Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

No current tropical storms.

NewsBytes:

Texas, USA – Eight people have died in a tornado that hit Garland, Texas, raising the death toll to 26 in a week of storms in several US states. Five people in cars were blown off a motorway in Garland, near Dallas. Another three bodies were found in nearby towns. Two people were found dead at a petrol station in Copeville, and a third was killed in Blue Ridge.

Britain – Heavy rain has caused flooding in northern England, leading to evacuations of thousands in Lancashire and Yorkshire. At least 2,200 homes have been evacuated in York, with six severe flood warnings in the area. The Met Office has issued hundreds of flood alerts and warnings – more than 30 of them severe. The River Irwell and River Roch have both overflowed, causing flooding in Salford, Manchester city centre and Rochdale. Houses have been evacuated in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, and in Ribchester and Whalley, Lancashire.

 

Uk flood map

 

South America – Update – The widespread floods have forced nearly 140,000 people from their homes in Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil following days of torrential rains that drenched a region where the countries border each other. Paraguay is the hardest hit with at least 100,000 evacuating according to the National Emergency Department. Argentina’s state-run news agency Telam reports that 20,000 people suffered the same fate in that nation, while Uruguay’s National Emergency System says some 9,000 were displaced by rivers that overflowed their banks. The civil defense department in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul says at least 7,000 people had to leave their homes.

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Disease

Chikungunya Disease in South America

While some countries in the Caribbeans have seen their chikungunya situation get under control, in fact Dominica declared their outbreak over earlier this week, some areas of South America are reporting an increase in cases of the mosquito borne viral disease.

During the past week, Colombia saw an increase of 7,848 cases bringing the country’s total to more than 185,000 suspected and confirmed cases, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), by far the most on the continent. Colombia has also reported three chikungunya related fatalities.

Other South American countries seeing an increase in confirmed chikungunya cases include Bolivia (+45), Ecuador (+147) and Paraguay (+130).

In addition, Mexico also reported an increase in confirmed chikungunya cases during the past week, rising by 114 cases to 355.

In the United States in 2015, as of February 24, a total of 43 chikungunya virus disease cases have been reported to CDC ArboNET from 8 U.S. states so far this year.

Global Warming

Global warming endangers South American water supply

Chile and Argentina may face critical water storage issues due to rain-bearing westerly winds over South America’s Patagonian Ice-Field to moving south as a result of global warming.

A reconstruction of past changes in the North and Central Patagonian Ice-field, which plays a vital role in the hydrology of the region, has revealed the ice field had suddenly contracted around 15,000 years ago after a southerly migration of westerly winds.

This migration of westerly winds towards the south pole has been observed again in modern times and is expected to continue under a warming climate, likely leading to further ice declines in this area affecting seasonal water storage.

“We found that precipitation brought to this region by Southern Hemisphere westerlies played an important role in the glaciation of the North Patagonian Ice-Fields,” said Dr Chris Fogwill from the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. 

“Our research has shown this ice-field significantly reduced in size when those winds moved southwards.”

The North Patagonian Ice-field is vital to maintain seasonal water storage capacity for Argentina and Chile.

“Worryingly, this study suggests the region may well be on a trajectory of irreversible change, which will have profound impacts on agriculture and the increasing dependency on hydroelectric power in Chile and Argentina,” Dr Fogwill said.

Environment

Massive Melting Of Andes Glaciers

The tropical glaciers in South America are melting at their fastest rate in 300 years. Glaciers in the tropical Andes have shrunk by 30-50% since the 1970s, according to a recent study.

The glaciers provide fresh water for tens of millions in South America.

Andes Glaciers

 

The study included data on about half of all Andean glaciers and blamed the melting on an average temperature rise of 0.7C from 1950-1994.

Glaciers are retreating everywhere in the tropical Andes, but the melting is more pronounced for small glaciers at low altitudes.

Glaciers at altitudes below 5,400m have lost about 1.35m in ice thickness per year since the late 1970s, twice the rate of the larger, high-altitude glaciers.

Because the maximum thickness of these small, low-altitude glaciers rarely exceeds 40 metres, with such an annual loss they will probably completely disappear within the coming decades.

Water shortages: The researchers also say there was little change in the amount of rainfall in the region over the last few decades. Without changes in rainfall, the region would face water shortages in the future, the scientists say.

The Santa River valley in Peru would be most affected; its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants rely heavily on glacier water for agriculture, domestic consumption, and hydropower.

Large cities, such as La Paz in Bolivia, could also face problems. Glaciers provide about 15% of the La Paz water supply throughout the year, increasing to about 27% during the dry season.

Marine Wildlife Deaths

More than 500 pelicans and hundreds of dolphins have mysteriously died and washed up along the northern Pacific coast of Peru. Peruvian health officials are investigating and believe the dolphins may have died as a result of a virus. No explanation has been given for the death of the pelicans. It is suggested that a shift in ocean currents may have diverted the rich shoals of anchovy further offshore, leaving the birds without sufficient food supplies.