Nuclear Plants, Toxic Waste Sites Under Threat as Hurricane Florence reaches the Carolinas

by Jon Queally, staff writer
With reports of skyscraper-likes waves out at sea, the potential for historic coastal surges and rainfall, and severe threats to vulnerable nuclear plants and other industrial waste sites—a behemoth Hurricane Florence is fast-approaching the southeastern U.S. coast on Wednesday as weather experts and emergency management officials intensifying their warnings about the dangers the storm poses.
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  • Clyde Duncan  On 09/14/2018 at 7:21 pm

    ‘Warning of What Has Already Arrived’:
    Florence is a Climate Change Triple Threat

    Michael Mann | The Guardian UK

    Just a year ago we were dealing with an historically devastating Atlantic hurricane season.

    It was marked by the strongest Hurricane – Irma – ever observed in the open Atlantic, the near total devastation of Puerto Rico by a similarly powerful category 5 monster Maria, and Hurricane Harvey – the worst flooding event in USA history.

    At the time, I commented here and elsewhere about the role climate change had played in amplifying the destructive characteristics of these storms.

    Not to be outdone, the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, initially predicted to be quiet – quelled by an incipient El Niño event and cool, early summer ocean waters – has suddenly erupted.

    If the current disturbance in the western Gulf of Mexico known as “95L” earns the status of tropical storm, the 2018 season will be the second time in recorded history that we’ve seen five tropical storms simultaneously present in the Atlantic basin – the last time was in 1971.

    What happened to cause all of this? An early autumn ocean “heat wave” has brought sea surface temperatures in the western Atlantic to bathtub-level warmth.

    Just as summer heat waves on land are greatly increased in frequency and intensity by even modest overall warming, so too are these ocean heat waves becoming more frequent and more extreme as the oceans continue to warm.

    All else being equal, warmer oceans mean more energy to intensify tropical storms and hurricanes.

    But when it comes to coastal threat, it hardly matters how many tropical storms there are over the course of the season. A single landfalling hurricane can wreak havoc and destruction.

    Think Katrina in 2005, Irene in 2011, Sandy in 2012, either Harvey or Maria in 2017 and Florence in 2018.

    The Triple Threat:

    First, there is the threat of wind damage taking down trees and power lines, to say the least.

    That brings us to the second, even greater threat: Storm Surge. Although the storm weakened as it approached the coast, the storm surge was built up over a period of several days, including the time during which it existed as a category 4 storm. That means the catastrophic, roughly-10-foot storm surge was baked in well in advance of landfall of the storm.

    The third threat is that of inland flooding. Warmer oceans mean more moisture in the atmosphere. It’s one of the simplest relationships in all of meteorology:

    For each 1C of warming, there is about 7% more moisture in the air. That means those 1.5C-above-normal ocean temperatures have given the storm about 10% more moisture. All other things being equal, that implies about 10% more rainfall.

    But that’s not the whole story: What made Harvey a record flooding event last year and makes Florence such a flooding threat now, is the slow-moving nature of the storm. The slower the storm moves, the more rainfall that accumulates in any one location and the more flooding you get.

    Some headlines have reported that Florence is a warning of what is to come. But in reality, it is a warning of what has already arrived. Far worse is to come if we don’t get serious, in a hurry, about acting on climate change.

    We must transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy even more rapidly, and we must elect politicians who will support such efforts.

    In the USA, there’s an opportunity to do so in less than two months now in the upcoming mid-term elections, where we must elect politicians who support enlightened policies on energy and climate, and vote out of office those who don’t.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 09/16/2018 at 1:10 am

    Super typhoon heads for Hong Kong, China after pummeling Philippines

    James Pomfret, Enrico Dela Cruz | Reuters

    HONG KONG/MANILA (Reuters) – A super typhoon swirled towards Hong Kong and the Chinese coast on Sunday, gaining in strength over the South China Sea after hurtling through the Philippines, where it wreaked havoc that killed at least 25.

    Tropical cyclone Mangkhut is considered the strongest to hit the region this year, packing gale force winds of more than 200 kph (125 mph), equivalent to a maximum Category 5 “intense hurricane” in the Atlantic.

    Philippine authorities said at least 25 people were killed, including a baby and a toddler, most of them in landslides in mountainous areas that left at least 13 missing.

    “The landslides happened as some residents returned to their homes after the typhoon,” disaster response coordinator Francis Tolentino said on DZMM Radio, adding that 5.7 million people had been affected but most were prepared.

    “No matter how prepared we are, there is really some limitation.”, he added.

    Mangkhut, the Thai name for Southeast Asia’s mangosteen fruit, was expected to skirt 100 km (62 miles) south of Hong Kong and veer west towards the coast of China’s southern Guangdong province, and the gaming center of Macau.

    “According to the present forecast track, Mangkhut will be closest to the Pearl River Delta around noontime (0200 GMT),” the Hong Kong Observatory said.

    Hong Kong raised its highest No. 10 typhoon signal at mid-morning, as fierce waves pounded low-lying areas and strong winds rattled windows in many towering skyscrapers.

    Some residents have been evacuated from low-lying areas with storm surges of up to 3.5 m (12 ft) expected.

    Tens of thousands of travelers had plans disrupted after Hong Kong’s international airport, a major regional hub, canceled most flights. Airlines such as its flagship carrier, Cathay Pacific, canceled many flights last week.

    Last year, typhoon Hato, one of the strongest in recent years, pummeled the region, causing nine deaths and damage in Macau, sparking criticism that authorities had not been well prepared.

    This time, Macau has been cautious, with officials saying it shut casino gambling operations late on Saturday and China’s People’s Liberation Army put on standby for any disaster relief assistance.

    “The suspension is for the safety of casino employees, visitors to the city, and residents,” the government of the world’s largest gambling hub said in a statement.

    China has ordered about 6,000 boats to return to harbor, and evacuated thousands of offshore oil platform workers, the state news agency, Xinhua, said.

    The typhoon, or “King of Storms”, as Chinese media describe it, is expected to make landfall in Guangdong between Zhuhai and Wuchuan in the evening, weather officials say.

    Ports, oil refineries and industrial plants in Guangdong have been shut. Power to some areas could also be reduced as a precaution, say grid operators.

    The storm has fueled concern about Guangdong’s sugar output, with China sugar futures rising last week on fears for the cane crop. Guangdong produces about 1 million tonnes, or a tenth of national sugar output.

    The airport in the boomtown of Shenzhen has been shut since midnight, and will be closed until 8:00 a.m. (2400 GMT) on Monday. In Guangzhou, scheduled flights between noon on Sunday and 8:00 a.m. on Monday have been canceled.
    More than 400 flights have also been canceled in the neighboring island province of Hainan.

    Mangkhut’s northwesterly track will bring heavy rain and winds to the autonomous region of Guangxi early on Monday, before the storm weakens into a tropical depression to reach southwestern Yunnan on Tuesday.

    Reporting by James Pomfret, Anne Marie Roantree and Farah Master; Additional reporting by Manolo Serapio and Martin Petty in MANILA and Ryan Woo and Meng Meng in BEIJING; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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