Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Europe: Thousands of records shattered in historic winter heat

So it's GLOBAL warming, is it? If so, how come that the USA at roughly the same times was experiencing extreme COLD? See the second post below. The extreme weather was clearly not the result of anything global. On average, the global temperature was probably stable. Other explanations for recent weather will have to be sought

As 2022 turned to 2023, an exceptionally strong winter heat dome pounced on much of Europe, producing unprecedented warmth for January.

As temperatures soared 10 to 20 degrees above normal from France to western Russia, thousands of records were broken between Saturday and Monday – many by large margins.

The extreme warm spell followed a record-warm year in many parts of Europe and provided yet another example of how human-caused climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of such extraordinary weather events.

On New Year’s Day, at least seven countries had their warmest January weather on record as temperatures surged to springtime levels: Latvia hit 11.1, Denmark 12.6 , Lithuania 14.6, Belarus 16.4, the Netherlands 16.9, Poland 19.0 and the Czech Republic 19.6.

Those who track worldwide weather records described the warm spell as historic and could hardly believe its scope and magnitude.

Maximiliano Herrera, a climatologist who tracks global weather extremes, called the event “totally insane” and “absolute madness” in text messages to the Capital Weather Gang. He wrote that some high night temperatures observed were uncommon even in mid-summer.

It’s “the most extreme event ever seen in European climatology,” Herrera wrote. “Nothing stands close to this.”

Guillaume S├ęchet, a broadcast meteorologist in France, agreed, tweeting that Sunday was one of the most incredible days in Europe’s climate history.

“The intensity and extent of warmth in Europe right now is hard to comprehend,” tweeted Scott Duncan, a meteorologist based in London.

In Poland, it was so warm that the January national high-temperature record was broken before sunrise. The town of Glucholazy was 18.7 degrees at 4am, which is warmer than its average low temperature in mid-summer. Temperatures rose further as the day progressed.


Blizzard claims dozens of lives as freeze grips US

The death toll from a Buffalo-area blizzard rose to 27 in western New York, authorities said on Monday as the region reeled from one of the worst weather-related disasters in its history. Much of the rest of the United States was hit by ferocious winter conditions.

The dead around Buffalo were found in their cars, homes and in snowbanks. Some died while shovelling snow. The storm that walloped much of the country is now blamed for at least 48 deaths nationwide, with rescue and recovery efforts continuing Monday.

With many grocery stores in the area closed and driving bans in place, some people pleaded on social media for donations of food and nappies.

The Buffalo police department posted an online plea for the public assistance in search-and-recovery efforts, asking those who “have a snow mobile and are willing to help” to call a special hotline for instructions.

The severity of the storm was notable even for a region well accustomed to harsh winter weather.


German village to be razed for coal mine

How the mighty are fallen!

Scuffles broke out on Monday outside a village in western Germany that is to be razed to allow the expansion of a coal mine, a plan that is drawing resistance from climate activists.

Activists threw fireworks, bottles and stones at police outside the village of Luetzerath before the situation calmed down and officers pulled back, German news agency dpa reported.

Protesters previously had set up a burning barricade, and one person glued his hand to the access road.

The hamlet is to be demolished to expand the Garzweiler lignite mine, despite protests from environmentalists who fear millions more tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere.

Activists have been living in houses abandoned by former residents.

The Heinsberg county administration has issued an order barring people from Luetzerath and, if they fail to leave, authorizing police to clear the village from January 10 onward. Officials have called for a non-violent end to the activists’ occupation.

In October, the federal and regional governments — both of which include the environmentalist Green party — and energy company RWE agreed to bring forward the exit from coal use in the region by eight years to 2030.

But, amid concerns about Germany's energy security following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the agreement also foresees the life of two power plant units that were supposed to be switched off earlier being extended until at least 2024 and Luetzerath being razed to enable further mining.


Wilderness is a myth

Environmentalism Can’t Just Be About Protecting “Pristine” Areas. Developing sustainable societies requires us to recognize that humanity is part of nature too

Seeing wilderness as “pristine” or “pure” implies a kind of permanence that never has existed in nature, even when humanity wasn’t in the picture. This illusory permanence only becomes more elusive when human desires enter into the mix. It is precisely this “nature in flux” view that led Meffe et al. (2002) to articulate what they refer to as “a ‘golden rule’ for natural resource management.” According to that rule, “Natural resource management should strive to identify and retain critical types and ranges of natural variation in ecosystems, while satisfying the combined needs of the ecological, socioeconomic, and institutional systems.”

Wilderness designation and other means of protecting relatively undisturbed landscapes are an important part of the policy toolkit for decision-makers seeking to abide by Meffe et al’s “golden rule” of environmental management. However, as William Cronon (1995) points out, “the trouble with wilderness is that it quietly expresses and reproduces the very values its devotees seek to reject. Wilderness,” Cronon continues, “represents the false hope of an escape from responsibility, the illusion that we can somehow wipe clean the slate of our past and return to the tabula rasa that supposedly existed before we began to leave our marks on the world.”

One example of the avoidance of responsibility that Cronon alludes to can be found within the growing urban centers of our planet. When the protection of large often remote landscapes becomes the focal point of our environmental public policy debates, the urban landscape and the lifestyles they enable largely escape scrutiny. It’s impossible to build a city that doesn’t come with an environmental footprint, but we can build/rebuild cities that take lighter steps than has historically been the case.

Writing in the journal Cities and the Environment, Mary L. Cadenasso and Steward T. A. Pickett (2008) state explicitly that “Cities are ecosystems by virtue of having interacting biological and physical complexes. There are organisms in cities, including people, as well as air, soil, water, light, and physical regulators such as temperature and day length.” When this variety of interactions is taken into account rather than dismissed for being too human a setting to be worthy of serious environmental consideration, opportunities to improve human efficiency and enhance habitat for a wide range of species quickly begin to present themselves.

Jessica R. Sushinsky et al (2013) studied the impact of urban development on bird populations in Brisbane, Australia. Sushinsky and her co-authors found that how cities develop and grow can have a profound impact upon birds living in the area. While both densely populated cities with relatively small backyards and less compact sprawling urban areas will negatively impact local bird populations, “compact [dense] development better maintains species assemblages at the city scale, resulting in fewer local extinctions and much smaller reductions in species’ distributions.”

In the third paragraph of The Wilderness Act of 1964, the US Congress defined “wilderness” as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The law went on to state that wilderness is “further defined to mean [an area] retaining its primeval character and influence…”(italics added) These areas, according to the law, were to be of at least 5,000 acres in size. (16 U.S.C. 1131–1136)

It’s a lovely sentiment. The implementation of this idealized vision of nature by U.S. federal land managers and by the U.S. Congress has provided me and many others with vast and incredibly beautiful areas to roam growing up, and still does. But, in retrospect, I see now that William Cronon has a point. This concept of wilderness not only blinded me to the wonders of nature literally taking place within my very own backyard, but devalued those wonders by treating them as corrupted virtually beyond repair.

Later, as I entered adulthood, I watched the wilderness debates consume both the environmental movement and its opponents. The land became a political powder keg fuelling both “sagebrush rebels” demanding greater state and local control over federal land and lawsuits filed by environmental groups to force federal land agencies to set aside areas meeting the Wilderness Act’s criteria until Congress could make the designation official.

These contentious debates have sucked most of the political oxygen from the room in states like Utah. For years this has left little trust or political will remaining that could facilitate NGO and government cooperation on policies like sustainable cities or so-called “smart growth.” To wilderness activists receiving a disproportionate amount of the media coverage and funding, cities were at best necessary evils to be escaped from whenever the chance presented itself. Meanwhile, conservative politicians and rural voters saw environmentalists in general as a group hell-bent on locking up the land upon which many depended for their livelihoods.

But the concept of wilderness needn’t be so problematic. As Cronon (1995) concludes near the end of his essay, “Wilderness gets us into trouble only if we imagine that this experience of wonder and otherness is limited to the remote corners of the planet, or that it somehow depends on pristine landscapes we ourselves do not inhabit. Nothing,” he adds, “ could be more misleading.”

We need large only mildly disturbed areas. We need them not only to protect biodiversity but to nourish our souls now and then. But nature does not meet a single simple definition. Heterogeneity and flux are part of the process. Both landscape and adaptive management strategies require a commitment to the intentional and intelligent incorporation of variation throughout entire regions and around the world.

A human presence, even a large one, need not represent a failure to protect the environment. It can and should be viewed as an opportunity for finding better means of living within nature’s limits. What we’ve come to identify as wilderness is vitally important to our conservation efforts, but we shouldn’t allow the supposedly perfect to become the enemy of the good.




No comments: