Category: Extreme Weather

Cyclone Ita could be similar in force to Typhoon Haiyan

Nth Qld braces for severe cyclone 1:55

Cyclone Ita has been upgraded to a category five storm and is expected to hit the Queensland coast shortly.


CATEGORY-FIVE Cyclone Ita has been likened in sheer destructive force to Typhoon Haiyan that last year wiped out parts of South East Asia killing thousands in the strongest wind speed ever recorded.

7am: Cooktown locals in far north Queensland are making an early morning dash to their service station as the town braces for its first major cyclone in 65 years.

Category 5 Cyclone Ita was 235km northeast of the town at 6am, as some 28 people spent the night in the local cyclone shelter.

Cooktown, north of the World Heritage-listed Daintree National Park, was last battered by a cyclone in February 1949.

Locals were rushing to the local service station for supplies as strong winds and heavy rain drenched the town of about 2300 people soon after daybreak.

It is understood Cooktown’s main store is closing its doors soon, while most homes in the area are either boarded up or have tape on the windows.


Cyclone threat 8:59

Queensland is on disaster alert as monster storm Tropical Cyclone Ita, now a category five system, bears down on far north Queensland

6am: Cyclone Ita has clocked 300km/h winds as it shapes to slam into the coast about 6pm today.


The category 5 cyclone is pushing a wall of water, with “phenomenal” seas in front of its 80km-wide core.

Winds up to 125km/h are expected to batter the far north Queensland coast by late morning.

At 6am, the cyclone was about 235 kilometre a north northeast of Cooktown, moving southwest at 11km/h.

Cyclone Ita is predicted to cross the coast between Cape Melville and Cooktown late afternoon.

Very destructive winds to 300km have been estimated at the core pushing a huge storm surge.

Cyclone warnings are current from Lockhart River to Innisfail, including Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns.

And the severe storm is expected to maintain intensity as it smashes the Queensland coast between Cape Melville and Cooktown later today.

A cyclone warning is current for coastal areas from Lockhart River to Innisfail and inland to Kalinga, Palmerville, Mareeba and Chillagoe.

A cyclone watch is current for coastal areas from Innisfail to Cardwell and inland.



5am: Cyclone Ita was 240km north northeast of Cooktown and 385km north of Cairns, moving southwest at 12 kilometres per hour.

The system near the core is churning winds around 300km/h and gales extending out to 200km from the centre.

Destructive winds with wind gusts in excess of 125km/h could develop between Cape Melville and Cooktown from late morning extending south to Cape Tribulation and possibly Port Douglas later in the day.

Dangerous storm tides, damaging waves, rising sea levels and strong currents are expected between Cape Melville and Cape Tribulation including Cooktown.

Sea level is likely to rise well above normal tides with flooding of low-lying areas extending some way inland.

12am: Premier Campbell Newman has warned if the colossal tropical cyclone tracks south today it could impact tens of thousands of people in Port Douglas, Mossman and Cairns with the threat of tsunami-like storm surge.

At 10:00pm, Ita was estimated 320km north northeast of Cooktown and 455 km north of Cairns and is projected to cross the coast about 5pm.

The powerful system is travelling southwest at abouty 15km per hour.

A warning has been issued for the coastal areas from Lockhart River to Innisfail.

Cooktown, Port Douglas and Cairns, Kalinga, Palmerville, Mareeba and Chillagoe are included in the threatened area.

Premier Campbell Newman toured Cooktown and Hope Vale as Cyclone Ita last night bore down on the far north Queensland frontier.



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Millions of asthmatics unable to breathe as giant cloud of Saharan sand and toxic air covers Britain in layer of smog

  • Air pollution set to hit 10/10 due to dust from Sahara mixing with local pollution and toxic air from Europe
  • Parts of the South Coast, West Country, Midlands and South Wales are worst affected by the problem
  • Dust has been generated from two source areas – one in central Algeria and another in southern Morocco
  • Meteorologists say it’s ‘particularly bad with weather conditions creating “perfect storm” for air pollution’
  • Those in affected areas advised to reduce strenuous outdoor exercise, especially if they get a sore throat
  • Adults and children with lung problems, heart problems and pensioners should avoid vigorous activity
  • Asthma sufferers may have to use inhalers more frequently for a few days until levels drop on Friday
  • But the dust does have positive aspects for fish in the Atlantic Ocean and the Brazilian rainforest

By Mark Duell and Fiona Macrae and Ted Thornhill

Published: 18:13 EST, 1 April 2014 | Updated: 10:56 EST, 2 April 2014


Millions of asthmatics were today having trouble breathing as a potentially-lethal cloud of Saharan sand, toxic air and local pollution sat over Britain.

One sufferer said she felt like she had ‘a baby elephant sitting on my chest’, while another said her lungs felt like they had ‘cobwebs’ inside them.

Even those without health difficulties have been told by experts to reduce outdoor exercise, with air pollution set to hit 10 out of 10 in some areas.

Britons are being warned they may suffer breathing problems, with parts of the South Coast, West Country, Midlands and South Wales worst affected.

Those in affected areas are advised to reduce the strenuous outdoor exercise they do, especially if they start to suffer from a cough or sore throat.


Protection: A cyclist uses a pollution mask in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, as a potentially-lethal cloud of Saharan sand, toxic air and local pollution sits over Britain

Protection: A cyclist uses a pollution mask in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, as a potentially-lethal cloud of Saharan sand, toxic air and local pollution sits over Britain

Not a good day for seeing far: A misty bird's eye view of London from the Shard building near London Bridge

Not a good day for seeing far: A misty bird’s eye view of London from the Shard building near London Bridge

Winding river: Air pollution in London this morning as the Government warns people with breathing problems to stay indoors

Winding river: Air pollution in London this morning as the Government warns people with breathing problems to stay indoors

Distant: The Millennium Dome is shrouded in smog in London, as seen from a viewing gallery in the Orbit sculpture during a tour organised for the media

Distant: The Millennium Dome is shrouded in smog in London, as seen from a viewing gallery in the Orbit sculpture during a tour organised for the media





Pollution graphic from Press Association

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Earth Watch Report  -  Extreme Weather



March 26 2014 07:00 AM Extreme Weather USA State of Arizona, Phoenix Damage level Details





Extreme Weather in USA on Wednesday, 26 March, 2014 at 07:00 (07:00 AM) UTC.

A massive haboob swept through Phoenix on Tuesday, lingering above the Arizona capital for hours and creating an eyesore for residents. The dust storm picked up as a result of the showers and thunderstorms that popped around the state, with gusty outflow winds raising the elements. With another area of low pressure swinging a cold front in tomorrow, weather experts say another storm is likely. Arizona is no stranger to large dust storms, or haboobs, during the summer monsoon period, but meteorologists say Tuesday’s storm is unseasonably early. The National Weather Service says a large cloud of dust was first spotted near Eloy about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.



Massive haboob dust cloud blankets Phoenix in thunderstorm aftermath… and ANOTHER is forecast for tomorrow

  • Haboob said to have started in Tucson after first being sighted around 4pm
  • Meteorologists say a dry storm with winds of up to 35 mph kicked up the dust in southern Arizona and the cloud moved north to the Phoenix area
  • The cloud lingered for hours
  • There were at least five car crashes
  • A cold front set to swing in tomorrow will likely bring a similar storm

By Daily Mail Reporter


A massive haboob swept through Phoenix on Tuesday, lingering above the Arizona capital for hours and creating an eyesore for residents.

The dust storm picked up as a result of the showers and thunderstorms that popped around the state, with gusty outflow winds raising the elements.

With another area of low pressure swinging a cold front in tomorrow, weather experts say another storm is likely, according to My Fox Phoenix.

It's not summertime yet, but a dust storm imoved through the Phoenix metropolitan area on Tuesday, blanketing the area in thick smoke

It’s not summertime yet, but a dust storm imoved through the Phoenix metropolitan area on Tuesday, blanketing the area in thick smoke


The Arizona Department of Public Safety said the storm caused at least five crashes along I-10, with the first storm hitting about 4pm

The Arizona Department of Public Safety said the storm caused at least five crashes along I-10, with the first storm hitting about 4pm


Arizona is no stranger to large dust storms, or haboobs, during the summer monsoon period, but meteorologists say Tuesday’s storm is unseasonably early.

The National Weather Service says a large cloud of dust was first spotted near Eloy about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

 Meteorologists say a dry storm with winds of up to 35 mph kicked up the dust in southern Arizona and the cloud moved north to the Phoenix area.

A dust storm warning was first issued for the Interstate 10 corridor between Tucson and Casa Grande, just south of Phoenix.

State Department of Public Safety officials say blowing dust along I-10 north of Picacho Peak resulted in at least five crashes


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Dust Storm


Published on Mar 25, 2014

A dust storm blew in while on vacation in Gilbert, Az. I flew my DJI Phantom up to get a view of the inbound storm. I didn’t keep it up there long as it started getting quite windy. Filmed on a GoPro 3.

To use this video in a commercial player or in broadcasts, please email


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Earth Watch Report  -  Extreme Weather


Extreme Weather Philippines Zamboanga del Sur, Tabina [Zamboanga Peninsula] Damage level Details




Extreme Weather in Philippines on Tuesday, 18 March, 2014 at 09:17 (09:17 AM) UTC.

At least 30 houses were destroyed after strong winds and heavy rains struck a surprised village in Tabina, Zamboanga del Sur, the police reported Tuesday. Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, spokesman of Police Regional Office 9 (PRO), said no one was reported hurt in the disaster that hit Barangay New Oroquita. Quoting belated reports, Huesca said that the “sudden storm” struck the village on Friday night. Engr. Rey Rubio of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said at least 100 residents were forced to leave their homes during the onslaught. He said several coconut trees were also toppled by strong winds. Rubio said that the incident was not immediately reported to authorities because the remote village had not phone signal and that only a few vehicle pass through the area. He said the disaster’s damage was pegged at P500,000.




4 children feared dead in Zamboanga Sibugay landslide



ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Four children were feared dead after they were buried alive in a huge landslide in Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay, police reported Thursday.

Insp. Ariel Huesca, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Police Office, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer via a text message that the children were resting in an abandoned house in Purok 4 in Barangay (village) Sayao around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday when soil, mud and rocks moved amid heavy rains.


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5 killed, 17,000 displaced by Zamboanga flooding

By , , Inquirer Mindanao

Contributed Photo by Sarah Lizette

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines— While Zamboanga City has barely moved on from the fighting between government troops and Moro National Liberation Front last month, deaths from the incessant heavy rains spawned by the intertropical convergence zone in the city for the past few days rose to five on Wednesday.

More than 17,000 others displaced when floods caused by continuous heavy rain swept through the city and outlying villages during the past week, the authorities said.

Although much of the floods have receded, some places remain under water as the rains have continued.

ITCZ brings heavy rains

Maribel Enriquez, chief of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration station in Zamboanga City, said the Intertropical Convergence Zone was causing all the rain.

“It’s been there hovering and it is the reason why we have long hours of rain since last week, making our soil saturated with water,” Enriquez said.

“When our soil is saturated with water, definitely, we are going to experience flooding and landslide,” she added.

The five-day incessant rains with occasional strong winds battered the city since Friday last week inundated 6.47 hectares of farmlands and fishponds.

Damage to crops was estimated to cost P57.9 million.

Sheila Covarrubias, the city’s information officer, said records of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center show that a total of 25 barangays, or city districts and villages, were flooded, affecting 4,802 families or 17,026 individuals.

Five persons were reported to have drowned in the villages of Tugbungan, San Roque, San Jose Gusu and Putik.

Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Regional Police Office, identified two of those killed as Edwina Flores, 58, and her helper Rosanna Fabella, both residents of San Roque.


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Published time: February 28, 2014 16:49

Azusa, California (Reuters/David McNew)

Azusa, California (Reuters/David McNew)

Police in two California cities have ordered mandatory evacuations for 1,000 homes due to the threat of mudslides, as a powerful rainstorm prepares to drench the drought-stricken state.

Homeowners in Azusa and Glendora, California – about 25 miles northeast of Los Angeles – were made aware of the orders on Thursday, after one rainstorm had already passed over the cities. No significant damage was done, but with 2,000 acres of mountain slopes near the suburbs denuded by a January wildfire, officials fear a stronger storm could trigger a series of devastating mudslides.

“You’ve got a recently burned hillside here with limited vegetation and a very steep slope. It’s a recipe for what the experts say is potential for a great deal of damage,” Sgt. John Madaloni said to local news outlet KCAL 9.

Prior to the first storm, local communities began preparing for possible damage by lining the streets with wooden barriers and sandbags, hoping to keep any traveling debris on the roads and away from homes. With the National Weather Service warning of a storm powerful enough to drop 1 to 2 inches of rain an hour into Saturday, however, allowing everyone to stay in their homes posed too great a risk for city officials.


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Storm lashes California, but not a drought buster


Clouds are shown over the iconic Hollywood sign Thursday Feb. 27, 2014 in Los Angeles. Southern California got an overnight soaking Thursday as residents prepared for a second, more powerful storm that could bring heavier rain and prompted fears of mudslides in communities along fire-scarred foothills. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)



LOS ANGELES (AP) – California was lashed Friday by heavy rains that the parched state so desperately needs, though with the soaking came familiar problems: traffic snarls, power outages and the threat of mudslides.

Even with rainfall totals exceeding 8 inches in some Southern California mountains by afternoon, the powerful Pacific storm did not put a major dent in a drought that is among the worst in recent California history.

The first waves of the storm drenched foothill communities east of Los Angeles that just weeks ago were menaced by a wildfire – and now faced potential mudslides. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for about 1,200 homes in the area. Small debris flows covered one street in Glendora, but no property damage occurred, police said.

Forecasters expected the storm to last through Saturday in California before trundling east into similarly rain-starved neighboring states. Phoenix was expecting its first noticeable precipitation in two months. The storm was projected to head east across the Rockies before petering out in the Northeast in several days.

The threat of mudslides will last at least through Saturday night. Tornadoes and water spouts were possible.

Rainfall totals in parts of California were impressive, especially in areas that typically don’t receive much, but not nearly enough to offer long-term relief from a long-running drought.

Downtown Los Angeles received about 2 inches – doubling its total for the rainy season that began in July, the National Weather Service said. The city remained 7 inches below the normal 11 inches. The last time a storm dumped 2 inches of rain in Los Angeles was March 2011.


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NASAno Rains Ash, Rock on Java: Photos

NASA today released this image of the polar vortex, the weird atmospheric twitch that flooded into the United States last month. The purple wavy line above that wanders down from the Arctic shows the below-average temperatures that set cold records in many states.

From NASA’s Facebook page:

“The Big Chill – Blistering cold air from the Arctic plunged southward this winter, breaking U.S. temperature records. A persistent pattern of winds spins high above the Arctic in winter. The winds, known as the polar vortex, typically blow in a fairly tight circular formation. But in late December 2013 and early January 2014, the winds loosened and frigid Arctic air spilled farther south than usual, deep into the continental United States. On Jan. 6, 2014, alone, approximately 50 daily record low temperatures were set, from Colorado to Alabama to New York, according to the National Weather Service. In some places temperatures were 40 degrees Fahrenheit colder than average.”


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….. MLive

Wind chill advisory: Check out how cold it will feel in Grand Rapids

By Andrew Krietz |

on February 27, 2014 at 3:53 PM, updated February 27, 2014 at 4:23 PM

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Don’t let the Thursday afternoon sun fool you.

A wind chill advisory is in effect until 11 a.m. Friday following the National Weather Service canceling a winter weather advisory. With snow showers mostly out of the picture, there’s now a greater focus on how cold it’ll feel when the sun comes up.

“Feels like” temperatures will be at their lowest after 4 a.m. Friday, with some readings approaching minus 25 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids.

Forecasters say there likely will be a bit of a lull in wind speeds late tonight through the early morning hours, but an approaching weather system is positioned to kick them back up again to about 5 to 15 mph. It won’t take much for the wind, coupled with an overnight low of minus 7 degrees, to knock down those readings quickly.


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Arctic air makes a comeback, sort of

Freeze will cover two-thirds of country, weather service says

UPDATED 8:35 AM PST Feb 25, 2014
Cold New Yorkers, cold weather

Chad Weisser/iReport

(CNN) —Don’t pack away those winter coats and hats yet!

We’re in for another blast of cold Arctic air, which is gearing up to roll across most of the country this week, but it won’t be as bad as the shocking freeze in January.

The National Weather Service says some places from the central U.S. to the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys could be having some frosty high temperatures, as low 20 to 30 degrees below normal.

If you call it Polar Vortex Part II (or III or IV), meteorologists say you’d be wrong — nor was the first big cold spell of 2014, strictly speaking, a strike of the Polar Vortex.

The Polar Vortex stays anchored over Baffin Bay, to the north of Canada, and doesn’t move, says CNN meteorologist Sean Morris. But its shifting pattern allows cold Arctic air to spill southward into the United States.

“When it weakens, this allows the cold Arctic air that is often mislabeled the “Polar Vortex” to spill southward across the U.S. border and bring us bone-chilling temperatures,” Morris explained.

So from a technical perspective, “if you’re looking to get ‘struck’ by the vortex, you’re out of luck,” he added.

Although this cold snap doesn’t have as menacing a name, the Arctic air blast will cause temperatures to plummet 25 to 35 degrees below average east of the Rocky Mountains, Morris said.

Temperatures will drop Tuesday to 10 to 30 degrees below normal for this time of year in places such as Minnesota and the Dakotas. Then the arctic blast will roll east.

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Brutal Winter Continues as Temps Plummet Again

File Photo
Photo: AP/Nati Harnik

Updated: 02/27/2014 4:50 PM

Created: 02/27/2014 6:10 AM
By: Jennie Olson

Now that the high winds of Wednesday are settling down, our temperatures have taken yet another dive.

After a brief warm up, the never-ending winter of 2013-14 has re-established its run at record territory, Morning Chief Meteorologist Ken Barlow says.


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File: The climate-controlled skyway system in Minneapolis provides warmth for people moving from building to building as another polar blast brought sub-zero temperatures with wind chills in the minus-40′s, Monday, Jan. 27.
Photo: AP/Jim Mone, File



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Geoengineering side effects could be potentially disastrous, research shows

Comparison of five proposed methods shows they are ineffective, alter weather systems or could not be safely stopped
Geoengineering techniques need more study, says science coalition

Geoengineering the planet’s climate: even when applied on a massive scale, the most that could be expected is a temperature drop of about 8%, new research shows. Photograph: Nasa/REUTERS

Large-scale human engineering of the Earth’s climate to prevent catastrophic global warming would not only be ineffective but would have severe unintended side effects and could not be safely stopped, a comparison of five proposed methods has concluded.

Science academies around the world as well as some climate activists have called for more research into geoengineering techniques, such as reflecting sunlight from space, adding vast quantities of lime or iron filings to the oceans, pumping deep cold nutrient-rich waters to the surface of oceans and irrigating vast areas of the north African and Australian deserts to grow millions of trees. Each method has been shown to potentially reduce temperature on a planetary scale.

But researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany, modelled these five potential methods and concluded that geoengineering could add chaos to complex and not fully understood weather systems. Even when applied on a massive scale, the most that could be expected, they say, is a temperature drop of about 8%.

The potential side effects would be potentially disastrous, say the scientists, writing in Nature Communications. Ocean upwelling, or the bringing up of deep cold waters, would cool surface water temperatures and reduce sea ice melting, but would unbalance the global heat budget, while adding iron filings or lime would affect the oxygen levels in the oceans. Reflecting the sun’s rays into space would alter rainfall patterns and reforesting the deserts could change wind patterns and could even reduce tree growth in other regions.

In addition, say the scientists, two of the five methods considered could not be safely stopped. “We find that, if solar radiation management or ocean upwelling is discontinued then rapid warming occurs. If the other methods are discontinued, less dramatic changes occur. Essentially all of the CO2 that was taken up remains in the ocean.”


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Diagram of geoengineering ideas
A diagram of the geoengineering projects people have proposed to combat climate change. The laws surrounding such projects are still uncertain.
Credit: Diagram by Kathleen Smith/LLNL


Current schemes to minimize the havoc caused by global warming by purposefully manipulating Earth’s climate are likely to either be relatively useless or actually make things worse, researchers say in a new study.


The dramatic increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution is expected to cause rising global sea levels, more-extreme weather and other disruptions to regional and local climates. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat, so as levels of the gas rise, the planet overall warms.


In addition to efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, some have suggested artificially manipulating the world’s climate in a last-ditch effort to prevent catastrophic climate change. These strategies, considered radical in some circles, are known as geoengineering or climate engineering.



Many scientists have investigated and questioned how effective individual geoengineering methods could be. However, there have been few attempts to compare and contrast the various methods, which range from fertilizing the ocean so that marine organisms suck up excess carbon dioxide to shooting aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect some of the sun’s incoming rays back into space. [8 Ways Global Warming is Already Changing the World]


Now, researchers using a 3D computer model of the Earth have tested the potential benefits and drawbacks of five different geoengineering technologies.


Will it work?


The scientists found that even when several technologies were combined, geoengineering would be unable to prevent average surface temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above current temperatures by the year 2100. This is, the current limit that international negotiations are focused on. They were unable to do so even when each technology was deployed continuously and at scales as large as currently deemed possible.


“The potential of most climate engineering methods, even when optimistic deployment scenarios were assumed, were much lower than I had expected,” said study author Andreas Oschlies, an earth system modeler at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany.


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International Law Encourages Use of Geoengineering Weather Modification



Derrick Broze

According to a new study due to be published in 2014, Geoengineering field research is not only allowed, it is encouraged.

The study was authored by Jesse Reynolds at Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands. Reynolds researched the legal status of geoengineering research by analyzing international documents and treaties.

Geo-engineering is the science of manipulating the climate for the stated purpose of fighting mad made climate change. These include Solar Radiation Management (SRM), the practice of spraying aerosols into the sky in an attempt to deflect the Sun’s rays and combat climate change.

According to a recent congressional report:

“The term “geoengineering” describes this array of technologies that aim, through large-scale and deliberate modifications of the Earth’s energy balance, to reduce temperatures and counteract anthropogenic climate change. Most of these technologies are at the conceptual and research stages, and their effectiveness at reducing global temperatures has yet to be proven. Moreover, very few studies have been published that document the cost, environmental effects, socio-political impacts, and legal implications of geoengineering. If geoengineering technologies were to be deployed, they are expected to have the potential to cause significant transboundary effects.

In general, geoengineering technologies are categorized as either a carbon dioxide removal (CDR) method or a solar radiation management (SRM) method. CDR methods address the warming effects of greenhouse gases by removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. CDR methods include ocean fertilization, and carbon capture and sequestration. SRM methods address climate change by increasing the reflectivity of the Earth’s atmosphere or surface.

Aerosol injection and space-based reflectors are examples of SRM methods. SRM methods do not remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, but can be deployed faster with relatively immediate global cooling results compared to CDR methods.“
Reynolds’ study will be published in the Journal of Energy, Climate and the Environment around the same time that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presents its Fifth Assessment Report. The study continues the calls for an international body to regulate the controversial weather modification techniques.

Some believe the answer is international agreement for international tests but low-risk domestic research should continue to assist in the overall decision of what to do with geoengineering.

One of the many dangers of manipulating the weather are the loss of blue skies. According to a report by the New Scientist, Ben Kravitz of the Carnegie Institution for Science has shown that releasing sulphate aerosols high in the atmosphere would scatter sunlight into the atmosphere. He says this could decrease the amount of sunlight that hits the ground by 20% and make the sky appear more hazy.


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Yale University


09 Jan 2014: Report

Solar Geoengineering: Weighing
Costs of Blocking the Sun’s Rays

With prominent scientists now calling for experiments to test whether pumping sulfates into the atmosphere could safely counteract global warming, critics worry that the world community may be moving a step closer to deploying this controversial technology.

by nicola jones

In 1991, Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in one of the largest volcanic blasts of the 20th century. It spat up to 20 million tons of sulfur into the upper atmosphere, shielding the earth from the sun’s rays and causing global temperatures to drop by nearly half a degree Celsius in a single year. That’s more than half of the amount the planet has warmed

Studies have shown that such a strategy would be powerful, feasible, fast-acting, and cheap.

due to climate change in 130 years.

Now some scientists are thinking about replicating Mount Pinatubo’s dramatic cooling power by intentionally spewing sulfates into the atmosphere to counteract global warming. Studies have shown that such a strategy would be powerful, feasible, fast-acting, and cheap, capable in principle of reversing all of the expected worst-case warming over the next century or longer, all the while increasing plant productivity. Harvard University physicist David Keith, one of the world’s most vocal advocates of serious research into such a scheme, calls it “a cheap tool that could green the world.” In the face of anticipated rapid climate change, Keith contends that the smart move is to intensively study both the positive and negative effects of using a small fleet of jets to inject


Arlan Naeg/AFP/Getty Images
The 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption lowered temperatures nearly half a degree Celsius.

sulfate aerosols high into the atmosphere to block a portion of the sun’s rays.

Yet even Keith acknowledges that there are serious concerns about solar geoengineering, both in terms of the environment and politics. Growing discussion about experimentation with solar radiation management has touched off an emotional debate, with proponents saying the technique may be needed to avert climate catastrophe and opponents warning that deployment could lead to international conflicts and unintended environmental consequences — and that experimentation would create a slippery slope that would inevitably lead to deployment. University of Chicago geophysicist Raymond Pierrehumbert has called the scheme “barking mad.” Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki has dismissed it as “insane.” Protestors have stopped even harmless, small-scale field experiments that aim to explore the idea. And Keith has received a couple of death threats from the fringe of the environmentalist community.

Clearly, there are good reasons for concern. Solar geoengineering would likely make the planet drier, potentially disrupting monsoons in places like India and creating drought in parts of the tropics. The technique could help eat away the protective ozone shield of our planet, and it would cause air pollution. It would also do nothing to counteract the problem of ocean

Some worry that solar geoengineering would hand politicians an easy reason to avoid emissions reductions.

acidification, which occurs when the seas absorb high levels of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Some worry that solar geoengineering would hand politicians an easy reason to avoid reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And if the impacts of climate change worsen and nations cannot agree on what scheme to deploy, or at what temperature the planet’s thermostat should be set, then conflict or even war could result as countries unilaterally begin programs to inject sulfates into the atmosphere. “My greatest concern is societal disruption and conflict between countries,” says Alan Robock, a climatologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

As Keith himself summarizes, “Solar geoengineering is an extraordinarily powerful tool. But it is also dangerous.”

Studies have shown that solar radiation management could be accomplished and that it would cool the planet. Last fall, Keith published a book, A Case for Climate Engineering, that lays out the practicalities of such a scheme. A fleet of ten Gulfstream jets could be used to annually inject 25,000 tons of sulfur — as finely dispersed sulfuric acid, for example — into the lower stratosphere. That would be ramped up to a million tons of sulfur per year by 2070, in order to counter about half of the world’s warming from greenhouse gases. The idea is to combine such a scheme with emissions cuts, and keep it running for about twice as long as it takes for CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere to level out.

Under Keith’s projections, a world that would have warmed 2 degrees C by century’s end would instead warm 1 degree C. Keith says his “moderate, temporary” plan would help to avoid many of the problems associated with full-throttle solar geoengineering schemes that aim to counteract all of the planet’s warming, while reducing the cost of adapting to rapid climate change. He estimates this scheme would cost about $700 million annually — less than 1 percent of what is currently spent on clean energy development. If such relatively modest cost projections prove to be accurate, some individual countries could deploy solar geoengineering technologies without international agreement.

‘The thing that’s surprising is the degree to which it’s being taken more seriously,’ says one scientist.

The idea of solar geoengineering dates back at least to the 1970s; researchers have toyed with a range of ideas, including deploying giant mirrors to deflect solar energy back into space, or spraying salt water into the air to make more reflective clouds. In recent years the notion of spraying sulfates into the stratosphere has moved to the forefront. “Back in 2000 we just thought of it as a ‘what if’ thought experiment,” says atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science, who did some of the first global climate modeling work on the concept. “In the last years, the thing that’s surprising is the degree to which it’s being taken more seriously in the policy world.”

In 2010, the first major cost estimates of sulfate-spewing schemes were produced. ‎ In 2012, China listed geoengineering among its earth science research priorities. Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s summary statement for policymakers controversially mentioned geoengineering for the first time in the panel’s 25-year history. And the National Academy of Sciences is working on a geoengineering report, funded in part by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

Solar geoengineering cannot precisely counteract global warming. Carbon dioxide warms the planet fairly evenly, while sunshine is patchy: There’s more in the daytime, in the summer, and closer to the equator. Back in the 1990s, Caldeira was convinced that these differences would make geoengineering ineffective. “So we did these simulations, and much to our surprise it did a pretty good job,” he says. The reason is that a third factor has a bigger impact on climate than either CO2 or sunlight: polar ice. If you cool the planet enough to keep that ice, says Caldeira, then this dominates the climate response.


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Geoengineering could bring severe drought to the tropics, research shows

Study models impact on global rainfall when artificial volcanic eruptions are created in a bid to reverse climate change
Layers of Volcanic Dust in the Earth's Atmosphere following eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Philippines

A view from the space shuttle Atlantis of three layers of volcanic dust in the Earth’s atmosphere, following the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. Photograph: ISS/NASA/Corbis

Reversing climate change via huge artificial volcanic eruptions could bring severe droughts to large regions of the tropics, according to new scientific research.

The controversial idea of geoengineering – deliberately changing the Earth’s climate – is being seriously discussed as a last-ditch way of avoiding dangerous global warming if efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions fail.

But the new work shows that a leading contender – pumping sulphate particles into the stratosphere to block sunlight – could have side-effects just as serious as the effects of warming itself. Furthermore, the impacts would be different around the world, raising the prospect of conflicts between nations that might benefit and those suffering more damage.

“There are a lot of issues regarding governance – who controls the thermostat – because the impacts of geoengineering will not be uniform everywhere,” said Dr Andrew Charlton-Perez, at the University of Reading and a member of the research team.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, is the first to convincingly model what happens to rainfall if sulphates were deployed on a huge scale.

While the computer models showed that big temperature rises could be completely avoided, it also showed cuts in rain of up to one-third in South America, Asia and Africa. The consequent droughts would affect billions of people and also fragile tropical rainforests that act as a major store of carbon. “We would see changes happening so quickly that there would be little time for people to adapt,” said Charlton-Perez.

Another member of the research team, Professor Ellie Highwood, said: “On the evidence of this research, stratospheric aerosol geoengineering is not providing world leaders with any easy answers to the problem of climate change.”


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Weekend Snow to Blanket Northwest

More wintry weather in store for region

Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014

This file photo shows a snowy Casper, Wyoming, field. The state is among those being hit by wintry storms this weekend. (Wyoming_Jackrabbit/Flickr)
It’s shaping up to be a snowy weekend for parts of the Northwest and northern Rockies as waves of snow and cold air move through the region.

Although the highest accumulations will be found in the mountains, snow in the lower elevations can still accumulate enough to cause travel delays in cities such as Spokane, Wash., Billings, Mont., Casper, Wyo. and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The first wave of snow will move in on Saturday, spreading light snow from Washington through Wyoming. A steadier snow looks to move in with the second wave of snow from Sunday afternoon into Sunday night.

Accumulating snowfall will likely stay out of the city of Seattle with much of the precipitation falling as rain. However, some snowflakes may mix in for a time on Saturday night and into early on Sunday morning.

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Severe Weather Hits Midwest, Southeast; Tornadoes Confirmed in at Least Six States

Published: Feb 22, 2014, 8:10 PM EST


Chapin, IL Tornado Explainer

A severe weather outbreak brought dangerous weather to the Midwest and South Thursday and Friday night, spawning tornadoes in at least six states.

At least 13 tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service by early Friday evening, according to severe weather expert, Dr. Greg Forbes, including eight tornadoes in Illinois, two in southern Mississippi, and one each in Ohio, Maryland and Louisiana.

Additionally, there were more than 200 reports of wind damage peppered across more than a dozen states Thursday, and nearly 25 reports of hail.


Andy Shireman tweeted this photo of a reported tornado near Concord, Ill. Thursday.

“Where instability was greatest, thunderstorms congealed into long lines from Tennessee southward, rather than discrete, rotating supercells, minimizing the number of tornadoes there,” said senior meteorologist Jon Erdman. “Farther north, where more discrete supercells did erupt, a few tornadoes did touch down in parts of the mid-Mississippi Valley. However, with more limited instability that far north, the number of tornadoes was limited there, too.”

Below is a look at how the event has affected each state in its path.


The National Weather Service in Huntsville confirmed at least four tornado touchdowns, including an EF-2 in Fort Payne. A tornado flipped 3 tractor trailers, one of which landed on top of a jet polymer plant before destroying two houses.

The Fort Payne-area twister was brief but powerful, with estimated winds up to 125 mph. Survey crews from the weather service say it flipped three large semitrailers, vaulting one into the air and onto the factory’s roof around 12:30 a.m. Friday.

Another EF-1 tornado touched down at a marina on the Tennessee River in Limestone County, then damaged some nearby condos and homes Thursday night.

Two other Thursday night twisters snapped and uprooted trees and damaged some homes in the Cartwright community in northern Alabama and in the Anderson area of Lauderdale County.

Storms damaged some buildings in Calhoun County and brought down trees in many areas of Alabama. Preliminary reports to the National Weather Service said the storms toppled trees late Thursday and early Friday in Marion, Fayette, Walker, Tuscaloosa and Elmore counties.


There were reports of several homes damaged in central Georgia and toppled trees across north Georgia after a fast-moving line of thunderstorms brought high winds to the region. The Courier Herald in Dublin reports that more than 50 homes in northern Laurens County were impacted by a storm Friday, with debris scattered across yards and on rooftops. There were no immediate reports of injuries there. Preliminary reports to the National Weather Service indicate that several trees were down on U.S. Highway 11 in Dade County Friday morning, after the line of storms rolled through the state’s northwest corner. A 58 mph wind gust was reported at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta.


The National Weather Service confirmed that at least eight tornadoes touched down in east and central Illinois Thursday, causing minor damage. The tornadoes were reported near the Cass County town of Arenzville, about 50 miles west of Springfield; east of Mechanicsburg in Sangamon County; near Pana in Christian County; west of Shumway in Effingham County; west of Findlay; and in Pike County. The storms reportedly destroyed several outbuildings and snapped utility poles. No injuries were reported.


The National Weather Service says at least two tornadoes struck Indiana on Thursday as severe thunderstorms swept across the state.

Meteorologists say a tornado ranking as an EF1 on the Fujita scale and packing 90 mph winds struck Thursday night about four miles north of Osgood in southeastern Indiana’s Ripley County.

That storm knocked a mobile home off its foundation and damaged two pole barns, leaving a nearly mile-long path.

A second tornado ranking as an EF0 with winds of about 85 mph damaged two outbuildings and toppled trees Thursday evening in central Indiana’s Rush County near the town of Arlington.

The weather service says that storm was on the ground for less than a minute and left a path of damage less than a tenth of a mile long.

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