Best of our wild blogs: 28 Jul 18



WUJ's Pick of the Week (27 JUL - 02 AUG)
Wan's Ubin Journal


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Regulatory measures needed to curb roadkill

Straits Times Forum 27 Jul 18;

The recent reports of roadkill incidents have been saddening (Rare deer put down after 3-vehicle accident, June 18; Pregnant wild boar killed in BKE accident involving 3 cars, June 23).

Losing a member of a species already under threat is a huge blow, and one too many for Singapore's sensitive wildlife.

The rise in the number of roadkill incidents is alarming, and is likely due to the construction works in the vicinity.

Efforts by Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) to mitigate roadkill should be lauded, but they are still clearly inadequate and ineffective.

MPH should also be transparent with its roadkill data, especially when it claims to be "closely monitoring wildlife road incidents within and around the project area" (Many measures in place to reduce wildlife road incidents; March 29).

Its claim that "there has not been an observable increase in roadkill incidents since work began on the Mandai Project" should also be backed up by hard data, which should be made publicly available.

Currently, there are neither incentives to motivate MPH to step up its mitigation efforts norany repercussions for roadkill incidents happening within the vicinity of the works.

There is an urgent need for regulatory measures to be imposed on MPH and future similar works for accountability.

Additionally, the construction of the eco-link bridge should commence as soon as possible.

I implore MPH to ramp up roadkill-mitigation measures, review its wildlife-shepherding techniques, and consider working with the Land Transport Authority to designate Mandai Lake Road as a car-lite zone, in order to best preserve what precious little wildlife is left in Singapore.

Neeraj Prabakharan


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A move that has been a long time coming: Wildlife experts welcome formation of revamped NParks

Matthew Mohan Channel NewsAsia 27 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE: Having a single agency - the National Parks Board (NParks) - take the lead in addressing wildlife-related concerns is a step in the right direction, local experts said, adding that the move has been a long time coming.

The board will take on the role from Apr 1 2019, as part of the government's reorganisation of food, plant health and animal management functions announced on Thursday (Jul 26).

All non-food plant and animal-related functions of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will be transferred to NParks from April next year, with a new statutory board taking over food safety and security functions currently overseen by three agencies. With that, AVA will be disbanded.

Local wildlife experts told Channel NewsAsia that the move will allow for the better pooling of resources as NParks seeks to conserve Singapore's natural heritage.

"I welcome the news," said veteran wildlife consultant Subaraj Rajathurai. "For the longest time, we have been worried that the AVA can't cope. They are stretched too thin and are unable to prioritise certain things which we feel are important."

"It is important to know that we're separating managing wildlife from management of food-related issues," he added. "Putting the two together in the past was a bit up in the air ... We cannot have too many agencies spoiling the broth. This move will allow people to work closer together to find solutions."

Tackling issues such as the illegal wildlife trade, and finding a solution for animal-human "conflict" are issues that the new-look NParks should seek to address, added Mr Rajathurai.

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

Dr Shawn Lum, president of Nature Society (Singapore) (NSS), hailed the move as one which will bring together the best of both worlds.

"I'm very encouraged by this. It's quite similar to what some have been requesting for years - but it's even better now that it's under one agency," said Dr Lum.

"I think at every level our response to wildlife-related issues will be now streamlined. We take the best of AVA's animal expertise and bring that together with the NParks' experience on the ground and in the field, and what we could get is something even better than the sum of two groups previously.

"The AVA are very committed to these issues, and they have very good people who are doing a good job, but I think now that it is under a single agency, you can have a shared sort of objective and the response can come from one agency instead of two, so there would be better coordination."

This sentiment was echoed by chief executive officer of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore Elaine Tan, who stressed the need for NParks to tackle the loss of biodiversity.

"It is a welcomed move that NParks, with its comprehensive knowledge on conservation, will take the lead on biodiversity issues including wildlife conflict, illegal wildlife trade, and the protection and conservation of precious natural resources," she added.

But for the NParks to function optimally, Dr Lum of NSS believes that the agency has to be given more financial support. This could allow them to designate more resources to track wildlife, delegate more manpower to monitor the illegal wildlife trade and even draw up more programmes to encourage more young people to go into conservation policy, he added.

"If we invested just a little bit more in some key human resources, we could truly realise the potential of this new arrangement. It's already very good but it could be even better."

Source: CNA/mt(ms)


Bringing all animal-related functions under NParks welcomed by groups
Low De Wei Straits Times 27 Jul 18;

Animal and green groups generally welcomed the transfer of animal-related functions under the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to the National Parks Board (NParks), saying it can lead to greater efficiency and more effective policies.

The move will combine NParks' expertise in wildlife conservation and horticultural science, and AVA's in animal and plant health, said the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, and the Ministry of National Development.

Under changes announced yesterday, the AVA will cease to exist by next April, with about 300 of its staff moving to NParks.

Dr Siew Tuck Wah, president of animal welfare group SOSD, said having a single lead agency in dealing with wildlife might streamline the management of wildlife here.

NParks currently deals with public tip-offs on wildlife spotted in a park or nature reserve, but cases in which wildlife wander into urban areas are referred to AVA.

Dr Siew said this means that if SOSD wants to carry out sterilisation or rescue operations for a stray dog that wandered into a park from a road, it has to go through multiple agencies.

MORE RESOURCES NEEDED

As the jurisdiction (of NParks) becomes wider, there must be more investment to reap the benefits of structural change and manage thorny issues such as wildlife smuggling.

DR SHAWN LUM, president of the Nature Society (Singapore), calling for more resources to be allocated to manage and monitor wildlife.

Other groups expressed hope that the combined expertise of AVA and NParks will lead to better targeted action on environmental and wildlife issues here.

Acres, or the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, welcomed the move, saying "it makes more sense to approach and handle issues holistically".

Ms Elaine Tan, chief executive of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Singapore, said it hopes NParks will take the lead on issues including human-wildlife conflict, illegal wildlife trade and conservation of natural resources.

Mr Jaipal Singh Gill, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), said it hopes NParks will put animal welfare firmly on the agenda.

Wild boars were spotted around Tuas bus interchange in June last year. Such encounters between humans and wildlife are rising.

As for the Nature Society (Singapore), even as it welcomed the potential cutting of red tape, it called for more resources, especially manpower, to be allocated to manage and monitor wildlife.

Its president Shawn Lum said there will be increased instances of human-wildlife conflict, but the agencies managing wildlife are currently very stretched.

"As the jurisdiction (of NParks) becomes wider, there must be more investment to reap the benefits of structural change and manage thorny issues such as wildlife smuggling," said Dr Lum.


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55 Ministry of National Development scholarships awarded this year

Jolene Ang Straits Times 27 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE - Three years ago, student Dayna Cheah went on an intertidal field trip to Pulau Hantu to observe the coral and other marine life in the area.

She was amazed to find that a small and urbanised country like Singapore could still sustain a vibrant marine life and ecosystem.

But a year later, on a trip to the nearby Sisters' Islands, Ms Cheah was "heartbroken" to see signs of mass coral bleaching in the reefs there.

The 19-year-old, a former National University of Singapore (NUS) High School of Mathematics and Science student, said: "(Pulau Hantu) sparked something in me, to see the resilience of our animals and marine life. But (the Sisters' Islands corals dying) is one image that has stayed with me every day throughout the last two years."

Ms Cheah is one of 41 undergraduates who received the Ministry of National Development Executive Development and Growth Exchange (MND Edge) scholarships on Friday (July 27).

She will be pursuing a degree in natural sciences at Britain's Cambridge University and will join the National Parks Board (NParks) after completing her studies.

A total of 55 people received MND Edge scholarships at a ceremony. Fourteen in-service staff received scholarships in the postgraduate category.

The MND Edge scholarship programme is a joint talent development project offered by MND and its statutory boards. Scholarship recipients will join the statutory boards after they graduate.

"The balance between conservation (of the environment) and development (of the country) is delicate," said Ms Cheah. "I hope to help integrate the two so we can have a city in a jungle, and so people will actually know how to appreciate and interact with nature."

Addressing the scholarship recipients at the MND Auditorium in Maxwell Road, Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong said: "For some, Singapore may seem very built-up and well-developed... Nearly every inch of land is optimised, developed and planned for; is there any more space for development?

"The short answer is yes. With long-term planning, we are able to free up large parcels of land for future development... There is still much more that needs to be done."

Scholarship recipient Teo Ning Ginn, who will be reading environmental studies at NUS, has an interest in the efficiency and sustainability of local farms.

Ms Teo, 19, said: "When I do farming work and get to interact with plants and animals, I feel at peace. The satisfaction of eating something I grew myself is wonderful to me."

Ms Chan Yu An, also 19, who plans to study veterinary science, said: "I hope I will be able to manage issues relating to wildlife and livestock in Singapore."


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Malaysia: Sarawak activates drought ops centres statewide as heatwave looms

stephen then The Star 27 Jul 18;

MIRI: Sarawak has activated its divisional drought crisis operation centres statewide on Friday (July 27).

The State Disaster Relief Committee headquarters in Kuching issued the directive, which was signed by head of the secretariat Major (Rtd) Ismail Mahedin.

The directive has been distributed to all relevant government agencies and departments involved in disaster mitigation and management in the state including the Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department.

Miri Fire Chief Supt Law Poh Kiong confirmed that his office in Miri received the directive at noon.

"The directive on the activation of the drought-crisis ops centre in the divisions in the state is with immediate effective," he added.

The order to activate the ops centres is to enable all the divisional disaster relief ops room to liase with the central ops centre in state capital Kuching to prepare for water shortages.

The Sarawak Disaster Relief Committee which handles all forms of natural disasters including floods and drought will be coordinating relief efforts between the central and divisional operation centres to monitor and assist areas hit by water shortages.

In many parts of Sarawak, including Miri, midday temperatures have risen to as high as 35 degree Celsius.


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Malaysia: Pygmy elephant calf dies after being caught in snare trap

natasha joibi The Star 27 Jul 18;

KOTA KINABALU: A Borneo pygmy elephant calf was unable to survive the trauma of being caught in a snare trap set by poachers and died hours after being found.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga confirmed the calf's death at the Sungai Taliwas Forest Reserve in Lahad Datu, and said it was found with a snare trap wire still wrapped around its right foot on Thursday (July 26).

"Unfortunately, it died the night of our visit," he said, adding that they would provide more details once these were provided by the veterinary officer.

Tuuga himself came across the calf – which was alone and isolated from the rest of its herd – while he was accompanying Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Assafal Alian on a working visit to Kawag Tourism Centre on Thursday.

He added that this was not the first incident of its kind and there had been at least 18 elephant deaths reported this year.

It is believed that the calf was separated from its group due to its injuries, which worsened each time it moved as the trap tightened further around its foot.

It was reported that the elephant was sedated so that it could be treated and relocated, but it came too late to save the animal's life.


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Indonesia: HAkA, Google Voyager, take Leuser Ecosystem online

The Jakarta Post 27 Jul 18;

The Natural Forest and Environment of Aceh (HAkA) non-governmental organization has teamed up with Google Earth to promote the Leuser Ecosystem, a 2.6 million-hectare forest conservation area in Aceh and North Sumatra, as a tourist destination to all digitally connected people around the world.

The Leuser Ecosystem project was launched Thursday on Voyager.

Voyager is a Google Earth feature that “provides opportunity to explore” places around the world through videos, pictures and texts, Google Earth outreach program manager Tomomi Matsuoka said on Wednesday.

Matsuoka explained that Google Earth chose HAkA because it had participated in Google’s annual user summit every year since 2015. She also highlighted that the Leuser Ecosysten was the last place on the planet where the endangered Sumatran elephant, tiger, rhinoceros and orangutan coexisted in the wild.

Using Voyager, people around the world could explore the Leuser Ecosystem in eight story panels and learn about its ecological importance.

HAkA social media officer Irham Hudaya Yunardi said the Leuser Ecosystem was home to 8,500 plant species, 382 bird species and more than 105 mammalian species.It was also a life-support system that provided resources and functions, such as clean water and flood control, for millions of people in Aceh. The ecosystem also helped mitigate climate change with its peat swamp forests.(stu)


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Indonesia: 44 hotspots detected in Musi Rawas, S Sumatra, during January-July

Antara 27 Jul 18;

Musi Rawas, S Sumatra (ANTARA News) - As many as 44 hotspots had been detected in Musi Rawas District, South Sumatra Province, during the January-July period.

The hotspots were found in 14 sub-districts in Musi Rawas, Paisol, Head of the Musi Rawas disaster mitigation office, said here, Thursday.

Among the affected sub-districts were Muara Kelingi, Muara Lakitan, Muara Beliti, and Selangit.

However, he believed that the hotspots did not come from forest fires but from chimneys of state oil and gas company Pertamina and hot zinc.

None of the hotspot came from forest fires, he noted, adding that if there is one, he would closely monitor and check them with the cooperation of the military and police.

Meanwhile, the government is preparing a number of anticipatory measures to overcome the potential of forest and land fires, ahead of the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang.

"The steps have been many and easily `manageable," Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar stated, after a coordination meeting on anticipation of forest and land fires ahead of the Asian Games in the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs Building, in Jakarta, on July 24.

She explained that the anticipatory steps to prevent forest and land fires are mostly carried out in South Sumatra, such as water bombing and weather modification for rain.

In addition, she added that the government has also set up various surveillance posts in certain hotspots by providing guidance to farmers on the method of planting oil palm ahead of the planting season and arresting those who burn land.

Besides, the Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) will drill 200 artesian wells in six villages in Ogan Komering Ilir, a land fire-prone area that could spread the haze to Asian Games venues in Jakabaring sport complex in South Sumatra`s city of Palembang.

"There will be 200 artesian wells. We are focusing on areas that could affect the Asian Games. Based on analysis, we have started to build (artesian wells) in six villages in OKI (Ogan Komering Ilir), which could spread the haze to Jakabaring," BRG`s Deputy of Construction, Operation and Maintenance Alue Dohong remarked here on Wednesday.

reporting by Marjamin/Indra
(f001/INE)
(T.SYS/A/KR-BSR/A/H-YH)
Editor: Heru Purwanto


Disaster Mitigation Agency assures Asian Games will be free from smoke
Antara 27 Jul 18;

Chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Willem Rampangilei. (ANTARA /Rosa Panggabean)

Raja Ampat, W Papua (ANTARA News) - Chief of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Willem Rampangilei has assured the public that the 18th Asian Games will be free from smoke from land and forest fires.

"Both the central and regional governments have collaborated to handle and prevent smoke. The cooperation is aimed at assuring the public that there will be no longer smoke disaster in the rest of the year particularly during the Asian Games," he said on the sidelines of the Asian Games 2018 torch in Raja Ampat, West Papua province.

The central and regional governments have taken strategic steps to prevent hotspots in the areas vulnerable to land and forest fires, he said.

The steps include familiarizing the public with the programs, mobilizing officers to conduct land and air patrols, mapping disaster-prone areas and applying weather modifying technology to combat fires. he said.

"We have monitored hotspots so that we will not be late to extinguish fires in peatland," he said.

Should fires happen, the government will be ready to conduct land operations involving the military, police, regional disaster mitigation boards and all relevant parties.

Reported by Michael Siahaan
(T.S012/B/KR-BSR/B/H-YH)
Editor: Heru Purwanto


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Vietnam to limit waste imports as shipments build up at ports

Reuters 26 Jul 18;

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam will stop issuing new licenses for the import of waste and crack down on illegal shipments as thousands of containers of paper, plastic and metal scrap build up at the country’s ports, raising concerns about the environment.

Waste imports into Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries have risen significantly since the Chinese government banned the entry of several types of solid wastes from the beginning of this year, according to Vietnam’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

The authorities need to “prevent waste from entering Vietnam to keep the country from becoming a dumping site, affecting the environment and people’s lives,” the government said in a statement late on Wednesday.

The surge in waste imports has caused congestion at several Vietnam ports, with around 6,000 containers now sitting at entry points that need to be handled, the ministry said in a statement earlier this week. The ministry did not say how much waste Vietnam has imported this year.

Waste-processing is a supplemental source of raw materials for Vietnam’s paper, plastic and steel industries.

“The demand for paper and plastic scraps as materials for production does exist, but this benefits only the processors, not the environment,” according to the government statement.

Malaysia’s government on Tuesday also revoked the import permits of 114 factories that process plastic waste, following local media reports of increased pollution in areas where the factories operated.

Malaysian Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said the factories affected will have three months to bring their operations up to speed with international environmental standards before they can reapply for the permits, according to a report by national newswire Bernama.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in Wednesday’s government statement that Vietnam will track down the owners of the containers piling up at its ports and launch criminal investigations into any illegal imports or violations of environment law.

Pollution is a political risk for Communist-ruled Vietnam, where nationwide protests have been held to save trees and against a steel firm accused of polluting the sea.

One of Vietnam’s worst environmental disasters happened in 2016, when a steel plant being developed by Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Corp contaminated coastal waters and unleashed an outpouring of anger throughout the country.

An editorial published on Monday in The People’s Daily, a mouthpiece of China’s Communist Party, said the nation’s ban on solid waste imports will have a “temporary impact” on countries that have waste recycling industries, but that it will eventually lead to better global standards in the long run.

The editorial said China’s ban will help improve the country’s environment and “promote the universal international principle that producers of waste should be responsible for the whole life cycle of that waste.”

Reporting by Khanh Vu, with additional reporting by Joseph Sipalan in KUALA LUMPUR and David Stanway in SHANGHAI; Editing by Tom Hogue


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Myanmar: Floods force thousands from homes

AFP Yahoo News 27 Jul 18;

Hpa-an (Myanmar) (AFP) - Floodwaters have forced thousands from their homes in southeast Myanmar, local police said Friday, as authorities and volunteers scrambled to provide food and aid to the victims.

Heavy monsoon rains have pounded Karen state, Mon state and Bago region in recent days and show no sign of abating, raising fears that the worst might be yet to come.

Photos and videos showed residents of Karen's state capital Hpa-an boating down streets that had turned into rivers while others were forced to escape on foot through waist-deep water.

Vast swathes of the surrounding land lay submerged while 11 temporary camps have been set up around the city.

"There are more than 6,000 people displaced in Hpa-an and about 4,000 in Myawaddy," the head of Karen state police force Kyi Linn told AFP, referring to a second town on the border with Thailand.

A social welfare ministry official previously said 16,000 people had been displaced across eight townships in Karen state.

The number affected in Mon state and Bago region has not yet been confirmed.

"The children's school has closed," said Khin San Win, who fled her home which was thigh-deep in water for a shelter in Hpa-an along with her sick husband and their three children.

"We're being given food but we aren't able to pay for anything else as we can't work."

State-run media published pictures on Friday of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi visiting Karen state the day before, talking to victims, relief workers and volunteers.

The Global New Light Of Myanmar said her government had freed up 200 million kyat ($140,000) to help those displaced and that rebuilding destroyed bridges would be a priority.

"We are now delivering food to flood victims who don't want to leave their homes," said volunteer Ni Ni Aung in Kyonedoe town, adding they would have no choice but to leave if the rains worsened.

So far no casualties have been reported.

Like its neighbours, Myanmar faces severe flooding every year and climate scientists in 2015 even ranked it top of a global list of nations hardest hit by extreme weather.

That year more than 100 people died in floods that also displaced hundreds of thousands across the country.

Some 138,000 people were killed in 2008 when Cyclone Nargis lashed vast stretches of Myanmar's coast.


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Science Says Record Heat, Fires Worsened by Climate Change

Scientists see the hand of climate change in heat records and fires breaking out globally this summer.
SETH BORENSTEIN AND FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press US News 27 Jul 18;

Heat waves are setting all-time temperature records across the globe, again. Europe suffered its deadliest fire in more than a century, and one of nearly 90 large fires in the U.S. West burned dozens of homes and forced the evacuation of at least 37,000 people near Redding, California. Flood-inducing downpours have pounded the U.S. East this week.

It's all part of summer — but it's all being made worse by human-caused climate change, scientists say.

"Weirdness abounds," said Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis.

Japan hit 106 degrees on Monday, its hottest temperature ever. Records fell in parts of Massachusetts, Maine, Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico and Texas. And then there's crazy heat in Europe, where normally chill Norway, Sweden and Finland all saw temperatures they have never seen before on any date, pushing past 90 degrees. So far this month, at least 118 of these all-time heat records have been set or tied across the globe, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The explanations should sound as familiar as the crash of broken records.

"We now have very strong evidence that global warming has already put a thumb on the scales, upping the odds of extremes like severe heat and heavy rainfall," Stanford University climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh said. "We find that global warming has increased the odds of record-setting hot events over more than 80 percent of the planet, and has increased the odds of record-setting wet events at around half of the planet."

Climate change is making the world warmer because of the build-up of heat-trapping gases from the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil and other human activities. And experts say the jet stream — which dictates weather in the Northern Hemisphere — is again behaving strangely.

"An unusually sharply kinked jet stream has been stuck in place for weeks now," said Jeff Masters, director of the private Weather Underground. He says that allows the heat to stay in place over three areas where the kinks are: Europe, Japan and the western United States.

The same jet stream pattern caused the 2003 European heat wave, the 2010 Russian heat wave and fires, the 2011 Texas and Oklahoma drought and the 2016 Canadian wildfires, Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said, pointing to past studies by him and others. He said in an email that these extremes are "becoming more common because of human-caused climate change and in particular, the amplified warming in the Arctic."

Climate scientists have long said they can't directly link single weather events, like a heat wave, to human caused climate change without extensive study. In the past decade they have used observations, statistics and computer simulations to calculate if global warming increases the chances of the events.

A study by European scientists Friday found that the ongoing European heat wave is twice as likely because of human-caused global warming, though those conclusions have not yet been confirmed by outside scientists. The World Weather Attribution team said they compared three-day heat measurements and forecasts for the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland with historical records going back to the early 1900s.

"The world is becoming warmer and so heatwaves like this are becoming more common," said Friederike Otto, a member of the team and deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford.

Erich Fischer, an expert on weather extremes at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich who wasn't part of the analysis said the authors used well-established methods to make their conclusions.

Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb said the link between climate change and fires isn't as strong as it is with heat waves, but it is becoming clearer.

A devastating fire in Greece — with at least 83 fatalities — is the deadliest fire in Europe since 1900, according to the International Disaster Database run by the Centre for the Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Brussels, Belgium.

In the United States on Friday there were 89 active large fires, consuming nearly 900,000 acres, according the National Interagency Fire Center. So far this year, fires have burned 4.15 million acres, which is nearly 14 percent higher than average over the past 10 years.

The first major science study to connect greenhouse gases to stronger and longer heat waves was in 2004. It was titled "More intense, more frequent and longer lasting heat waves in the 21st century." Study author Gerald Meehl of the National Center for Atmospheric Research said Friday that now it "reads like a prediction of what has been happening and will continue to happen as long as average temperatures continue to rise with ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels. It's no mystery."

___

Borenstein reported from Washington, Jordans from Berlin.

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Heatwave made more than twice as likely by climate change, scientists find
Fingerprints of global warming clear, they say, after comparing northern Europe’s scorching summer with records and computer models
Damian Carrington The Guardian 27 Jul 18;

The heatwave searing northern Europe was made more than twice as likely by climate change, according to a rapid assessment by scientists.

The result is preliminary but they say the signal of climate change is “unambiguous”. Scientists have long predicted that global warming is ramping up the number and intensity of heatwaves, with events even worse than current one set to strike every other year by the 2040s.

“The logic that climate change will do this is inescapable – the world is becoming warmer, and so heatwaves like this are becoming more common,” said Friederike Otto, at the University of Oxford and part of the World Weather Attribution (WWA) consortium that did the work.

“What was once regarded as unusually warm weather will become commonplace, and in some cases, it already has,” she said. “So this is something that society can and should prepare for. But equally there is no doubt that we can and should constrain the increasing likelihood of all kinds of extreme weather events by restricting greenhouse gas emissions as sharply as possible.”

The new analysis is a climate-change attribution study. By comparing extreme weather with historical measurements and with computer models of a climate unaltered by carbon emissions, researchers can find how much global warming is increasing the risk of dangerous weather.

The researchers analysed records of the hottest three-day period at seven weather stations in northern Europe, from Ireland to the Netherlands to Scandinavia, where data was easily accessible.

“We found that for the weather station in the far north, in the Arctic Circle, the current heatwave is just extraordinary – unprecedented in the historical record,” said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and also part of WWA.

Across northern Europe, the group found global warming more than doubled the risk of scorching temperatures. “We can can see the fingerprints of climate change on local extremes,” he said. “It is amazing now that it is something you can really see at a local level.”

“Most heatwave studies have been done on large scale averages, so European-wide temperatures,” said Otto. “In this study, we have looked at individual locations, where people live, to represent the heatwave people are actually experiencing.” The analysis is a preliminary study as a full study requires many climate models to be run on high-powered computers, which takes months.

Previous attribution analyses have shown very strong connections between climate change and extreme weather events. The scorching summer in New South Wales, Australia, in 2016-17 was made at least 50 times more likely by global warming, meaning it can be “linked directly to climate change”, said the scientists.

The “Lucifer” heatwave across Europe’s Mediterranean nations in 2017 summer was made at least 10 times more likely by climate change, while the unprecedented deluge delivered in the US by Hurricane Harvey also in 2017 was made three times more likely by climate change, new research has found. However, other events, such as storms Eleanor and Friederike, which hit western Europe in January, were not made more likely by climate change, according to the scientists.

In Europe, the heatwave has been caused by the stalling of the jet stream wind, which usually funnels cool Atlantic weather over the continent. This has left hot, dry air in place for two months – far longer than than usual. The stalling of the northern hemisphere jet stream is being increasingly firmly linked to global warming, in particular to the rapid heating of the Arctic and resulting loss of sea ice.

The role of climate change in driving extreme weather events may actually be underestimated by these attribution studies, according to Prof Michael E Mann at Penn State University in the US. The work is good, he said, but computer models cannot yet reliably account for the complex jet stream changes caused by global warming, making the attribution studies “inherently conservative”.

Serious climate change is “unfolding before our eyes”, said Prof Rowan Sutton, director of climate research at the University of Reading. “No one should be in the slightest surprised that we are seeing very serious heatwaves and associated impacts in many parts of the world.”

The wide geographical spread of the heatwave, right across four continents, points to global warming as the culprit, said Prof Peter Stott, a science fellow at the UK’s Met Office: “That pattern is something we wouldn’t be seeing without climate change.”

The heatwave across northern Europe has seen wildfires in the Arctic Circle and prolonged heat across the UK and the European continent. In the south, fierce blazes have devastated parts of Greece, with scores of people killed.

But extreme weather has struck across the globe. Severe floods killed at least 220 people in Japan in early July, with the nation then hit by an “unprecedented” heatwave that peaked at 41.1C and left 35,000 people in hospital. In the US, extreme heat in the west is feeding wildfires, with Yosemite national park being evacuated, while flooding is affecting the east.

Temperature records have also fallen in Taiwan, with a temperature of 40.3C in Tianxiang, and in Ouargla in Algeria’s Sahara desert, which reported a maximum temperature of 51.3C, the highest temperature ever reliably recorded in Africa. The first six months of the 2018 are the hottest recorded for any year without an El NiƱo event, a natural climate cycle that raises temperatures.

Climate change driven by humans made heatwave 'twice as likely'
Matt McGrath BBC 27 Jul 18;

Climate change resulting from human activities made the current Europe-wide heatwave more than twice as likely to occur, say scientists

Researchers compared the current high temperatures with historical records from seven weather stations, in different parts of Europe.

Their preliminary report found that the "signal of climate change is unambiguous," in this summer's heat.

They also say the scale of the heatwave in the Arctic is unprecedented.

The scale and breadth of the current heat being experienced across Europe has prompted many questions about the influence of global warming on extreme events.

To try and see if there is a connection, researchers looked at data from seven weather stations, in Finland, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

They chose these locations because they all had digitised records dating back to the early 1900s, unlike the UK. The team also used computer models to assess the scale of human-influenced climate change.

The researchers found that in the weather stations in the Netherlands, Ireland and Denmark, climate change has generally increased the odds of the current heatwave by more than two-fold.

So what exactly is a heatwave?

There are several different definitions of what exactly makes a heatwave but the researchers in this study have gone with the hottest consecutive 3 day period in a year. This has allowed them to compare the data from the seven different locations over the past 100 years or so.

"In many parts of Europe three day heat is not very exceptional and you could argue that it would be better to look at longer," said Dr Friederike Otto from the University of Oxford, one of the study's authors.

"But we've looked at longer periods and it doesn't change the result very much."

The researchers also say the warmest three days in succession this year may not yet have happened but they believe that even if next week is warmer, it won't change the overall impact.

Is this definitive proof of the impact of climate change?

Scientists are loath to say a specific event was "caused" by climate change - however they believe that this new study joins a growing list of solid links between rising temperatures and extreme events.

One thing the researchers can't say right now is whether the high pressure system that has been blocked over Europe for almost two months was caused by climate change. The scientists, from the World Weather Attribution group say they will address this question when they formally publish their findings in a scientific journal later this year.

Can they tell us when another heatwave will strike Europe?

They can't be that definite. However the study does give figures for what are termed "return periods" or the chances of something happening again.

They estimate that in southern Scandinavia it's likely there will be a similar heatwave every ten years, while further south, in the Netherlands, it's likely to be once every five years. This ties in with projections from several scientists that the type of heatwave we've had this summer could occur every second year by the 2040s.

"The logic that climate change will do this is inescapable - the world is becoming warmer, and so heatwaves like this are becoming more common," said Dr Friederike Otto, from the University of Oxford.

"What was once regarded as unusually warm weather will become commonplace - in some cases, it already has," she added.

What about the Arctic?

While acknowledging that the current heatwave in the Arctic is unprecedented in the historical record, the researchers were not able to clearly resolve the impact of human influence.

That's because summer temperatures there vary a good deal from year to year so the trend was impossible to estimate from the observations, the authors said.

Despite their reservations about the Arctic they argue that their initial findings should prompt more action on cutting carbon from governments.

"We are not taking the right measures," said Dr Robert Vautard, from the CNRS in France.

"We are discovering climate change rather than doing something against it."

How do you work out the influence of climate change?

It involves some serious number crunching!

This new research is called an attribution study - The researchers work out how often these type of extreme heat events have happened at each of the weather stations they looked at.

They compare those findings to modelled results of the climate without the influence of human emissions of carbon dioxide. This way they can work out how much climate change has tipped the odds of a rare event happening.

Have other extreme events been linked to climate change?

The list continues to grow.

The major European heatwave of 2003 was among the first events to be linked though it took scientists several years to do it - Eventually they concluded that human induced climate change had made the event 500% more likely!

These days the attributions studies are much faster - just last year scientists concluded that the flooding in Houston, Texas was made 38% more likely by climate change while the so-called "Lucifer" heatwave in Eastern Europe was made ten times more likely. This new study was completed in less than a week.


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