Monday 28th Update: the BogPo has no special knowledge of the situation in Houston this morning, that cannot be obtained from watching the CNN live feed or visiting the live updates on The Guardian website. The confirmed death toll in Texas still stands fortunately at only two, although much of the devastated town of Rockport remains inaccessible to rescuers. The cleanup bill is so far estimated at $40 billion and FEMA is suggesting it could take two years or more to recover.
We can however make two comments of our own: firstly, that the severe flooding in China and elsewhere over the past two months has been if anything more extreme, with far greater loss of life; images of rivers turned to boiling torrents, carrying away everything in their path, have been horrifyingly evident on the four-day compilations of raw cameraphone footage and local news reports available on a deeply depressing YouTube channel called Climate and Extreme Weather News, from which the BogPo frequently quotes.
The flooding in Houston seems somehow more sinister, just water rising inexorably everywhere. People still seem unwilling to leave their cars and get to shelter. What idiot drives into three feet of water, where is it so important they have to get to, that they risk their lives and others’? With over 6,000 emergency calls from people needing rescue, the mayor of Houston is having to defend himself against the charge that he should have ordered a general evacuation. Have people lost all sense of individual responsibility? This flood was predicted days in advance.
Secondly, there will no doubt be a heated debate over whether or not this possibly once in 1,000-years or more event is being caused by climate change. The answer is yes, in at least three respects. Of course there are major hurricanes and cyclones from time to time. In this case however, three new factors are in play.
One, for every one degree rise in air temperature, 7% more water vapor is retained, leading to heavier rainfall amounts – as has been observed over vast areas this summer, when global temperatures have been up to 1.85 degrees above the 1910-2001 average. Your Granny W. has been keeping tabs on the situation globally for a couple of months now and there can surely be no doubt that increased precipitation is becoming quite alarming.
Two, the sea has been absorbing solar-heated CO2 ten times faster than the air – warmer seas transpire more water vapor and impart more energy to storms. The Gulf is showing a 4 deg. C anomaly this summer above the 26 deg. C level at which hurricanes form. Harvey formed in the Gulf as a huge Cat 4 storm, drawing in cloud mass from other fronts, within just 72 hours. Corresponding cyclones in the eastern Pacific this summer have also benefited from warmer waters, despite the lack of a major El Niño event.
And three, the northern jetstream is behaving chaotically as a result of warmer waters entering the Arctic, the loss of sea-ice reducing albedo enabling further solar warming of the ocean in a blue-water ‘feedback loop’. Fragments of the jetstream, normally a continuous ribbon of high-speed, high-altitude wind around the Arctic circle, have pushed down into the southern states of America this summer and are preventing Harvey from moving further inland.
(I am indebted to the Ottawa University climatologist, Prof. Paul Beckwith, citing websites Earth Nullschool(.org) and Climate Reanalyzer(.org), for much of the above.)
Harvey is now forecast to back south over the coast, where it will pick up new energy and more water before heading off through Louisiana (New Orleans in its path), up into Tennessee around Memphis. Gruesomely, it’s said to be ‘feeding off’ its own rainfall, recycling the floodwaters.
Additional summary from: http://floodlist.com/america/usa/flooding-houston-south-east-texas-august-2017
India: Torrential rain causes major flooding in Mumbai (Bombay), 29 Aug. Three dead including two children as a building collapses. “Incessant rains hit Mumbai for the fourth straight day on Tuesday, flooding vast areas of the city, throwing traffic out of gear on key arteries and affecting trains and flights services in the Maharashtra capital.” More heavy rain forecast.
Sunday 27th: Five dead. 4-6 inches of rain AN HOUR reportedly falling around the eye of Hurricane, now downgraded to Tropical Storm, Harvey, which is stuck virtually at a standstill over most of southern Texas because of the broken jetstream pushing south. Extreme emergency declared in Houston as 100% precipitation brings flash-flood warnings through to next Thursday and tornadoes to the entire region. Up to 50 inches (1200 mm) of rain forecast by Friday.
After growing in speed and energy in the Gulf, from an ordinary storm over the Yucatan peninsula last Wednesday, until it made devastating landfall only 72 hours later, Harvey could be one of the largest weather systems ever recorded, feeding other storms out as far as Florida (40%-60% possibility of forming new Tropical Storm) up to Wisconsin, firehosing a 60,000-foot column of warm water out of the Gulf and dumping it onland, with 92% humidity. People are talking of a ‘reconfigured coastline’ for when this horror is over, not before Wednesday or Thursday.
Saturday 26th: having made landfall near the town of Rockport as a 130 mph Cat 4, Hurricane Harvey is weakening to a tropical storm but still with sustained windspeeds of 75 mph. It’s moving very slowly, about 2 mph, and dumped 14.6-in of rain on the town of Austell in 12 hours. Residents of an old folks home that collapsed in Rockport are feared trapped – the town has sustained severe damage from wind gusting to 160 mph and storm surge.
Many buildings elsewhere severely damaged, 1.9m coastal surge, many requests for help (60% of homeowners refused evacuation!) but as yet no major flooding and no casualties reported, other than a man shot by a nervous householder. Three babies born in Corpus Christi, no doubt boys will be named Harvey?
Forecasters warn it will go on for several days, with potentially ‘catastrophic’ flooding. Trump has ordered federal aid and then decamped to Camp David. Harvey is reported heading for San Antonio where many were evacuated from the coast.
There are also connected storms over Florida and Wisconsin, making this possibly the widest storm system ever recorded. See Paul Beckwith seminar (Prof. of Climatology, Ottawa U.) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0-Os6jYtNo
Waters in the Gulf are up to 4 deg C above ‘hurricane-forming’ temperature. And there are still two months of the season to go.
USA: Las Vegas Na, Phoenix Az temps still hitting around 40-42C, 104-108F. Extreme heat warnings (up to 44C, 111F) out over the weekend for many parts of California. 50C, 121F recorded in Death Valley, Sacramento Ca. at 41C, 107F today. This is what, the seventh week of the heatwave? And in Portland, way up there in Oregon, it’s 36C, 98F….
Canada: New wildfires breakout around Kelowna, British Columbia. Over 1,000 homes evacuated. Herd of wild horses killed in Chilcotin forest. Canada’s annual CO2 emissions ‘tripled’ by unprecedented fires this year alone.
Uganda: “Severe flooding has been reported in northern Uganda and Southern Sudan over the last few days, leaving 2,000 people displaced and 2 people missing. Heavy rain has also affected western parts of the country, where a landslide near Bundibugyo has left at least 1 person (6 yo child) dead.” More rain forecast, crops and roads damaged.
Iraq: At 18.00 today, 26th Aug, it’s still 44C, 111F in Baghdad; 40C, 104F in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
China: Death toll from Typhoon Hato confirmed at 12, 153 injured. Towns around Macao still under up to 3.5 metres of water, much damage. Downgraded Hato also brings flash flooding and landslides to the mainland, 4 die in landslide in Yunnan province. Roads, bridges, houses swept away. Moving towards Vietnam.
China: Heavy rainfall brings severe flooding to Hefei city, Anhui province, western China. Guijou province: “A landslide struck some 34 homes in southwest China on Monday, killing two people and leaving another 25 missing in the latest natural disaster to hit the country, according to the local government.”
China: Tropical Typhoon Jolina (Pakhar) makes landfall Sunday at Guandong, south of Hong Kong, brings wind, rain and some flooding to areas already hit last week by Typhoon Hato. Moving westward, expected heavy rain in west and Vietnam, running through by the weekend to flood-hit Myanmar (Burma) and… northern India.
India, Pakistan and Bangladesh: Numbers affected by flooding in north now put at 41 million (UN report). Death toll exceeds 1,200. Floodwaters ‘receding’. Food and water shortages, fear of disease outbreaks.
Philippines: Tropical Storm, strengthening to Cyclone, Jolina (Pakhar) with sustained windspeeds of 85 mph is moving NW across Luzon towards China. Likely to hit the same area as Hato, south of Hong Kong/Macau Wednesday.
Venezuela: Six dead and 26 missing after flash flood reported (22nd Aug) washing away a mountain village in Choroni province.
Europe: Regional stations have ‘extreme high temperature’ alerts again for the weekend out across Italy, Corsica, Sicily – up through the Balkans into Bulgaria, Hungary, across to Spain, Portugal and back to Greece – high 80s F to high 90s F, locally higher. Thunderstorm warnings anywhere across north-central and eastern continental Europe.
Bulgaria: wildfire sweeps through Kresna Gorge scenic beauty spot. 15,000 acres affected.
Russia: one dead, several injured in wildfires burning around Volgograd.
Yellowstone: report from USGS on new monitoring equipment installed and Bob Smith’s CAT-scan survey (results embargoed) states that the area has had 15 thousand earthquakes since mid-June – one of the biggest swarms we’ve ever had, says Smith – who goes on to advise cheerily that if there’s going to be an eruption, it’s when they stop you have to worry, ha ha worried smileyface.
(That compares with ‘only’ 1,638 they’ve admitted to publicly….)
BBC and various/ Floodlist/ World Weather Information/ Weather Underground/ Climate and Extreme Weather News #58 (link to https://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8UwLB4fHWI)/ Hong Kong Free Press/ Hindustani Times/ Mary Greeley website.
“When will you get it through your silly heads: there is no more ‘debate’ worth having?
A fresh plea to the BBC Board to get its fucking ducks in a row
I’m starting to believe that there is something seriously amiss within BBC News and current affairs editorial.
A month ago, I felt obliged to protest at the inclusion of a studio guest on the R4 Today programme, who was not as you announced him. Mr Myron Ebell was introduced as a White House energy spokesman and ‘climate-change skeptic’. In order to be a science ‘skeptic’ one has to have some scientific credentials, which Mr Ebell does not: he is a longtime Washington lobbyist with known connections to Exxon Mobil and other energy sector clients.
I had to point out too that in 2005 he was the subject of a Parliamentary early-day motion after a previous appearance on Today in which he made slanderous remarks about the UK’s chief scientist, Dr King. Your researcher ought to have been aware of it, as the information is clearly presented in Ebell’s pretty damning Wikipedia entry.
This morning, yet again, you carried a disingenuous interview with one ‘Dr’ Sebastian L v. Gorka, White House ‘deputy assistant advisor’ (very junior rank!) on Middle East security, who was said to have ‘resigned’ his position in the Trump administration, and who came on to claim that Trump is being ‘undermined’ by elements in the White House – who can only be General Kelly, Trump’s relatively sane new chief policy advisor; daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, the very few people who have been trying to hold the administration together and check the President’s wilder and more tantrum-throwing impulses.
An Orthodox Jew with connections, Kushner has, of course, been tasked (among many other things) with finding a solution to the Palestinian question. I imagine he would have found it somewhat difficult to have to share the ear of the President with a notorious anti-Semitic and Islamophobic, ultra-conservative Christian white nationalist.
It is therefore not thought likely that Gorka ‘resigned’. Indeed, the Huffington Post today offers five very good reasons for firing him – principally that he is, as one reader tweeted, a “fuckin’ lunatic”.
British-born, of Hungarian extraction, educated BA in religious studies at a Jesuit college in London (scraped a 2.2), he was brought on board by Steve Bannon, who also ‘resigned’ last week; the man most widely believed to be the architect of what Gorka calls ‘Trumpism’ (i.e. more tax breaks for the wealthiest; disenfranchisement of Democrat-voting minorities, suppression of Muslims and immigrants, increasing police unaccountability, denial of science, hiking of medical insurance premiums, lowering of the nuclear threshold, dismantling the State apparatus, etc.)
Gorka was most probably removed from office by General Kelly in his ongoing purge of the Bannon faction, that has now retreated to the offices of Breitbart News from where it is sniping at the disorientated President for having gone soft on the alt-right agenda and surrendered to the Pentagon’s demand for a troop surge in Afghanistan.
Knowingly or unknowingly, you give voice to their campaign.
His appearance on Today earlier this month, in which he doubled-down on Trump’s hardline stance on North Korea and told Secretary of State Tillerson to, effectively, stop sticking his nose in, came in for much criticism and ridicule. You also carried a lengthy and uncritical interview with this relatively low-level figure by Emily Maitlis in Washington on Newsnight last month, also with Evan Davies back in February.
Why? You might just as well interview a taxi-driver, a coalminer or a fish-porter.
I fail to understand – unless there are neoliberal ‘disruptors’ working covertly within the BBC – what your fascination is with certain toxic individuals, Mr Nigel Farage being a case in point, who seem never not to be on the air?
‘Mr Gorka’, as you politely call him, is widely disparaged in the US security community as a charlatan. Senior and respected figures in the defence establishment have publicly stated that he has no standing whatever as a security consultant. His ‘advice’ on Islamic terrorism is, they say, no more than humdrum.
He has no field experience or intelligence service background; only a dubious PhD whose rigour has been questioned by US academics specializing in the subject. He has frequently been called “a clown” by genuine intelligence personnel.
A self-proclaimed former advisor to the hardline Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, Gorka has also been associated with László Toroczkai, the hardline anti-Islam mayor of Assothalom, the town where (the BBC reported) the road traffic signs say No Muslims. He came to the transition team only via an association as a contributing editor to Steve Bannon’s fake news Breitbart website, and as the husband of transition-team security ‘consultant’, New York steel heiress Katherine Cornell; another veteran of rightwing think tanks whose websites are inexplicably suspended.
Since your programme researchers appear not to have done their homework, let me explain that in January, Gorka was the subject of a Congressional enquiry (still ongoing) over his immigration status, as the ‘v.’ initial he retains in the way he prefers his full name to be presented stands for ‘Vitez’.
That’s a coded reference to his well-attested (but denied) membership of a far-right nationalist group in Hungary with a wartime history of collaboration with the Nazis in the extermination of 800 thousand Jews, the Vitezi Rend; whose pin-badge he sports in public. Gorka failed to declare this on his immigration form, a federal offence for which his deportation was being called.
Is it the BBC’s policy to present paid liars and neo-Nazi-sympathising nonentities, apparently uncritically and without reservation, as credible spokesmen for the failing Trump administration? You are playing with fire. As with your Brexit coverage, the critical voices of moderate opposition to the neoconservative agenda are barely detectable; in your unfailing politeness towards this despicable President we only ever seem to hear from lobbyists, conspirators, fantasists, old neocons from the Strauss/Wolfowitz era, and fellow-travellers.
A propos, in the interests of ‘balance’, which is no balance at all, against former Vice-President Al Gore, who had a movie to plug, you exhumed Nigel, Lord Lawson last weekend on Today to put forward his indefensible, inexpert and well-remunerated views on the climate crisis. When will you get it through your silly heads: there is no more ‘debate’ worth having. The matter is settled: climate change is man-made, the warming is speeding up dangerously, tipping-points are being reached.
No-one argues about it now, other than those with vested interests and dimwitted internet trolls. Oh, and BBC programme editors.
In view of the fact that his paymasters at Exxon Mobil have been comprehensively outed in the New York Times, who commissioned a serious, peer-reviewed academic analysis proving conclusively that the oil giant whose £100k a day CEO is now the US Secretary of State has been lying about its own research for the past 40 years, your editors need now to stop this frankly evil pretence that paid climate-change deniers have anything more to say.
I am concerned that the worldwide crisis is being treated in such a piecemeal fashion. Were the listeners and viewers to rely solely on your output, we might know for instance that there have been ‘monsoon floods’ in India, as if the displacement of over 40 million people, with 1,200 deaths, the loss of crops, the lack of drinking water, over a three-month period (including a month preceding the monsoon season) were a normal event – when vast areas of Myanmar, Thailand, the United States and especially China have also been underwater, and where river flooding, landslides, flash-floods, droughts, wildfires and heatwaves have been breaking records once again, in countries all around the world.
We have indeed heard from you that there has been an epochal hurricane in Texas, a landslide in Sierra Leone (possibly a thousand dead after 80 cm of rain fell in a night) or that ten thousand tourists were evacuated from a wildfire in the South of France, or that 64 people were burned to death in Portugal, or that it’s a bit hot in southern Europe. But would we have learned that these extreme events are part of a much wider, increasingly random pattern?
No, because your half-witted, uninformed broadcasters continually cut to the BBC weather presenter and ask if this weather event or that is a sign of climate change, like annoying children in cars, ‘are we there yet?’, and invariably the cautious experts have to reply ‘We can’t tell from just one event’. Of course they bloody can’t! But it’s not just one event, is it?
We would probably not know from your coverage of this existentially important story that, in some cases for the third year in a row:
- California and the SW states have suffered six weeks of 100 deg-plus temperatures;
- Las Vegas, Kansas City, Houston and New Orleans have all been badly flooded already this summer (before Hurricane Harvey);
- there has been a succession of powerful storms over New England and the East Coast, causing major flooding events;
- over a million acres of British Columbia have been burning for months, with tens of thousands of homes evacuated;
- extensive uncontained wildfires in Siberia and even Greenland have been depositing a layer of soot across the Arctic where sea ice is again at a record low and wave heights increasing, to beak up what is left;
- people have been dying from a heatwave in Korea; from powerful storms in Russia, in Mexico; from unseasonal tornadoes;
- 3,000 acres of the ancestral Bielowicza forest in Poland, a World Heritage site at the centre of an EU row over illegal logging has been flattened in violent storms;
- there is famine in Somalia, millions affected, but flooding in neighbouring Sudan;
- drought in South Africa but devastating floods and landslides in Sierra Leone and Niger;
- daytime temperatures in Baghdad and Riyadh have exceeded 42C, 120F over the past two weeks;
- a temperature of 34C (94F) was recorded in Canada on the Mackenzie River, north of the Arctic circle, last month; 56C (132F) in Iran in June.
- We would not have seen the satellite data on the weakening jetstreams, that have become fragmented and chaotic as never before.
- We would not know that atmospheric CO2 levels as high as 840 ppm have been recorded in, for instance, Kazakhstan; or that methane emissions from melting permafrost are at danger levels.
Because you don’t cover the story in any coherent way.
The pattern is consistent and worsening from year to year. Fifteen of the warmest years in at least the past ten thousand have been recorded since 2001. No month in the past thirty years has been colder than its previous year’s equivalent.
Climate change has real geopolitical effects – for instance, backgrounding the North Korea crisis, that country is on the verge of starvation again after a three-year-long drought, with implications for the effectiveness of the military – and raises serious concerns for our own food security.
All this information can be sourced, if you take the time; the dots connected – but it is beginning to look as if the mainstream media and politicians are either a bunch of ignorant, tax-eating wastrels, or they are deliberately suppressing the gravity of the situation so as not to panic people.
And all we get on the BBC is non-scientists and energy business shills denying that any of this is happening, to a wider background of well-funded denial within the US administration, censorship of research and the hobbling or dismantling of relevant agencies.
Do you perhaps need to find out who is driving your internal editorial policy and ask them some searching questions? Or are they acting on your instruction?
(Postscriptum: this Post appeared two days before a piece in The Guardian by environmental campaigner George Monbiot, making similar points about media coverage.)