September 22, 2017

Hurricanes & Storms: Effects of Irreversible Climate Change

By  San Shwe Aung

Hurricane Katrina (2005).

It is evident that we, the world citizens have over the last few decades experienced irregular patterns of climates in almost every part of the planet. Rainy season has shortened in the tropical rain forests, drought has crept in the places where it used to have regular rains. Tropical cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons have hit the coastal areas in North Asia, South and South East Asia and America. Tsunami had hit several countries in Asia on the boxing day (26th December) of 2004. Cyclone Nargis had devastated delta regions of Myanmar 2nd & 3rd May 2008, killing hundreds of thousands of people & animals living in Ayeyarwaddy Region. These natural disasters had killed combined millions of people and tens of millions more people had lost homes, jobs, economy, infrastructures& livelihoods forever. All severe natural disasters have occurred due predominantly to climate change and global warming.

Climate change
Climate change is the rise in average surface temperatures on Earth, mostly due to the burning of fossil fuels. Climate change, also called global warming, refers to the rise in average surface temperatures on Earth. An overwhelming scientific consensus maintains that climate change is due primarily to the human use of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. The gases trap heat within the atmosphere, which can have a range of effects on ecosystems, including rising sea levels, severe weather events, and droughts that render landscapes more susceptible to wildfires. There is broad-based agreement within the scientific community that climate change is real. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concur that climate change is indeed occurring and is almost certainly due to human activity. The primary cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, which emits greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—primarily carbon dioxide. Other human activities, such as agriculture and deforestation, also contribute to the proliferation of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. While some quantities of these gases are a naturally occurring and critical part of Earth’s temperature control system, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 did not rise above 300 parts per million (ppm) between the advent of human civilization roughly 10,000 years ago and 1900. Today it is at about 400 ppm, a level not reached in more than 400,000 years. Even small increases in Earth’s temperature caused by climate change can have severe effects. The earth’s average temperature has gone up 1.4° F over the past century and is expected to rise as much as 11.5° F over the next 100 years. That might not seem like a lot, but the average temperature during the last Ice Age was about 4º F lower than it is today. Rising sea levels due to the melting of the polar ice caps (again, caused by climate change) contribute to greater storm damage; warming ocean temperatures are associated with stronger and more frequent storms; additional rainfall, particularly during severe weather events, leads to flooding and other damage; an increase in the incidence and severity of wildfires threatens habitats, homes, and lives; and heat waves contribute to human deaths and other consequences. While consensus among nearly all scientists, scientific organizations, and governments is that climate change is happening and is caused by human activity, a small minority of voices questions the validity of such assertions and prefers to cast doubt on the preponderance of evidence. Climate change deniers often claim that recent changes attributed to human activity can be seen as part of the natural variations in Earth’s climate and temperature, and that it is difficult or impossible to establish a direct connection between climate change and any single weather event, such as a hurricane. While the latter is generally true, decades of data and analysis support the reality of climate change—and the human factor in this process. In any case, economists agree that acting to reduce fossil fuel emissions would be far less expensive than dealing with the consequences of not doing so.

Global warming
Here’s a simple definition of global warming. Over the past 50 years, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history. And experts see the trend is accelerating: All but one of the 16 hottest years in NASA’s 134-year record have occurred since 2000. Climate change deniers have argued that there has been a “pause” or a “slowdown” in rising global temperatures, but several recent studies, including a 2015 paper published in the journal Science, have disproved this claim. And scientists say that unless we curb global-warming emissions, average temperatures could increase by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide (CO2) and other air pollutants and greenhouse gasses collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface. Normally, this radiation would escape into space—but these pollutants, which can last for years to centuries in the atmosphere, trap the heat and cause the planet to get hotter. That’s what’s known as the greenhouse effect. In the United States, the burning of fossil fuels to make electricity is the largest source of heat-trapping pollution, producing about two billion tons of CO2 every year. Coal-burning power plants are by far the biggest polluters.
The country’s second-largest source of carbon pollution is the transportation sector, which generates about 1.7 billion tons of CO2 emissions a year. Curbing dangerous climate change requires very deep cuts in emissions, as well as the use of alternatives to fossil fuels worldwide. The good news is that we’ve started a turnaround: CO2 emissions in the United States actually decreased from 2005 to 2014 thanks in part to new, energy-efficient technology and the use of cleaner fuels. And scientists continue to develop new ways to modernize power plants, generate cleaner electricity, and burn less gasoline while we drive. The challenge is to be sure these solutions are put to use and widely adopted. Scientists agree that the earth’s rising temperatures are fueling longer and hotter heat waves, more frequent droughts, heavier rainfall, and more powerful hurricanes. In 2015, for example, scientists said that an ongoing drought in California—the state’s worst water shortage in 1,200 years—had been intensified by 15 percent to 20 percent by global warming. They also said the odds of similar droughts happening in the future had roughly doubled over the past century. And in 2016, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine announced that it’s now possible to confidently attribute certain weather events, like some heat waves, directly to climate change. The earth’s ocean temperatures are getting warmer, too—which means that tropical storms can pick up more energy. So global warming could turn, say, a category 3 storm into a more dangerous category 4 storm. In fact, scientists have found that the frequency of North Atlantic hurricanes has increased since the early 1980s, as well as the number of storms that reach categories 4 and 5. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina—the costliest hurricane in U.S. history—struck New Orleans; the second-costliest, Hurricane Sandy, hit the East Coast in 2012.The impacts of global warming are being felt across the globe. Extreme heat waves have caused tens of thousands of deaths around the world in recent years. And in an alarming sign of events to come, Antarctica has been losing about 134 billion metric tons of ice per year since 2002. This rate could speed up if we keep burning fossil fuels at our current pace, some experts say, causing sea levels to rise several meters over the next 50 to 150 years. Each year, scientists learn more about the consequences of global warming, and many agree that environmental, economic, and health consequences are likely to occur if current trends continue. Wondering how to stop global warming? Reduce your own carbon footprint by following a few easy steps. Make conserving energy a part of your daily routine and your decisions as a consumer. When you shop for new appliances like refrigerators, washers, and dryers, look for products which produce less or no greenhouse gases such as CFC (chlorofluorocarbon-which damage ozone layer of the earth); they meet a higher standard for energy efficiency. When you buy a car, look for one with the highest gas mileage and lowest emissions. Hybrid or electric vehicles are now more available in the car markets, which produce less or no CO2 at all.

Hurricane Katrina (2005)
Hurricane Katrina was an extremely destructive and deadly tropical cyclone that was the costliest natural disaster and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. The storm originated over the Bahamas on August 23 in 2005 (exactly 12 years before Hurricane Harvey) from the interaction between a tropical wave and the remnants of Tropical Depression Ten. Early the following day, the new depression intensified into Tropical Storm Katrina. The cyclone headed generally westward toward Florida and strengthened into a hurricane only two hours before making landfall on August 25. After very briefly weakening to a tropical storm, Katrina emerged into the Gulf of Mexico on August 26 and began to rapidly deepen. The storm strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but weakened before making its second landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on August 29 in southeast Louisiana. The storm caused severe destruction along the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas, much of it due to the storm surge and levee failure. Severe property damage occurred in coastal areas, such as Mississippi beachfront towns where boats and casino barges rammed buildings, pushing cars and houses inland; water reached 6–12 miles (10–19 km) from the beach. Total property damage was estimated at $108 billion (2005 – US Dollar). Over fifty breaches in New Orleans’s hurricane surge protection were the cause of the majority of the death and destruction during Katrina on August 29, 2005. Eventually 80% of the city and large tracts of neighboring parishes became flooded, and the floodwaters lingered for weeks.
(To be continued)

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