can encourage stronger cycles of rainfall and drought in the region. And on top of that, deforestation and agriculture have added clouds of silt to the Catatumbo River and nearby lagoons, which experts like environmentalist Erik Quiroga blame for weaker lightning shows even in non-drought years.

“This is a unique gift, and we are at risk of losing it.”

Not everyone agrees the gift is in trouble, though. University of Zulia researcher Angel MuÒoz told Slate in 2011 “we have no scientific evidence the Catatumbo lightning is disappearing,” and added it might be intensifying due to extra methane from oil drilling at Lake Maracaibo. Either way, it’s widely agreed the storm is a natural wonder and a national treasure. Quiroga has been trying since 2002 to get the area declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, and while that’s proved difficult, he did recently succeed in lobbying for a Guinness world record: most lightning bolts per square kilometer per year.

That record should draw more attention, Quiroga says, both from scientists and tourists. Venezuelan tourism minister Andres Izarra seems to agree, pledging earlier this year to invest in an “eco-tourism route” around the area. With or without such a spotlight, though, there are reminders of the storm’s iconic status everywhere — even on the flag for the Venezuelan state of Zulia, where the storm lives:

For a glimpse of what the Catatumbo Lightning looks like in action, check out the video below:

IFRAME: //www.youtube.com/embed/Ghc1LqZIdik

6/27/2014

Monsoon

Filed under: bangladesh,disaster,india,weather — admin @ 3:57 pm

Monsoonal flow develops in Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal The past week has seen the appearance of low-level monsoon flow in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal, with an increase in rainfall activity in the region. This monsoonal flow is expected to strengthen and deepen with further advancement towards India likely this week. When the onset of the southwest monsoon arrives over Kerala, it signals the arrival of the monsoon over the Indian subcontinent. Based on the recent appearance of monsoonal flow in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal, the India Meteorological Department expect onset at Kerala on 5 June (plus or minus four days). The normal date of monsoon onset over Kerala is 1 June. This past week has also seen enhanced tropical convection along the equator over Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea and the western Pacific Ocean. Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) has recently weakened over the Indian Ocean. Climate models indicate it will remain weak over the next two weeks, with the chance of a very weak signal propagating eastwards along the equator over Southeast Asia and into the western Pacific. The MJO is not expected to be strong enough to have a substantial influence on tropical weather during the next fortnight.

A Bangladeshi ferry with around 200 passengers on board capsized in a river near the capital Dhaka. Police have stated six bodies have been recovered but more are still missing. The M.V. Miraj-4 ferry capsized in stormy weather in the Meghna river at Rasulpur in Munshiganj district, 27 kilometres from Dhaka. The accident occurred at around 3:30 pm (0930 GMT). So far six bodies had been recovered, including that of a child, according to Oliur Rahman, a police officer at the scene. With the monsoon season setting in more weather flooding and storm related problems can be expected.

5/24/2014

Greenhouse Gardening

Filed under: agriculture,antigua,caribbean,climate change,resource,weather — admin @ 4:37 am

Antigua is one of the most drought-prone countries in the Caribbean. So whenever it rains, the inhabitants generally regard the weather as “showers of blessing”.

But that is starting to change. Many farmers now see the rains as a curse and are now fighting an uphill battle to save their crops, vital for both the local and foreign markets.
“The yield and lifespan [of crops in a greenhouse] basically are three times as much as open-field production.” — Delrie Cole

“We are a drought-prone country,” Ruleta Camacho, senior environmental officer in the ministry of agriculture, stated. “The issue now is that due to the impact of climate change, we are having exacerbated drought and exacerbated rainfall events.”

Heavy rainfall can damage crops and high humidity brings with it an infestation of pests and diseases, increasing the consumption of pesticides.

“We are having large amounts of rain in very short times. There are a number of communities that are affected by flood conditions, communities where the livelihoods of the population could be affected,” Camacho added.

One such community is Jonas Road where Delrie Cole has been farming for the last three years. But since Cole introduced greenhouse technology to his farm, he is no longer at the mercy of the rains.

With the greenhouses he is also able to grow his vegetables – cilantro, parsley, basil, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, pumpkins and tomatoes – during periods of drought or deluge.

“The need for the greenhouses came about because of climate change and a lack of production in the summer season when you have more stressful conditions,” he said.

“Due to the changing climate we are having hotter summers and it’s a pretty difficult time when you have the plants being stressed and the fruits are falling from the trees.

“The greenhouse basically gives you that edge where you can better operate in terms of control, cutting down some of the humidity that you would have during the summer,” he explained.

Greenhouse farming, which is cultivation of plants inside a building with glass walls and roof under controlled conditions, has become necessary with climate change.

Temperature and humidity can be controlled, making it possible for farmers to grow crops year-round.

“The yield and lifespan basically are three times as much as open-field production,” said Cole, who has been a farmer for more than 30 years.

“We are doing crops which are running 12 months, so whereas you would have planted a field that is carrying us through 12 months, farmers in the open would have been planting three crops within that same length of time and their yield would be less.”

Farmers in Antigua stand to benefit from the Reducing the Risks to Human and Natural Assets Resulting from Climate Change (RRACC) project being implemented by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“The ministry of agriculture has identified the threat of heavy rainfall on cash crops such as lettuce and tomatoes,” Susanna Scott, coordinator of the RRACC project, said.

“A lot of damage could result from intense rainfall, which is expected to increase with climate change and also in time of drought the impact of the dry weather on these crops is severe as well,” she said. “So what we are looking at doing is investing in greenhouses to provide a protective area for crop growing.”

Antigua’s main agricultural exports include cotton to Japan and fruits and vegetables to other Caribbean territories.

Hot peppers and vegetables are also exported to the United Kingdom and Canada. Other agriculture products are bananas, coconuts, cucumbers, mangoes, livestock and pineapples.

Agriculture is currently a rather insignificant part of the economy, making up just four percent of GDP. However, it appears that cultivation is on the rise, with approximately 300 acres of land planted with vegetables.

Antigua has also been campaigning to encourage more youth to get involved in agriculture and there is evidence of some success.

Oraine Halstead and Rhys Actie, who are both under the age of 25, are full-time farmers.

“As a boy growing up with my grandmother, she was involved in planting vegetables and I got a little knowledge of it and fell in love with it,” Actie, a national of St. Lucia who moved here at the age of nine years and is now 23, said.

Halstead, who has been a farmer for two and half years, said farming is a very fulfilling career.

“I love to be around plants, taking care of them. It’s a joy to see them grow to maturity and the food they produce,” he said.

In the wake of climate change, greenhouse farming is seen as the only way to protect crops and manage a better yield than in normal condition. Farming under controlled condition protects crops from wind, rain, sun and precipitation.

The advantages of vegetable production in tropical greenhouses include higher yield and quality; reduced risks for quality and yield; less susceptibility to disease and damage caused by heavy rainfall; extended harvest time; reduced water consumption; and better use of fertiliser and pesticides.

“People are more keen as to what they consume and where it’s coming from. We are doing vine ripening so the flavour is good. Consumers are knocking on our doors because of the quality and the taste of our tomatoes,” Cole said.

Monsoon Season

Filed under: bangladesh,climate change,disaster,india,png,weather — admin @ 4:19 am

Monsoonal flow develops in Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal The past week has seen the appearance of low-level monsoon flow in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal, with an increase in rainfall activity in the region. This monsoonal flow is expected to strengthen and deepen with further advancement towards India likely this week. When the onset of the southwest monsoon arrives over Kerala, it signals the arrival of the monsoon over the Indian subcontinent. Based on the recent appearance of monsoonal flow in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal, the India Meteorological Department expect onset at Kerala on 5 June (plus or minus four days). The normal date of monsoon onset over Kerala is 1 June. This past week has also seen enhanced tropical convection along the equator over Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea and the western Pacific Ocean. Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) has recently weakened over the Indian Ocean. Climate models indicate it will remain weak over the next two weeks, with the chance of a very weak signal propagating eastwards along the equator over Southeast Asia and into the western Pacific. The MJO is not expected to be strong enough to have a substantial influence on tropical weather during the next fortnight.

A Bangladeshi ferry with around 200 passengers on board capsized in a river near the capital Dhaka. Police have stated six bodies have been recovered but more are still missing. The M.V. Miraj-4 ferry capsized in stormy weather in the Meghna river at Rasulpur in Munshiganj district, 27 kilometres from Dhaka. The accident occurred at around 3:30 pm (0930 GMT). So far six bodies had been recovered, including that of a child, according to Oliur Rahman, a police officer at the scene. With the monsoon season setting in more weather flooding and storm related problems can be expected.

4/7/2014

All Native Now

It was Good Friday, 50 years ago on March 27, 1964, that according to seismologists, the snow peaks of Prince William Sound jumped 33 feet into the air and fell back down. Emergency warnings about an earthquake-spurred tsunami went out to towns from Valdez, Alaska, to Malibu, Calif., but no one thought to send a message to the Chugach Natives in Chenega, Alaska.

Chenega chief Nikolas Kompkoff watched the mountains leap and the waters around his island disappear over the horizon.

Knowing the water would return with a vengeance, he ran his four daughters up a hill toward high ground. But the nine-story-tall tsunami was moving too fast for their little legs. Kompkoff made a decision: He grabbed the two girls closest to him, tucked them under his arms and ran up the slope, leaving the other two to be seized by the wave.

Days later, a postal pilot on his weekly mail drop could not find Chenega because every single house and a third of the residents had been washed out to sea.

When he circled back to the site he saw the village’s church on the hill with survivors waving.

Kompkoff found the body of his youngest daughter stuck in the high branches of a pine tree. He buried her, then left to join the survivors, all refugees scattered throughout Alaska. The government told the village of seal hunters they could never return. No longer able to hunt, Kompkoff became an Orthodox priest and a notorious drunk.

On Good Friday each year, Father Nikolas would return to his island with the remainder of his flock to place a cross among the broken sticks of the old village. Each year he swore they would rebuild.

The years passed, and the oath to rebuild seemed increasingly ludicrous. After a decade of helplessness, Father Nikolas put a gun under his chin and pulled the trigger. The bullet passed through his jaw. Embarrassed church bishops defrocked him in response. On Good Friday, 1989, the 25th anniversary of the earthquake, Kompkoff led his congregation (they still considered him “Father” Nick) in a commemoration of the tsunami’s dead at the church they built at New Chenega. The village had been resurrected stick by stick by Kompkoff’s nephew Larry Evanoff after Evanoff returned wounded from Vietnam.

What the celebrants did not know was that that very night another tsunami would head toward them, a wave of oil from the Exxon Valdez.

As the oil slick spread from the grounded tanker through Chugach waters, Exxon made the Old Chenega area what the industry calls a “sacrifice zone.” The company’s executives allowed it to be slathered by tons of crude.

Weeks after the spill, the president of Exxon stopped by New Chenega for a “we care” television photo-op. Village patriarch Paul Kompkoff, Nikolas’ brother, asked him, “Are my parents’ bones covered with oil?”

The official answer was that the bones were undisturbed. In fact, as I reported in my book, Vultures’ Picnic (http://www.palastinvestigativefund.org/?id=46) , both the oil and bones were being scooped up by Exxon bulldozers at that very moment.

The Chugach hired me to investigate the spill’s true cause and the true culprits. Paul Kompkoff asked me to arrange a secret meeting with Exxon in hopes of getting a few dollars so the new village could survive. In particular, the Chenegans wanted Exxon to hire them to clean up the beaches and fishing grounds still contaminated with Exxon’s gunk.

With Chenega leader Gail With Chenega leader Gail Evanoff, Kompkoff and I flew from Alaska to San Diego to corner Exxon USA General Manager Otto Harrison. It was now three years after the spill and still no money had been forthcoming. The Exxon honcho, an enormous Texan, took us to a corporate meeting room, and from across the giant conference table looked down at the diminutive Evanoff and said, “Now, Gail, ah cayn’t be payin’ a bunch o’ Natives to go ’round picking up oil that ain’t there, can I?”

In 2010, I returned to Prince William Sound for British television. On the Chugach’s islands, I picked up gobs of the “oil that ain’t there” in my (carefully gloved) hand. It was more than two decades after the Exxon Valdez spill.

Then I flew down to the Gulf of Mexico where I collected giant hunks of Deepwater Horizon oil nearly a year after the spill, more “oil that ain’t there” at least according to our government and BP television ads.

* In 2011, 22 years after the Alaska spill, Exxon paid for the damages but only after the Supreme Court cut the payout by 90 percent. Part of Chenega’s money was meant for a new fishing boat for Paul Kompkoff. But he was long dead by then, as were a third of my Native clients.

* I was in Chenega on the second anniversary of the Exxon spill. Paul Kompkoff and I snacked on dried salmon while we watched the first Gulf War on CNN. The U.S. Air Force was bombing the bejesus out of Baghdad.

The old man watched a long while in silence. Then said, in his slow, quiet voice, “I guess we’re all some kind of Native now.”

Flash Floods Worst Ever

Head of the National Disaster Management Council says today’s heavy rains and flash floods are the worst he’s ever witnessed for Honiara.

Loti Yates made the statement on national radio today when announcing the NDMO’s evacuation program for people worst hit by today’s heavy torrential rains and its consequential flash floods.

Reports reaching SIBC state communities in White River, Rove, Mataniko, Koa Hill and other areas located near rivers and streams are among the worst hit areas.

Other unconfirmed reports state that the flooding Mataniko River swept away homes, livestock and a number of people – with some of the people being found in seas outside of Point Cruz.

Heavy flooding also swept away the old Mataniko Bridge in Chinatown, and most businesses and offices were forced to close early today.

One shop owner in Chinatown reportedly opened his shop and invited people to take goods for free after the behind of the building was swept away by the flooding Mataniko River.

Director of National Disaster Management Office, Loti Yates told SIBC News this current bad weather is the worst he’s seen since he took up his job as head of the NDMO.

“This event is the worst I’ve ever seen since taking up the job, that there are so much heavy rain around this area that creates this massive flash foods. Not only that, it won’t help when our drainage systems in the city are not working properly, contributing to the floods. Driving around to assess the situation myself today I was sad to notice the fact that there were children and women carrying little kids in the rain trying to evacuate themselves from the flooded areas and in some places it seems people’s belongings have been washed away by the Mataniko floods.”

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Management Office has urged road users to drive back to their homes and garage their vehicles.

NDMO Head Loti Yates told national radio today the road needs to be cleared for police and emergency response workers.

“It would be good if people just head straight to their homes rather than creating extra hurdles for emergency response workers. The police will need space to run their vehicles if we are to engage them to evacuate people from the high risk areas, we will all need space and it won’t help when everyone else wants to witness the events, creating extra traffic on our roads. I think for safety purposes please drive back to your homes, pack your vehicles and remain in the safety of your homes. That will be the biggest message I want to tell people because now the emergency response workers, like police and others working to help those affected will need space on the roads to carry out their duty.”

2/19/2014

Caribbean Climate Change

Filed under: antigua,caribbean,climate change,global islands,weather — admin @ 7:26 am

JONAS ROAD, Antigua , Feb 17 2014 – Antigua is one of the most drought-prone countries in the Caribbean. So whenever it rains, the inhabitants generally regard the weather as “showers of blessing”.

But that is starting to change. Many farmers now see the rains as a curse and are now fighting an uphill battle to save their crops, vital for both the local and foreign markets. “The yield and lifespan [of crops in a greenhouse] basically are three times as much as open-field production.” — Delrie Cole

“We are a drought-prone country,” Ruleta Camacho, senior environmental officer in the ministry of agriculture, said. “The issue now is that due to the impact of climate change, we are having exacerbated drought and exacerbated rainfall events.”

Heavy rainfall can damage crops and high humidity brings with it an infestation of pests and diseases, increasing the consumption of pesticides.

“We are having large amounts of rain in very short times. There are a number of communities that are affected by flood conditions, communities where the livelihoods of the population could be affected,” Camacho added.

One such community is Jonas Road where Delrie Cole has been farming for the last three years. But since Cole introduced greenhouse technology to his farm, he is no longer at the mercy of the rains.

With the greenhouses he is also able to grow his vegetables – cilantro, parsley, basil, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, pumpkins and tomatoes – during periods of drought or deluge.

“The need for the greenhouses came about because of climate change and a lack of production in the summer season when you have more stressful conditions,” he said.

“Due to the changing climate we are having hotter summers and it’s a pretty difficult time when you have the plants being stressed and the fruits are falling from the trees.

“The greenhouse basically gives you that edge where you can better operate in terms of control, cutting down some of the humidity that you would have during the summer,” he explained.

Greenhouse farming, which is cultivation of plants inside a building with glass walls and roof under controlled conditions, has become necessary with climate change.

Climate-proofing the tiny island of Petite Martinique includes a sea revetment 140 metres long to protect critical coastal infrastructure from erosion.

SANCHEZ, Petite Martinique, Feb 5 2014 – Sanchez is a small central business district in Petite Martinique, the tiny island that forms part of the tri-nation state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Petite Martinique’s 586 acres are dominated by communal, recreational, artisanal and industrial land in close proximity to each other, and in some cases sharing the same space. The local population of about 900 people use the beachfront land on Sanchez for boat-building, sports, recreation and other outdoor activities. “The coastal assets are being degraded at a rate that is clearly visible without measurements using scientific tools.” — Bentley Browne

But over the last two decades, the area has experienced extensive erosion. Authorities say that at least 30 metres have been lost over a 15- to 20-year period – a rate equal to 1.5 to 2.0 metres per year – causing severe destruction to the only level piece of land on the island.

The rocky coast located at the north of the beach shifts to a small coral reef, but it’s not enough to protect all of the shoreline from swells and currents. Incoming waves from the Atlantic Ocean regularly pound the shoreline at Sanchez. As a result, any sand moving along the near shore is automatically swept away and lost from the littoral system.

“Our vulnerabilities to natural disasters are tremendous and while we cannot prevent disasters, we can focus on mitigating and building resilience against impacts,” the minister for Carriacou and Petite Martinique affairs, said Elvin Nimrod.

The erosion has exposed the soft ash-cinder layers, which are light grey to light brown in colour. Authorities worry that if the erosion is allowed to continue, the roadway leading from the end of the recreational field will be undermined and eventually collapse.

At the northernmost section of this eroded area, the headland has been protected by a retaining wall. However, sections of this wall have failed, and although it was recently rebuilt, even parts of that newer wall are also now failing. In addition, the armour stones that have been used to protect this wall are much too small to withstand storm waves, and this has likely contributed to the failure of this structure.

But Sanchez is finally getting help to deal with the problem. It is the first completed climate change intervention under the 10.5-million-dollar Reducing the Risks to Human and Natural Assets Resulting from Climate Change (RRACC) Project being funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and administered by the St. Lucia-based Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Secretariat.

In 2012, Grenada requested support from the secretariat in addressing issues of coastal erosion and reduce compounding impacts from climate change.

The initiative for Carriacou and Petite Martinique was three-fold, outlining a comprehensive approach to address the issues with support from the RRACC.

The coastal restoration works in Sanchez were the first of 11 examples of climate change adaptation interventions to be undertaken under the RRACC Project that will help the nine-member OECS grouping build resilience to climate change and reduce vulnerabilities to its impacts.

The project here included the reclamation of land lost to the sea, as well as the placement of one sea revetment 140 metres long to halt the ongoing erosion of the playing field area and protect critical coastal infrastructure and the armouring of the headland to the north with the construction of a revetment to withstand storm surges and strong wave action.

The director of social and sustainable development at the OECS Secretariat, Bentley Browne, said these frequent bombardments of the coastlines have resulted in significant loss of fertile land and coastal forestation, including mangroves.

“Today, the coastal assets are being degraded at a rate that is clearly visible without measurements using scientific tools, and it was recognized that this growing problem requires immediate and appropriate mitigation response measures to reduce the vulnerability of these islands to the impacts of climate change,” he said.

Browne said small island developing states (SIDS) like those in the OECS can do little to stop or reverse climate change, and thus “must do all in our power to cope with its consequences”.

“The impacts on small islands have been explored by many scientists and in general, it is expected that sea level rise will lead to greater coastal flooding and damage to shorelines and infrastructure, erosion and threats to livelihoods. As persons who inhabit the small land spaces in the OECS, this is particularly worrisome,” he said at a ceremony in late January marking the completion of the restoration works in Sanchez.

“As a region, we recognize the challenges that confront us. However, we will not be deterred or thrown off our course towards our quest for sustainable development. Our intentions on this matter are clearly etched in pivotal policies and agreements that guide our region’s growth and development.”

He said the OECS Economic Union Treaty, along with the St. George’s Declaration of Principles for Environmental Sustainability in the OECS (SGD), mandate that each member state minimize environmental vulnerability, improve environmental management and protect the region’s natural resource base, thereby increasing its resilience to climate change impacts and allowing continued social and economic benefits.

Mikell O’Mealy, the Eastern Caribbean climate change coordinator with USAID-Caribbean, said the Sanchez project represented a “shining example of a how community can address the very serious issues facing the region with regard to climate change”.

She said once the coral reefs bleach and die, as occurred in Petite Martinique, they no longer provide a critical buffer to protect the shoreline from currents, waves and storms.

“Here, as in so many places in the region and worldwide, the loss of coral reefs and coastal mangroves has led to severe coastal erosion, threatening critical community infrastructure, such as the road that connects your community around the island and the power plant adjacent to the road that supplies the island’s electricity,” O’Mealy said.

She said the restoration project here demonstrates how climate change-induced erosion can be effectively addressed by combining technical expertise and a strong, collaborative community effort.

In addition to this project in Petite Martinique, USAID was funding 10 other projects across the Eastern Caribbean and supporting the OECS Secretariat “in helping us all learn from each other … [on] what works best, what didn’t work so well, and how the most successful approaches can be scaled-up in each country and region-wide in the most cost effective way.

“Climate change is unfortunately not going away, and we know at this point that the impacts are predicted to worsen in the coming years. We therefore must continue to try new approaches, learn from each other, and scale-up what works,” she added.

1/20/2014

Climate Change & Disease

Caribbean countries, struggling to emerge from a slump in exports and falling tourist arrivals brought on by the worldwide economic crisis that began five years ago, have one more thing to worry about in 2014.

Dominica’s chief medical officer, Dr. David John, said climate change and its effects are taking a toll on the health of people in his homeland and elsewhere in the region. “A lot of diseases will essentially create havoc among people who are already poor.”

“You have seen what is happening [with] the effects of climate change in terms of our infrastructure, but there are also significant effects with regards to climate change on health,” John said, adding that “these effects relate to the spread of disease including dengue fever and certain respiratory illnesses.” John said the Dominica government would be seeking assistance from international agencies, including the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), to mitigate “the effects of climate change on health as it relates to dengue, leptospirosis and viral disease.”

In late 2012, the Ministry of Health in Barbados alerted members of the public about a spike in leptospirosis cases. Senior Medical Officer of Health-North Dr. Karen Springer said then that five people had contracted the severe bacterial infection, bringing the number of cases for the year to 18.

Springer explained that the disease, which includes flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, chills, nausea and vomiting, eye inflammation and muscle aches, could be contracted through contact with water, damp soil or vegetation contaminated with the urine of infected animals. Bacteria can also enter the body through broken skin and if the person swallows contaminated food or water.

In recent years, dengue has also been on the rise throughout the Caribbean with outbreaks in Dominica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico and the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, among other places.

Professor of environmental health at the Trinidad campus of the University of the West Indies Dr. Dave Chadee said there is ample “evidence that climate-sensitive diseases are being tweaked and are having a more significant impact on the region”.

He said he co-authored a book with Anthony Chen and Sam Rawlins in 2006 which showed “very clearly” the association between the changes in the seasonal patterns of the weather and the onset and distribution of dengue fever.

“There is enough evidence, not only from the Caribbean region but worldwide, that these extreme events are going to have and going to play a significant role in the introduction and distribution of these sorts of diseases in the region,” Chadee, who previously served as an entomologist at the Insect Vector Control Division of the Ministry of Health in Trinidad and Tobago, said.

“If you look at the various factors that are associated with climate change, the first is heat waves. There has also been a reduction in air quality. You also see an increase in fires and the effects on people’s ability to breathe as well as the association between the Sahara dust and asthma which was demonstrated in Barbados and Trinidad recently.

“The Sahara dust which comes in from Africa brings in not only the sand but also other pathogenic agents within the sand, together with some insecticides which have been identified by people working at the University of the West Indies,” Chadee said.

Dr. Lystra Fletcher-Paul, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative for Guyana, said she has no doubt that climate change has contributed significantly to some of the issues related to diseases in the region.

“If you look at some of the impacts of climate change, for example drought, with drought you are going to increase the amount of irrigation that you are going to be applying to the crops. And irrigation water is a source of pesticides or even chemicals, depending on where that source of water is and that could lead to problems in health,” she said.

“Similarly with the extreme events, if you are talking about floods, there can be contamination of the fresh-water supply.”

The FAO representative is adamant that there is too much “talk” in the Caribbean and too little “implementation”.

“We have had the conversation, so what we need to do now is put the systems in place to mitigate and adapt to climate change,” she said. Using land-use planning as an example, Fletcher-Paul said, “A lot of what we see happening in St. Vincent and St. Lucia may not necessarily have taken place if we had proper land-use planning.”

A slow-moving, low-level trough on Dec. 24 dumped hundreds of millimetres of rain on St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Dominica, killing at least 13 people. The islands are still trying to recover.

“So we need to take some hard decisions in terms of where we would allow development to take place or not,” Fletcher-Paul said.

Chadee said the poor would always be at a disadvantage in climate change scenarios and they will suffer the most from sea level rise when you have salt water intrusion into fertile agricultural land, rendering them unsuitable for food production. “A lot of diseases will essentially create havoc to people who are already poor. The adaptability of the poor versus the rich within the Caribbean region will be tested because if the poor are no longer able to produce some of their food, this would then lead to health problems.”

He explained that if the poor are no longer able to have a particular diet this would make them susceptible to a number of diseases.

“With the Caribbean region having developing states, and especially Small Island Developing States, we do have a unique situation where the resources have to be put in place, especially for adaptation,” Chadee said.

“It’s almost like the wall of the reservoir has been breached and you know that the water is coming. You don’t know how high the water level is going to be but you know it’s coming, so what do you do? And that essentially is the scenario in which we have found ourselves in the Caribbean,” Chadee added.

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