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Declaration Of Storms

Obama Has Declared Record-Breaking 89 Disasters So Far in 2011

From Hurricane Irene, which soaked the entire East Coast in August, to the Midwest tornadoes, which wrought havoc from Wisconsin to Texas, 2011 has seen more billion-dollar natural disasters than any year on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

And as America’s hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and wildfires set records this year, so too has President Obama in his response to them.

During the first 10 months of this year President Obama declared 89 major disasters, more than the record 81 declarations that he made in all of 2010.

And Obama has declared more disasters — 229 — in the first three years of his presidency than almost any other president signed in their full four-year terms. Only President George W. Bush declared more, having signed 238 disaster declarations in his second term, from 2005 to 2009.

But while the sheer number of bad weather events played a big role in the uptick in presidential disaster declarations, Obama’s record-setting year may have something to do with politics as well.

“There’s no question about it that the increase in the number of disaster declarations is outstripping what we would expect to see, given what we observe in terms of weather,” said Robert Hartwig, the president and economist at the Insurance Information Institute. “There’s a lot of political pressure on the president and Congress to show they are responsive to these sorts of disasters that occur.”

While the president aimed to authorize swift and sweeping aid to disaster victims, Congress was entrenched in partisan battles over how to foot the bill. When Republicans demanded that additional appropriations for a cash-strapped FEMA be offset by spending cuts, the government was almost shut down over disaster relief funding.

Such budget showdowns have become commonplace in Congress, but a similarly slow response to natural disasters by the president has been met with far more pointed and politically damaging criticism. Former President Bush learned that the hard way after what was seen as a botched initial response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Ever since that time we’ve seen FEMA try to act more responsively and we’ve seen presidents more engaged in the issues going on with respect to disasters,” Hartwig said.

Mark Merritt, who served as deputy chief of staff at FEMA during the Clinton Administration, said Obama’s record-breaking number of declarations has less to do with politics and more to do with demographics.

People are moving to high-risk areas like beaches and flood plains, more bad weather events are occurring and the country’s infrastructure is “crumbling,” he said.

“It’s not being used any more as a political tool today than it has over the past 18 years,”
said Merritt, who is now the president of the crisis management consulting firm Witt Associates. “Everybody can say there’s a little bit of politics involved, and I won’t deny that, but I don’t think it’s a political tool that politicians use to win reelections.”

Politics aside, Obama’s higher-than-ever number of disaster declarations may also have a lot to do with the broad scale of this year’s disasters, which led to more declarations of catastrophes because each state affected by the disaster gets its own declaration.

For example, Hurricane Andrew, which hit Florida in 1992, cost upwards of $40 billion in damage, but resulted in only one disaster declaration because the damage was almost entirely confined to one state.

Hurricane Irene, on the other hand, pummeled much of the East Coast this summer, causing the president to make 9 disaster declarations, one for each state affected. Although there were 8 more declarations for Irene than for Andrew, the Irene caused about $7 billion in damage, a fraction of the damage caused by Andrew (up to $42 billion in today’s dollars).

Each presidential disaster declaration makes the federal government — specifically FEMA — responsible for at least 75 percent of the recovery costs, relieving cash-strapped state and local governments of the billions in damages caused by this year’s hurricanes, floods and tornadoes.

Richard Salkowe, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of South Florida who studies federal disaster declarations and denials, argued that the trend toward more declarations stems from local governments becoming more aware of the availability of federal funds.

“The local governments and state governments have become more aware of the process and more efficient in using it,” Salkowe said. “I’d say yeah, there are more states that have overwhelming needs, and that may have lead to the Obama administration declaring more disaster areas.”

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Unprecendented Weather Disasters Plague America

US counts the cost of nine months of unprecedented weather extremes

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration, there have been 10 major disasters this year

John Vidal, environment editor

As deadly fires continue to burn across bone-dry Texas and eight inches of rain from tropical storm Lee falls on New Orleans, the US is beginning to count the cost of nine months of unprecedented weather extremes.

Ever since a massive blizzard causing $2bn of damage paralysed cities from Chicago to the north-east in January, nearly every month has been marked by a $1b+-weather catastrophe. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration (Noaa), there have been 10 major disasters already this year, leaving more than 700 people dead and property damage of over $35bn (£22bn).

In the past 31 years the mainland states have suffered 99 weather-related disasters where overall damages and economic costs were over $1bn. This year has seen three times as many than as usual.

Noaa will release its August data next week but Summer 2011 is expected to be the warmest on record. Chris Burt, author and leading weather historian, has complied a list of more than 40 cities and towns that have experienced record temperatures this year.

“So many heat records of various types have been shattered this past summer that it is impossible to quantify them,” he said. “Not since the great heat waves of 1934 and 1936 has the US seen so many heat-related records broken as occurred this summer. The back-to-back nature of the intensity of the past two summers should raise some interesting questions, questions I am not qualified to address.”

This year, the UN World Meteorological Organisation said 2010 was the warmest year on record, confirming a “significant” long-term trend of global warming and producing exceptional weather variations.

The insurance company Munich Re said in the first six months of the year there were 98 natural disasters in the US, about double the average of the 1990s.

“The increasing impacts of natural disasters, as seen this year, are a stark reminder of the lives and livelihoods at risk. Severe weather represents a very real threat to public safety,” said Jack Hayes, director of Noaa’s National Weather Service.

But the US is not alone. 2011 has seen the deepest drought in 60 years in the Horn of Africa which has contributed to a famine in Somalia and 10 million people affected in Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda. Southern Africa, however, experienced unusually heavy rainfall.

Latin America has suffered a series of disasters. More than 500 people died in some of Brazil’s worst rainstorms and mudslides in January, and Columbia faced what it called its worst-ever natural disaster when months of rain and floods devastated the north of the country. Meanwhile Mexico and much of central America experienced one of their deepest droughts in many years.

Korea, the Philippines, parts of China have been racked with some of the worst storms in a century, with flash floods and landslides triggered by torrential rain .

2011 has also seen a series of major non-weather-related natural disasters. The worst, by some way, was the Japanese tsunami which killed at least 12,000 people and devastated the country. However, 6.2 or above earthquakes have hit New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, the Fox Islands, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Indonesia, Fiji, Thailand, Burma, Vanuatu, Argentina, Chile and Iran in the first six months of 2011. Smaller ones have hit Pakistan, Tajikistan, Tonga, and the Solomon Islands.

In addition the Arctic ice melt this year hit a record in July and is expected to the second or third greatest ever recorded, says the US national snow and ice data centre.

• This article was amended on 05 September 2011. The original stated the death toll for the Japanese tsunami was 1,200,000 instead of 12,000. This has been corrected

A year of US disasters – 2011 so far

• Hurricane Irene, August 20-29. Over $7bn and around 50 deaths.

• Upper Midwest flooding. The Missouri and Souris rivers overflowed in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. Damages: $2bn.

• Mississippi river flooding, spring and summer. Damages neared $4bn.

• Drought and heatwave in Texas, Oklahoma. Over $5bn.

• Tornadoes in midwest and south-east in May kill 177 and cost more than $7bn in losses.

• Tornadoes in the Ohio Valley, south-east and midwest on April devastate the city of Tuscaloosa, kill 32 and cause more than $9bn in damages.

• Tornadoes hit from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania 14–16 April. Toll: $2bn in damages.

• 59 tornadoes in midwest and north-east April 8-11. Damages: $2.2bn.

• 46 tornadoes in central and southern states 4 and 5 April. Toll: $2.3bn in damages.

• Blizzard late January paralyse cities from Chicago to the north-east. Toll: 36 deaths and more than $2bn in damages.

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Potential NUCLEAR DISASTER in the midwest due to RECORD FLOODS

Midwest Flooding Leaves Nuclear Reactor in Peril

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By Pat Shannan

The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in eastern Nebraska, on the disappearing banks of the flooding Missouri River, has been at a Level Four emergency since early June, and the mainstream media is mysteriously quiet about it. Except for local Omaha TV coverage, little has been reported, and the mainstream continues to minimize this story.

An electrical fire in the basement on June 6 caused evacuation of the plant, and a large section was rendered inaccessible because of poisonous gases being emitted. The next day, the rising river waters caused the plant’s basement to flood.

Outspoken Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with long experience in containment, is warning of the perils and is particularly concerned about the possibility of a dam breaking and the complete wipeout of the plant.

He testified last year before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards on the potential of disasters spreading radioactive material far and wide.

U.S. Government ordered media blackout of Fort Calhoun Crisis!

Considerable amounts of toxic waste have been accidentally spilled into the Missouri River in recent days, and the water (already surrounding the building) is expected to rise another five feet this summer.

Officials say there is no threat to plant employees or the general public, but locals are concerned that officials always say that. The Omaha Public Power District made the same declaration in late May, but now the situation has worsened significantly.

On June 19, plant officials declared a “Notification of Unusual Event,” due to flood water levels of 42.5 feet or 899 feet above sea level. (The plant was built at 903 feet above mean sea level, which is 13 feet above the natural grade.) If the river’s level increases to 900 feet above sea level, plant personnel will barricade internal doorways as another layer of protection for facility equipment. At 902 feet above sea level, the plant would be taken offline as a protective safety measure.

Radiation is still streaming from Japan’s Fukushima disaster nearly four months after the disaster, and its owners have finally admitted that meltdowns indeed did occur, releasing deadly radioactivity that winds and ocean currents are spreading worldwide.

The World Health Organization, the American Nuclear Society and other so-called watchdog groups such as the Nuclear Energy Institute have all joined the denial group. “For anyone outside Japan there is currently no health risk from radiation leaking from the nuclear power plant,” insists Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman.

“They’re lying,” says Dr. Janette Sherman, a toxicologist and contributing editor of the book Chernobyl: The Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment.

Chernobyl and Fukushima: The Aftermaths. Find out how you can protect yourself.

Using medical data obtained between 1986 and 2004, its authors calculated that 985,000 people died worldwide from the radioactivity discharged from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Dr. Sherman says Fukushima will have just as big an impact.

The Fukushima disaster will have a comparable toll, expects Dr. Sherman, who has conducted research into the consequences of radiation for decades.

Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, added: “The absurd belief that no one will be harmed by Fukushimais perhaps the strongest evidence of the pattern of deception and denial by nuclear officials in industry and government.”

(Issue # 27, July 4, 2011)

Not Copyrighted. Readers can reprint and are free to redistribute – as long as full credit is given to American Free Press – 645 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Suite 100 Washington, D.C. 20003

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Warning: Extreme weather ahead

Warning: extreme weather ahead

o John Vidal
o guardian.co.uk, Monday 13 June 2011 19.59 BST

Drought zones have been declared across much of England and Wales, yet Scotland has just registered its wettest-ever May. The warmest British spring in 100 years followed one of the coldest UK winters in 300 years. June in London has been colder than March. February was warm enough to strip on Snowdon, but last Saturday it snowed there.

Welcome to the climate rollercoaster, or what is being coined the “new normal” of weather. What was, until quite recently, predictable, temperate, mild and equable British weather, guaranteed to be warmish and wettish, ensuring green lawns in August, now sees the seasons reversed and temperature and rainfall records broken almost every year. When Kent receives as much rain (4mm) in May as Timbuktu, Manchester has more sunshine than Marbella, and soils in southern England are drier than those in Egypt, something is happening.

Sober government scientists at the centre for hydrology and ecology are openly using words like “remarkable”, “unprecedented” and “shocking” to describe the recent physical state of Britain this year, but the extremes we are experiencing in 2011 are nothing to the scale of what has been taking place elsewhere recently.

A tornado makes its way across Baca county, Colorado, in May 2010. Photograph: Willoughby Owen/Getty Images/Flickr

Last year, more than 2m sq km of eastern Europe and Russia scorched. An extra 50,000 people died as temperatures stayed more than 6C above normal for many weeks, crops were devastated and hunderds of giant wild fires broke out. The price of wheat and other foods rose as two thirds of the continent experienced its hottest summer in around 500 years.

This year, it’s western Europe’s turn for a mega-heatwave, with 16 countries, including France, Switzerland and Germany (and Britain on the periphery), experiencing extreme dryness. The blame is being out on El Niño and La Niña, naturally occurring but poorly understood events that follow heating and cooling of the Pacific ocean near the equator, bringing floods and droughts.

Vast areas of Europe have received less than half the rainfall they would normally get in March, April and May, temperatures have been off the scale for the time of year, nuclear power stations have been in danger of having to be shut down because they need so much river water to cool them, and boats along many of Europe’s main rivers have been grounded because of low flows. In the past week, the great European spring drought has broken in many places as massive storms and flash floods have left the streets of Germany and France running like rivers.

But for real extremes in 2011, look to Australia, China and the southern US these past few months. In Queeensland, Australia, an area the size of Germany and France was flooded in December and January in what was called the country’s “worst natural disaster”. It cost the economy up to A$30bn (£19.5bn), devastated livelihoods and is still being cleaned up.

In China, a “once-in-a-100-years” drought in southern and central regions has this year dried up hundreds of reservoirs, rivers and water courses, evaporating drinking supplies and stirring up political tensions. The government responded with a massive rain-making operation, firing thousands of rockets to “seed” clouds with silver iodide and other chemicals. It may have worked: for whatever reason, the heavens opened last week, a record 30cm of rain fell in some places in 24 hours, floods and mudslides killed 94 people, and tens of thousands of people have lost their homes.

Meanwhile, north America’s most deadly and destructive tornado season ever saw 600 “twisters” in April alone, and 138 people killed in Joplin, Missouri, by a mile-wide whirlwind. Arizonans were this week fighting some of the largest wildfires they have known, and the greatest flood in recorded US history is occurring along sections of the Missouri river. This is all taking place during a deepening drought in Texas and other southern states – the eighth year of “exceptional” drought there in the past 12 years.

“I don’t know how much more we can take,” says John Butcher, a peanut and cotton farmer near Lubbock, Texas. “It’s dry like we have never seen it before. I don’t remember anything like this. We may lose everything.”

HAARP: ANGELS DON\'T PLAY THIS HAARP

The impacts of extreme weather are greater in poorer countries, which this week are trying to secure a climate deal in the resumed talks in Bonn. In Mexico, the temperature peaked at 48.8C (119.8F) in April, the warmest anywhere in the world that month, and nearly half the country is now affected by drought. There have already been 9,000 wildfires, and the biggest farm union says that more than 3.5 million farmers are on the brink of bankruptcy because they cannot feed their cattle or grow crops.

“We are being battered by the adverse impacts of climate change,” says a negotiator for the G77 group of developing countries who wants to remain anonymous. “Frontline states face a double crunch of climate heat and poverty. But the rich countries still will not give us the cash they promised to adapt or reduce their emissions.”

Wherever you look, the climate appears to be in overdrive, with stronger weather patterns gripping large areas for longer and events veering between extremes. Last year, according to US meteorologist Jeff Masters, who co-founded leading climate tracker website Weather Underground, 17 countries experienced record temperatures. Colombia, the Amazon basin, Peru, Cuba, Kenya, Somalia and many other countries have all registered far more or less rainfall or major heatwaves in the past few years, he says. Temperatures in Bangladesh have been near record highs, leaving at least 26 people dead in the past week; Kuwait has seen temperatures in excess of 50C and Rajasthan in India 49.6C, while parts of Canada, including Toronto, have been sizzling at a record 33C.

Rich countries may be more or less immune in the short term because the global trading system guarantees food and access to electricity allows air conditioning, but in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, millions of people this year have little or no food left after successive poor rainy seasons. Last week, international aid agencies warned of an impending disaster.

Sceptics argue that there have always been droughts and floods, freak weather, heatwaves and temperature extremes, but what concerns most climate scientists and observers is that the extreme weather events are occurring more frequently, their intensity is growing and the trends all suggest long-term change as greenhouse gases steadily build in the atmosphere.

Killer droughts and heatwaves, deeper snowfalls, more widespread floods, heavier rains, and temperature extremes are now the “new normal”, says Nikhil da Victoria Lobo of the giant insurance firm Swiss Re, which last month estimated losses from natural disasters have risen from about $25bn a year in the 1980s to $130bn a year today. “Globally, what we’re seeing is more volatility,” he says.

People in the most affected areas are certainly not waiting for climate scientists to confirm climate change is happening before they adapt. In Nepal, where the rain is heavier than before, flat roofs are giving way to pitched roofs, and villagers in the drought-prone Andes are building reservoirs and changing crops to survive.

New analysis of natural disasters in 140 countries shows that climate is becoming more extreme. Last month, Oxfam reported that while the number of “geo-physical” disasters – such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – has remained more or less constant, those caused by flooding and storms have increased from around 133 a year in 1980s to more than 350 a year now.

“It is abundantly clear that weather-related disasters have been increasing in some of the world’s poorest countries and this increase cannot be explained fully by better ways of counting them,” says Steve Jennings, the report’s author. “Whichever way you look at the figures, there is a significant rise in the number of weather-related disasters. They have been increasing and are set to get worse as climate change further intensifies natural hazards.

“I think that global ‘weirding’ is the best way to describe what we’re seeing. We are used to certain conditions and there’s a lot going on these days that is not what we’re used to, that is outside our current frame of reference,” says climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University.

New trends have been emerging for a decade or more, says the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). “In Europe, a clear trend is emerging towards drier springs. This year’s drought follows exceptionally dry years in 2007, 2009 and 2010,” says a spokesman.

While no scientist will blame climate change for any specific weather event, many argue that these phenomena are textbook examples of the kind of impact that can be expected in a warming world. Natural events, such as La Niña and El Niño, are now being exacerbated by the background warming of the world, they say.

“It is almost impossible for us to pinpoint specific events . . . and say they were caused by climate change,”
says William Chameides, atmospheric scientist at Duke University, who was vice-chair of a US government-funded national research council study on the climate options for the US which reported last month. “On the other hand, we do know that because of climate change those kinds of events will very, very likely become more common, more frequent, more intense. So what we can say is that these kinds of events that we are seeing are consistent with climate change.”

He is backed strongly in Europe. “We have to get accustomed to such extreme weather conditions, as climate change intensifies,” says Friedrich-Wilhelm Gerstengarbe, assistant director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “Heavy storms and inundations will happen in northern Germany twice or three times as frequently as in the past.”

We’ve always had El Niños and natural variability, but the background which is now operating is different. [La Niña and El Niño] are now happening in a hotter world [which means more moisture in the atmosphere],” David Jones, head of climate monitoring and prediction at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne told Reuters after the Queeensland floods.

David Barriopedro, a researcher at Lisbon University’s Instituto Dom Luiz, last month compared last year’s European heatwave with the one that struck in 2003 and calculated that the probability of a European summer experiencing a “mega-heatwave” will increase by a factor of five to 10 within the next 40 years if the warming trends continue. “This kind of event will become more common,” he says. “Mega-heatwaves are going to be more frequent and more intense in the future.”

But there may be some respite coming from extreme weather because the El Niño/La Niña episodes are now fading fast, according to the WMO. “The weather pattern, blamed for extremely heavy downpours in Australia, southeast Asia and South America over late 2010 and early 2011, is unlikely to redevelop in the middle of 2011,” it advises. “Looking ahead beyond mid-year 2011, there are currently no clear indications for enhanced risk of El Niño or La Niña in the second half of the year”

The WMO concludes, tentatively, that global weather will now return to something approaching normal. The trouble is, no one is too sure what normal is any more.

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