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Climate Change

U.S. under scorching summer hot-spell

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The U.S. is currently enduring an extreme heatwave, with over 100 million Americans told to stay indoors where possible and avoid the blazing sun

St Louis, Memphis, Minneapolis and Tulsa are all under dire heat warnings, with temperatures reaching 38 degrees coupled with high humidity. 

The National Weather Service says 107 million Americans will be affected by heat advisories and warnings this week alone. 

Beginning in the west and south-west, the heatwave has now moved east into parts of the Gulf coast and will reach as far as the Great Lakes and the Carolinas

In Chicago, officials have started alerting residents about relief centres.

Six community buildings will be opened to aid those who do not have access to suitable air conditioning. 

The city significantly ramped up its heatwave protocols after more than 700 people died in the 1995 heatwave.

Climate Change

Sydney storm emergency – thousands evacuated, flooding risk high

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The extreme weather crisis impacting Australia’s east coast has left thousands of Sydney residents displaced, with rivers rising to dangerous levels.

Disaster recovery payments of $1,000 have been made available by the federal government for every impacted adult resident.

Warnings have been issued for the Hunter Valley and mid-north coast as the rain moves slowly north.

Major flooding is still occurring in greater Sydney, with further downpour expected over the day.

50,000 people have been told to leave their homes so far as state premier Dominic Perrottet warns the treacherous conditions are far from over.

The premier is pleading with all residents to remain vigilant, particularly while driving.

Even as the stormy weather subdues, the risk of flash flooding remains, with most river catchments near capacity even before this latest downpour.

Some regions have been hammered by 800mm of rain since Saturday, far surpassing the nation’s annual average rainfall of around 500mil.

But it’s not just rain, wind gusts of up to 90 km per hour are also forecast in several flood-hit regions, authorities concerned by the risk of falling trees and power lines.

State Emergency Management Minister Steph Cooke is urging people across Sydney today to stay at home unless they really need to leave.

Just off the shore, emergency crews are continuing their operation to rescue a cargo ship after a tug boat sent to retrieve the vessel had its tow lines brake in the severe weather.

The MV Portland Bay lost power on Monday, drifting further and further towards dangerous rocks off the Royal National Park.  

While the ship has now moved further north, she is anchored once again in a relatively safe position.

This latest storm is Sydney’s third and most severe flood this year, with distressing footage posted online showing submerged roads and bridges, as rescue crews work around the clock to respond to calls for help.

Australia’s Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers warns the economic impact from the floods “will be substantial”.

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Climate Change

What is causing Australia’s flood crisis?

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Twenty Australians have lost their lives in floods this year, as authorities continue their search and rescue efforts

For the third time this year, floods have battered Australia’s largest city.

Some areas have received eight months of rain in just four days.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says some parts of New South Wales have seen 800mm alone. For perspective, Greater London receives this type of rainfall over the course of a year.

There are more than 100 evacuation orders across Greater Sydney for the current emergency.

It’s the typical narrative for disasters like these, where a cesspit of data floods headlines.

It comes as the BOM confirms this season’s La Niña has ended, so what is causing these floods?

Divulging the data

The Indian Ocean Dipole is a technical term for the differences in sea surface temperatures between the eastern and western parts of the Indian Ocean.

This phenomenon is likely to shift ‘negative’ over the coming months.

This means “warmer waters concentrate near Australia, leading to above average winter–spring rainfall as more moisture is available to weather systems crossing the continent,” according to the BOM.

“We have seen some of these impacted communities being hit by floods for a third and fourth time in 18 months, which is extremely distressing to the residents of these communities.”

Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt

Meanwhile, the SAM refers to the Southern Annular Mode. This is a term used for the non-seasonal, north-south movement of the strong westerly winds.

When the SAM is in the ‘positive’ phase, it directs more moisture-filled air into eastern Australia.

The BOM says this is “driving above average rainfall and more east coast lows”.

This has forced a cargo ship to remain at anchor by the ferocious conditions off the coast of Sydney.

In fact, this happened 15 years ago when storms grounded the Pasha Bulker—a 40,000 tonne bulk carrier ship.

The Pasha Bulker stranded off the coast of Newcastle.

Is this climate change in action?

It is difficult to link any single flood to climate change. But many climate models suggest Australia will repeatedly fall victim to climate change.

Critically, these areas have been battered by heavy rains in recent months. The La Niña has also saturated the ground and filled dams. These are some of the crucial factors that lead to flash flooding.

“Similarly, we’re now working hard together to make sure that impacted communities get the financial and other assistance they need as soon as possible,” Senator Murray Watt says.

Sydney’s bustling population has pushed development into low-lying areas, which also places residents at an increased risk.

A boat passes under the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge as heavy rain batters the city.

Greg Mullins is the leader of the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action group, who recently met with Australia’s new government.

“There is absolutely no doubt extreme weather events are being intensified because of climate change.”

“The science is very clear that we’re seeing wild fluctuations between periods of flood and fire, because of warming. On the East Coast of Australia in the last 18 months we’ve now had four major floods,” he says.

Senator Watt says he is committed to learning from past natural hazards, which turn into disasters when they intersect with vulnerable communities, devastate infrastructure, and lead to economic consequences.

This occurred when over 400 people were killed when deluge swept through South Africa in April.

“It’s time for the world to wake up and take real action on climate change. Communities having to deal with flood event after flood event is absolutely affecting our response and recovery,” Mullins says.

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Climate Change

Death toll climbs following collapse of a glacier in the northern Italian Alps

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At least Seven people have been killed after being caught in an avalanche which was sparked by the collapse of a glacier in the northern Italian Alps

Eight more were injured, with two people suffering serious injuries.

Rescue teams with helicopters and drones have halted their search for 13 still missing due to bad weather.

Video of the incident showed an ice mass collapsing down the slopes of Marmolada, the area’s highest mountain.

We don’t yet know what caused the catastrophic collapse but Italy’s Prime Minister says “without doubt” it’s linked to climate change.

The shifting ice of the high Alps shows how climate change is altering natural landscapes and hazards in ways scientists are still trying to understand.

Four of the seven killed have been identified by rescuers, three of them Italian, including two mountain guides.

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