Sunday, 30 September 2012

SA National Severe Weather Warnings: 30 September 2012 16h00 SAST



Current warning: Eastern Cape Province
Updated: 30/09/2012 14:41:29
Validity: 2012-10-01 to 2012-10-01
Type: Warning. Take action
Subject: High Fire Danger Rating
Detail: A high veld fire danger rating is expected in the interior of the Eastern Cape.


Current warning: All other Provinces
Updated: 30/09/2012 05:03:29
Validity: 2012-09-30 to 2012-09-30
No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No alerts
Detail: No alerts

- SAWS



SA Weather Satellite Image: 30 September 2012 16h00 SAST


Image: Eumetsat (Click on image for larger view.)

Tornado - Europe - Spain

A tornado swept through a fair ground in a Spanish town, knocking down a Ferris wheel and injuring 35 people, while the death toll from flooding in the southern part of the country rose to eight, authorities said Saturday. The Friday tornado damaged several rides and cut electricity in the temporary fair set up in the main square of Gandia, according to its town hall website. It said 15 of the injured were seriously hurt, all of whom were treated on site. Local media reported the fair was closed to the public at the time of a thunderstorm and that all the injured were fair workers. Just inland from the Mediterranean coastal town, three more victims of Friday's flash floods were found overnight. They included a middle-aged woman in the town of Lorca.

-RSOE EDIS

HAMNET Weekly Report 30 Sep. 2012


The National Sea Rescue Institute or NSRI are regularly in the news and we often get reports of their activity around our coastline and also inland.

Although NSRI have never had the necessity to call on Hamnet for radio assistance, Craig Lambinon is well aware of our capabilities and will call on us should the opportunity present itself!

In a recent press release, it is gratifying to see other organisations and the Government supporting and assisting NSRI in their efforts to save lives around our coastline.

Quote:

‘TNPA RESCUER’ FOR SALDANHA BAY

Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) displayed its commitment to water safety, with the launch of a Rescue Runner - in partnership with the National Sea Rescue Institution (NSRI) - in Saldanha Bay.

The Rescue Runner - named ‘Transnet National Ports Authority Rescuer One’ - will contribute extensively to ensuring that the community in Saldanha Bay is kept safe at sea.

This state-of-the-art craft has been imported from Sweden and represents the latest in sea rescue technology globally. It has been designed specifically for rapidly reaching people at risk in the surf and evacuating them quickly and effectively.

A Rescue Runner, which can be used by a single rescuer, can be launched at swimming beaches. It is jet propelled which allows it to be used in a bathing area without placing other bathers at risk. Each Rescue Runner can carry four people at a time, but can also be used as a floating platform for up to eight people until larger rescue boats arrive.

Tau Morwe, Chief Executive of TNPA said: “On the water, safety is priority number one for TNPA. It is for this reason that TNPA - as part of its corporate social responsibility - has incorporated strategic initiatives to assist in decreasing the number of fatalities on the water.”

NSRI provides a critical service to the South African nation and is run by 980 unpaid volunteers who are on standby day and night throughout the year. There are 32 coastal and three inland rescue bases with a fleet of 92 rescue crafts and 27 vehicles in total.

“Putting their lives at risk to save other lives and facing dangerous conditions at sea are daily requirements of an NSRI volunteer. Being able to do this relies on proper training and excellent equipment such as the Rescue Runners,” said NSRI CEO, Ian Weinburg.

“By forming partnerships with institutions such as the NSRI, which provides vital humanitarian rescue services to all South African water users, we are able to provide a stronger and constructive platform to educate and invest in our communities” said Morwe.

Well done NSRI and may this rescue boat not be needed too often!

Reporting for Hamnet, this is Francois Botha – ZS6BUU.

Images: Weather Observation - SAWDOS Facebook Observers

Sunrise at Noordhoek Ski Boat Club this morning. - Nick Cadle

Moon over Knysna - Penny Foyn

Big storm Ladysmith - Joe Bendall

Looking south west at 13.08 — at Settlers Park, Port Elizabeth. - Jennifer Anne Church Joubert

Tree clouds! Assagay - Dee de Souza

Mist in Assagay - Dee de Souza

Volksrust MPA, big storm blowing in on a very strong wind - Marianne De Bruyn

Cloud over Colenso with rumbling and thunder going on, looks ominous - Francis Lanham Proudfoot

Taken at Bluewater Bay Beach at about 06:05, just before the heavy clouds started to roll in. - Nick Cadle

Durban Harbour - Dee de Souza

Sunrise (almost), Clovelly, Cape Town looking SE over False Bay - Jakes ZS1TB

Overlooking Valley of a Thousand Hills - Dee de Souza

Early morning, (6:43) at Pollock Beach, Port Elizabeth. - Diana Kitshoff

Early morning, (6:43) at Pollocks Beach, Port Elizabeth. - Ryna Bakkes

SA National Severe Weather Warnings: 30 September 2012 04h00 SAST



Current warning: All Provinces in South Africa
Updated: 30/09/2012 05:03:29
Validity: 2012-09-30 to 2012-09-30
No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No alerts
Detail: No alerts

- SAWS

SA Weather Satellite Image: 30 September 2012 06h45 SAST


Image: SAT24 (Click on image for larger view.)

Possible 24 hour rainfall: South Africa


Image: 1 ST Weather.com

Large Fire burning in the Louis Trichardt area

Trevor Phillips writes: Large Fire up at Louis Trichardt. Burning since late yesterday (28/9/2012) in commercial plantations. Chopper, Spotter and a number of ground teams have been dispatched from various places in Limpopo Province. I will update when I recieved more info.

Images: Louis Trichardt Fire




Images by:

Everything you need to know: Harvest Moon 2012

Image Credit: Dan Bush of Missouri Skies.

It’s Harvest Moon time for 2012. The moon has waxed larger each night this past week, and full moon is tonight (September 29-30). In traditional skylore, the Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the autumnal equinox came on September 22. That makes the September 29-30 full moon the Harvest Moon.

A full moon always ascends over your eastern horizon at sunset and stays in the sky all night. But each month there is a time of fullest full moon. That crest of the moon’s full phase happens this month on September 30 at 3:19 UTC. That’s 10:19 CDT in the U.S. Translate UTC to your time zone.

So, depending upon your time zone, your calendar might list the September 2012 full moon on September 29 or 30. But the moon will appear round and full on all the nights around this full moon.

There’s also a name for the next full moon after the Harvest Moon. It’s called the Hunter’s Moon, and it’ll come this year on October 29.

So don’t just look for the Harvest Moon on the night of September 29 or 30. Look for the moon to be bright and full-looking for several nights at the end of September, 2012. If you live far enough north – for example, in the northern states, Canada or Alaska – the Harvest Moon will continue to shine from dusk until dawn into early October. This procession of moonlit nights is what characterizes the Harvest Moon.

Why is the Harvest Moon special?

Harvest Moon is just a name. It’s the name for the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox. In the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll always see the Harvest Moon in either September or October. In the Southern Hemisphere, a moon with these same characteristics always comes in March or April.

But the Harvest Moon is more. Nature is particularly cooperative around the time of the autumn equinox to make the full moonrises unique around this time.

Here’s what happens. On average, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day. But when a full moon happens close to the autumnal equinox, the moon (at mid-temperate latitudes) rises only about 30 minutes later daily for several days before and after the full Harvest moon. Why? The reason is that the ecliptic – or the moon’s orbital path – makes a narrow angle with the evening horizon around the time of the autumn equinox. The narrow angle of the ecliptic results in a shorter-than-usual rising time between successive moonrises around the full Harvest Moon.

These early evening moonrises are what make every Harvest Moon special. Every full moon rises around sunset. After the full Harvest Moon, you’ll see the moon ascending in the east relatively soon after sunset for several days in a row at northerly latitudes. The lag time between successive moonrises shrinks to a yearly minimum, as described in the paragraph above. Because of this, it seems as if there are several full moons – for several nights in a row – around the time of the Harvest Moon.

Want to know the time of moonrise in your location? My favorite source of that information is this Custom Sunrise Sunset Calendar. Once you get to that page, be sure to click the box for ‘moon phases’ and ‘moonrise and moonset times.’

Is the Harvest Moon bigger, or brighter or more colorful?

Not necessarily, but the actual size of the Harvest Moon depends on the year. The Harvest Moon has the reputation of being especially big and bright and orange. But it isn’t really the Harvest Moon’s size or brightness that distinguishes it from other full moons. In fact, the 2012 Harvest Moon is a touch smaller than an average-sized full moon.

Still, you might think otherwise. That’s because the Harvest Moon has such a powerful mystique. Many people look for it shortly after sunset around the time of full moon. After sunset around any full moon, the moon will always be near the horizon. It’ll just have risen. It’s the location of the moon near the horizon that causes the Harvest Moon – or any full moon – to look big and orange in color.

The orange color of a moon near the horizon is a true physical effect. It stems from the fact that – when you look toward the horizon – you are looking through a greater thickness of Earth’s atmosphere than when you gaze up and overhead. The atmosphere scatters blue light – that’s why the sky looks blue. The greater thickness of atmosphere in the direction of a horizon scatters blue light most effectively, but it lets red light pass through to your eyes. So a moon near the horizon takes on a yellow or orange or reddish hue.

The bigger-than-usual size of a moon seen near the horizon is something else entirely. It’s a trick that your eyes are playing – an illusion – called the Moon Illusion. You can lengthy explanations of the Moon Illusion by googling those words yourself.

How the Harvest Moon got its name

So why is this moon – the moon closest to the autumnal equinox – called the Harvest Moon?

The shorter-than-usual time between moonrises around the full Harvest Moon means no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise for days in succession. In the days before tractor lights, the lamp of the Harvest Moon helped farmers to gather their crops, despite the diminishing daylight hours. As the sun’s light faded in the west, the moon would soon rise in the east to illuminate the fields throughout the night.

Who named the Harvest Moon? That name probably sprang to the lips of farmers throughout the Northern Hemisphere, on autumn evenings, as the Harvest Moon aided in bringing in the crops. The name was popularized in the early 20th century by the song below.

Shine On Harvest Moon
By Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth (1903)

Shine on, shine on harvest moon
Up in the sky,
I ain’t had no lovin’
Since January, February, June or July
Snow time ain’t no time to stay
Outdoors and spoon,
So shine on, shine on harvest moon,
For me and my gal.

Bottom line: The Harvest Moon in 2012 comes on the night of September 29-30 for us in the U.S. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, which in 2012 came on September 22. The exact time of fullest full moon for this month is September 30 at 3:19 UTC, or September 29 at 10:19 CDT in the U.S. October 1 will have a beautiful bright full-looking moon, too. The Harvest Moon is not really bigger, brighter or more pumpkin-colored than other full moons, but it’s special because, at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, the time between successive moonrises – from one night to the next – is shorter than usual. Enjoy!

- EarthSky

SEA RESCUE – DURBAN – Saturday, 29th September, 2012. Teenager drowns


Sean Serfontein, NSRI Durban duty controller, said:

At 17h10 NSRI Durban volunteer sea rescue duty crew were activated following reports from the eThekwini Fire and Rescue Services of a drowning in progress at Umhloti Beach, North Coast.

Our NSRI Durban volunteer sea rescue duty crew, eThekwini Municipal Lifeguards, Netcare 911 ambulance services and the SA Police Force responded.

On arrival on-scene eThekwini Municipal lifeguards rescued a 16 year old female from the surf and Netcare 911 paramedics, NSRI volunteers and the lifeguards conducted Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) on the female.

Following extensive CPR, and after all efforts to resuscitate the female were exhausted on-scene, the teenager, from Inanda, Kwa-Zulu Natal, was declared dead by paramedics.

Police took the teenagers father and sister, who were on the scene when the incident happened, into their care for trauma counselling.

The body of the deceased teenager was handed into the care of the Forensic Pathology Services and police will open an inquest docket.

It appears that the female may have been caught in rip-currents while swimming which may have caused her to get into difficulty in the water. It is suspected that the cause of death was from drowning.

Spring Tide peaks on Sunday, 30th September, full moon. Bathers can expect the higher than normal high tide and the lower than normal low tide, associated with Spring Tide, to cause stronger than normal rip-currents . The Spring Tide effect on the ocean will last until the later half of this week and bathers, and anglers fishing from rocks and piers, are urged to be cautious.


-ENDS-


Released by:


Craig Lambinon
Sea Rescue Communications

Veldbrande kwel Vrystaat

Bloemfontein – Drie mense het reeds vanjaar in veldbrand-verwante voorvalle in die Vrystaat gesterf.

Malcolm Procter van die provinsiale departement van landbou sê 'n plaaswerker van die Warden-distrik het verlede week in 'n hospitaal gesterf nadat hy sowat 'n maand gelede in 'n brand in die distrik beseer is.

OFM berig 'n vrou het in 'n motorongeluk gesterf toe rook van beweerde onwettige voorbrande by 'n landgoed in die Ficksburg-distrik oor die pad gewaai het en haar sig versper het.

Elders het 'n man midde-in 'n vuurslanery op 'n plaas aan 'n hartaanval beswyk.

Procter sê 95% van alle wegholbrande word veroorsaak deur mense se nalatigheid. Hy meen dit het ernstige gevolge, veral in winderige maande.

Hy sê in die mees onlangse veldbrand het 10 000 ha landbougrond in Warden afgebrand.

- Nuus24

Typhoon Jelawat on course to hit Japan mainland


NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite image taken on September 20, 2012 shows Jelawat formed as a tropical depression over the western Pacific Ocean in Philippines that became a tropical storm the next day. It strengthened to a typhoon on September 23, and then underwent explosive intensification, almost doubling in strength within 12 hours. On September 24, 2012, the U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) reported that Jelawat was located about 470 miles (760 kilometers) east of Manila in the Philippines.
Image by: HANDOUT / REUTERS

Strong typhoon Jelawat was moving toward the Japanese mainland on Saturday, the national weather agency said, after it battered southern Okinawa island with gusts strong enough to flip cars.

Violent winds up to 234 (146 miles) kilometers per hour have injured at least 51 people in Okinawa, including a man who severed a finger as a door of his house slammed shut due to strong winds, national network NHK said.

The Okinawa Prefecture Police said it had officially recognised at least six cases of typhoon-caused injuries as of Saturday afternoon, adding that the number of injuries could rise above 20.

Okinawa Electric Power said some 220,600 households in the island prefecture have suffered power outage.

Gusts have flipped over cars and blocked streets, adding to traffic chaos that included cancelled flights and ferries.

As of 0500 GMT, the typhoon was located 30 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Yoronjima island, off Kagoshima prefecture, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

It was moving northeast toward Tokyo at a speed of 30 kilometers per hour, with gusts and heavy rains expected in the Japanese capital on Sunday and Monday, the agency said.

- Times Live

8 die in fire in Russian oil sludge firm

MOSCOW - At least eight workers died after fire broke out in an oil sludge-processing firm on Saturday in the West Siberian region of Khanty-Mansiisk, the hinterland of Russian crude production, the Emergencies Ministry said.

The fire at a sludge storage has been put out, the ministry said in a statement.

The Investigation Committee said the cause of fire could be an explosion, while the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency said, citing a law-enforcement source, the plant caught fire after gas exploded.

The ministry said eight more people were injured after the fire was reported at the plant, owned by the private Invest-Oil company.

According to some estimates, more than 3 million tonnes of sludge is being generated in Russia as a result of oil and gas production and refining.

- EWN

Typhoon Jelawat


Typhoon Jelawat was bearing down on Okinawa on September 28, 2012, with mainland Japan lurking in its future. Forecasts called for the eye of the storm to pass over or close to Okinawa as a category 2 or 3 typhoon on September 29. Jelawat was predicted to approach Japan’s main island of Honshu as a category 1 typhoon or tropical storm late on September 30.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of Jelawat on September 28, 2012. The typhoon brushed within 200 miles of the coast of Taiwan, but did not inflict significant damage.

At 21:00 Universal Time on September 28 (6 a.m. Japan Standard Time on September 29), the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) reported maximum significant wave heights of 12 meters (39 feet), sustained winds of 194 kilometers (120 miles) per hour, and gusts up to 240 kilometers (149 miles) per hour. The typhoon was centered at 25.5° North latitude, 126.5° East longitude, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

Jelawat formed on September 20 and reached “super typhoon” status—maximum sustained winds above 240 kilometers (150 miles) per hour—by September 24. University of Miami meteorologist Brian McNoldy wrote: “Jelawat became the second super typhoon to pass over the region in two weeks: Sanba was just there on September 13-14. While the western Pacific is no stranger to frequent typhoons, it is quite rare to have two consecutive super typhoons.”
The typhoon has weakened as it has moved northward, but it still poses a formidable threat to island and coastal communities.
  1. References

  2. Japan Meteorological Agency (2012, September 28) Tropical Cyclone Information. Accessed September 28, 2012.
  3. Joint Typhoon Warning Center (2012, September 28) Super Typhoon 18W (Jelawat) Warning. Accessed September 28, 2012.
  4. The Washington Post (2012, September 28) Capital Weather Gang: Typhoon Jelawat closing in on Okinawa, Japan. Accessed September 28, 2012.
  5. Weather Underground (2012, September 28) Dr. Jeff Masters WunderBlog: A Jelawat mystery. Accessed September 28, 2012.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen, using data from the Land Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE). Caption by Michael Carlowicz.
Instrument: 
Terra - MODIS - NASA

Strong Storm Approaches Alaskan Coast


A strong extra-tropical cyclone approached the southern coast of Alaska on September 26, 2012. According to The Washington Post Capital Weather Gang, the storm had a minimum central pressure of 956 millibars, lower than that of some hurricanes.
This natural-color image was collected by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite.
NASA image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using data from the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP). Suomi NPP is the result of a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Defense. Caption by Robert Simmon.
Instrument: 
Suomi NPP - VIIRS

Idaho Fires, September 2012


Taken with a short lens (45 millimeters), this west-looking astronaut photograph has a field of view covering much of the forested region of central Idaho. The dark areas are wooded mountains—the Salmon River Mountains (image left), the Bitterroots (lower right) and Clearwater Mountains (right). All three areas experienced wildfires in September 2012.

Smaller fire “complexes” appear as tendrils of smoke near the sources—for example, the Halstead fires—and as major smoke plumes from fires in the densest forests—such as the Mustang fire complex. Mustang produced the largest plume in the region, with thick smoke blowing eastward over the Beaverhead Mountains (image bottom).

The linear shape of the smoke plumes gives a sense of the generally eastward smoke transport on September 3, 2012. (Note that the image is rotated so that north is to the right.) The smoke distribution also reveals another kind of transport. At night, when winds are weak, the cooling of the atmosphere near the ground causes cooler, denser air to drain down into the valleys. On September 3, this led to some smoke flowing west, down into the narrow Salmon and Lochsa River valleys—in the opposite direction from the higher winds and the thick smoke masses.

Beyond the fires, the bright yellow-tan areas at image top left and right are grasslands (including the Palouse Grasslands Ecoregion). Light green areas in many of the valleys are agricultural crops, including barley, alfalfa, and wheat. The largest single wilderness area in the contiguous United States, the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, occupies the wooded zones of the Salmon River Mountains and the Clearwater Mountains—most of the area shown in the middle of the image. And the Continental Divide cuts through the bottom of the image—rivers on the eastern slopes of the Beaverhead Mountains drain to the Atlantic Ocean, while rivers in the rest of the area drain to the Pacific Ocean.


Astronaut photograph ISS032-E-24687 was acquired on September 3, 2012, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 45 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 32 crew. It has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson, Jacobs/ESCG at NASA-JSC.
Instrument: 
ISS - Digital Camera - NASA

Saturday, 29 September 2012

SA National Severe Weather Warnings: 29 September 2012 16h00 SAST


Current warning: Eastern Cape Province
Updated: 29/09/2012 05:03:56
Validity: 2012-09-29 to 2012-09-29
Type: Warning. Take action
Subject: Very rough seas
Detail: WARNING: valid for the 29/09/2012 -------- 2. Heavy rain is expected in places over the north eastern and eastern parts of the eastern half.

Current warning: Kwazulu Natal
Updated: 29/09/2012 05:03:56
Validity: 2012-09-29 to 2012-09-29
Type: Warning. Take action
Subject: Very rough seas
Detail: WARNING: valid for the 29/09/2012 1. Very rough seas with wave heights in excess of 4m is expected between Port St. Johns and Kosi Bay.

Current warning: All other Provinces
Updated: 29/09/2012 05:03:56
Validity: 2012-09-29 to 2012-09-29
No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No alerts
Detail: No Alerts.

- SAWS

NOTE: SAWDOS: Once again weather warnings are misleading and confusing. Two different warnings issued for the Eastern Cape Province by the SAWS. A warnings is issued for rough seas but the detail section warns of heavy rain in places over the north eastern and eastern parts of the eastern half. Readers, please note that the SAWDOS is not responsible for the contents or correctness of Severe Weather Warnings by the SA Weather Service. SAWDOS will not be held accountable for incorrect warnings nor for any grammar or spelling mistakes. The issue of severe weather warnings are the sole responsibility of the SA Weather Service.

SA Weather Satellite Image: 29 September 2012 20h00 SAST


Image: Eumetsat (Click on image for larger view.)

Man ferries people across flooded Cape street

Johannesburg - A Somerset West man carried people across the town's main street for a fee after heavy rains caused it to flood, according to a report on Saturday.

Patrick Malgas, 39, ferried pedestrians who did not want to get knee deep into the water to cross the street on his back for R2, Beeld reported.

When asked where he got the idea, a friend of his answered: "From the Lord".

However Malgas refuted this and said he got the idea seven years ago after seeing another man do it.

He has been homeless for 13 years after his parents lost their home in Macassar, according to the report.

"I made R42. One woman gave me R7. There was also one big woman who I had to carry with her baby on her back and all," Malgas was quoted as saying.

"Some people were hesitant, but when they saw I didn't drop anyone else they wanted to get on [my back]."

A businessman in town even made him a poster to advertise his service.

"I took off my shoes and rolled up my trouser legs. I was soaking wet very quickly, but it was worth it," he told Beeld.

- SAPA/News24

Flood in Somalia on Saturday, 29 September, 2012 at 15:57 (03:57 PM) UTC.

Massive flash floods in Somalia's central town of Beledweyne, the provincial capital of Hiiraan region, has left more than 4 people dead and hundreds made homeless on Friday, witnesses and officials said. The city has received heavy rainfall that raged on for at least 10 hours on Thursday and Friday, causing the Shabelle River to burst its banks and made floods into the town. Thousands of cattle have drowned. "The water level in the town reached 3 feet and destroyed hundreds of houses and completely submerged more villages in the southern parts of the city," a resident said. Medics say there is fear of outbreak of malaria and other lethal diseases due to the flood waters across the city, some 350 Km north of east Mogadishu. Meanwhile, Somali government officials in the area called the local and international aid agencies for immediate humanitarian assistance to the needy and flood effected people in the town.

-RSOE EDIS

SEA RESCUE – TABLE BAY – Friday, 28th September, 2012. Search for helicopter crash a false alarm with good intentions


Pat van Eyssen, NSRI Table Bay duty coxswain, said:

At 20h34 NSRI Table Bay volunteer sea rescue duty crew were activated following reports of a helicopter crashed in the vicinity of Bloubergstrand Beach front suspected to be in the region of the Seli 1 wreck.

NSRI Table Bay rescue craft Spirit of Vodacom was on the water at the time dealing with a sea rescue call involving 4 suspected stowaways on a tug boat which was heading up the West Coast of Africa and WC Government Health Emergency Medical Services (EMS) rescue paramedics and Immigration officers that accompanied the NSRI boat on the call had, after evaluating the 4 suspected stowaways, confirmed that they were all in good health and Immigration Officers denied the stowaways access to South African shores and the tug boat was instructed to continue her voyage North.

Our sea rescue boat was then diverted to respond to assist in the search for the suspected crashed helicopter because land rescue crews could find no trace of a helicopter crashed on the land side of Bloubergstrand.

NSRI Melkbosstrand was then also activated and they too launched sea rescue craft.

On arrival on-scene it was confirmed that WC Government Health EMS, Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services, Life Care response paramedics, SA Police Services and a Police Dive Unit and Blouberg Neighborhood Watch were on-scene where an eye-witness, a Pilot, claimed she had been driving in the vicinity of The Paddocks, near Racecourse road, when she witnessed what appeared to be a helicopter, with strobe lights flashing, go into a spiral, then fall from the sky and appeared to crash in the vicinity behind sand dunes between West Beach (near Milnerton Golf Course) and Blouberg strand Beach front (in the vicinity of the Seli 1 wreck).

A sea search by NSRI revealed no sign of any helicopter crash and there was nothing in the area to suggest that a helicopter had crashed and the search leaned towards the possibility that it may have been a Giro-copter but other pilots that had come to the scene made phone calls to all private and public airports in the greater Cape Town area and there were no reports of any helicopter or Giro copters that were in the area at the time or overdue or missing.

It then came to light that an Airlink pilot had reported seeing what he believed to be a Meteorite fall across the Western part of the Western Cape. That pilot had just reached cruising altitude in an Airlink passenger plane after taking off from Durban's airport heading towards Cape Town.

Cape Town International Airport then also reported other eye-witnesses claiming that they too had seen what they believed to be a Meteorite fall across the West Coast skyline during the same time line.

No further action was required and although it is assumed that what was seen was a Meteorite fall the situation continued to be monitored throughout the night and there remain no reports of any helicopter overdue or missing.

NSRI can confirm that similar sightings in the past have appeared to resemble the same impression. The most recent was approximately a year ago where eye-witnesses claimed to have seen flares being fired from an airplane that crashed into the sea between Melkbosstrand and Saldanha Bay but an off duty Cape Town International Air Traffic Controller who had been driving on the Table Bay Boulevard at the time, after hearing of the reports through the media, had called the NSRI to confirm that what he had seen was without doubt a Meteorite falling across the Western Cape Coastline in the same time line as the eye-witness accounts.


-ENDS-


Released by:


Craig Lambinon
Sea Rescue Communications

SA National Severe Weather Warnings: 29 September 2012 04h00 SAST


Current warning: Eastern Cape Province
Updated: 29/09/2012 05:03:56
Validity: 2012-09-29 to 2012-09-29
Type: Warning. Take action
Subject: Very rough seas
Detail: WARNING: valid for the 29/09/2012 -------- 2. Heavy rain is expected in places over the north eastern and eastern parts of the eastern half.

Current warning: Kwazulu Natal
Updated: 29/09/2012 05:03:56
Validity: 2012-09-29 to 2012-09-29
Type: Warning. Take action
Subject: Very rough seas
Detail: WARNING: valid for the 29/09/2012 1. Very rough seas with wave heights in excess of 4m is expected between Port St. Johns and Kosi Bay.

Current warning: All other Provinces
Updated: 29/09/2012 05:03:56
Validity: 2012-09-29 to 2012-09-29
No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No alerts
Detail: No Alerts.

- SAWS

NOTE: SAWDOS: Once again weather warnings are misleading and confusing. Two different warnings issued for the Eastern Cape Province by the SAWS. A warnings is issued for rough seas but the detail section warns of heavy rain in places over the north eastern and eastern parts of the eastern half. Readers, please note that the SAWDOS is not responsible for the contents or correctness of Severe Weather Warnings by the SA Weather Service. SAWDOS will not be held accountable for incorrect warnings nor for any grammar or spelling mistakes. The issue of severe weather warnings are the sole responsibility of the SA Weather Service.

SA Weather Satellite Image: 29 September 2012 06h00 SAST

Image: Eumetsat (Click on image for larger view.)

GFS Medium Range Forecasts of Vertical Velocity and Precipitation: 29 - 30 September 2012


Image: U.S. National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP)

Mossel Bay: Controlled burning this weekend


MOSSEL BAY NEWS - The Mossel Bay Environmental Partnerships (MEP) Strategic Firebreak Project is ready to start the burning phase on October 1, at various sites that have been approved by the Mossel Bay Fire Department.

This project is sponsored by Mossel Bay Municipality and PetroSA, and is being implemented by the Oyster Bay Reserve for MEP. The project brief 1 is finally complete, in which over 102 previously disadvantaged community members have been employed throughout Mossel Bay. In project brief 2, the focus is on setting up cooperatives to undertake the required work.

The Community Strategic Firebreak Project has had six community teams working at different locations to undertake the various firebreaks identified.

OBR interns to facilitate burning
In the burning phase, approved areas will be cleared and burnt in blocks. The burning of cleared stacked vegetation will assist in reducing the fuel load once and for all. This will officially complete the initial firebreaks that have been created.

The burning is proposed to start on Sunday, 1 October onwards in Heiderand and Freimersheim, weather permitting.

The Oyster Bay Reserve interns have been managing this project for the past seven months, overseeing the clearing of firebreaks, issuing staff PPE clothing, managing equipment, through to overseeing all the staff administration and support. The students have been working very closely with the Mossel Bay Fire Department.

The Oyster Bay Reserve is implementing this project for MEP, by focusing on creating effective firebreaks in areas identified by the Mossel Bay Fire Department. These firebeaks have been created to act as a definite boundaries to assist providing access in fighting any future fires that could spread into residential areas from open areas.

Open unmanaged natural areas are high in natural fuel loads (dead branches, et cetera) and thus very prone to human arson and ignitions. The urban fringes are the first line of defence to prevent and fight such fires from damaging property. The firebreaks will create safer environments for residents.

The intention of the proposed burning is to remove the piles of dead cleared vegetation matter through a controlled burning process. The burning, implemented by a qualified burning team, will reduce the fuel load and stimulate new growth.
Notice of intent to burn

The planned burning of vegetation will take place in Friemersheim on Sunday, 1 October. This will take place on the newly formed municipal strategic firebreak that starts behind the shop (S33°57.247; E22°08.485) along Kretzen Street, up to the church, up to Pine Grove.

Similar burning of alien vegetation will also take place in Heiderand and Dana Bay, from opposite the Correctional Services (S34° 11,149'; E022° 05.592) up to the back of South Cape College; and the municipal erven (S34°11.493 ; E022°05.426) next to Pinnacle Point Road, leading up to the water tower (S34°11.614; E22°06.301), throughout October.

The firebreaks have been cleared and the dry alien material is all already stacked, in order to be burnt. The necessary fire permits have been applied for and a reputable community burning contractor, in conjunction with the Mossel Bay Fire Department, will undertake the required burning. Burning will only commence pending suitable weather conditions.

Public participation
The Oyster Bay Reserve are inviting all local conservancy members and conservation-passionate community members to join in on a pre-walk through the area proposed to be burnt, in order to move smaller fauna. Please contact the Mossel Bay Fire Department for any fire or burning related questions or the Oyster Bay offices at 044 693 3164 to join in on the fauna search.

ARTICLE: KELLY-JANE PEO - Mossel Bay Advertiser

Spain floods: Seven die in Malaga, Murcia and Almeria

Spain's weather agency said that up to 245 litres (65 gallons) of water per square metre had fallen on Friday morning alone.

At least seven people have died after heavy rains triggered flash floods in southern Spain, officials have said.

Among the dead were two children who drowned in a car in the town of Puerto Lumbreras, AP reports.

The strength of the waters overturned cars, closed roads, damaged homes and forced hundreds to leave their properties.

The hardest hit areas were the provinces of Malaga and Almeria, and Murcia region.

At least 600 people had to be evacuated from their homes in Andalucia region, which contains Malaga and Almeria, officials said.

Spain's weather agency said that up to 245 litres (65 gallons) of water per square metre had fallen on Friday morning alone.

An elderly woman died when a river broke its banks and floodwaters flowed past her home in Alora, north of Malaga, AFP reports.

A man was also reported to have been found dead in the south-eastern town of Vera Playa, cut off by the floods.

"In Malaga province there are 800 staff working to return things to normal as quickly as possible. The rains are decreasing and seem to be shifting towards Granada and Almeria," a regional government spokesperson told AFP.

However, torrential rain and violent thunderstorms are predicted to continue in the south of the country during the weekend.

The heavy rains in parts of the south follow months of drought and high temperatures across Spain which triggered dozens of wildfires.

- BBC

Nepal plane crash

Image: Google Earth

A plane heading for the Everest region has crashed on the outskirts of Nepal's capital, killing all 19 people on board including seven British tourists.

The plane, operated by Sita Air, came down minutes after take-off from Kathmandu. Officials said it crashed into a river bank and caught fire.

Sixteen passengers and three crew were on board the twin-propeller Dornier.

The UK Foreign Office has confirmed the British deaths and said relatives have been informed.

As well as the seven Britons, five Chinese nationals and seven Nepali nationals were on the plane, including the three Nepalese crew, police and aviation officials said.

The British Embassy in Kathmandu said the UK ambassador had gone to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, where the bodies of those who died had been taken.

The cause of the crash is not yet known. However, the general manager of Tribhuvan International Airport, Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, said it appeared that the plane had struck a bird.

He said air traffic control contacted the pilot after noticing an unusual manoeuvre minutes after take-off and the pilot said his plane had hit a vulture.

Mr Suman said the plane had been attempting to get back to the airport when it crashed.

Nepalese officials later said that the flight recorders had been recovered from the wreckage.

They said initial reports suggested the crash happened as the pilots tried to change direction and land again after suffering "technical glitches".

Nepalese Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai promised to take action to prevent similar accidents, but did not give details.

"I am saddened by the death of the locals and foreign nationals in the plane crash. I pay condolences to the families of the dead," he said.

The Dornier 228 aircraft had been heading for Lukla, the hub for trekking in the Everest region.

The trekking season has just begun in Nepal and thousands of climbers, including many Westerners, head to the country's famous Himalayan peaks.

A spokeswoman for local travel firm Sherpa Adventures said the British group had arrived in Nepal on Wednesday and was due to start trekking on Friday until 16 October.

Police spokesman Binod Singh told the AFP news agency that "the pilots seem to have tried to land it safely on the banks of the river but unfortunately the plane caught fire".

One of the first rescuers to reach the crash site, police officer Bhagwan Bhandari, described the scene as "terrifying".

"There was fire coming from the aircraft. Red flames were reaching up to 20m (65ft) above the ground," he said.

Climber Alan Hinkes says the landing strip at Lukla is where most crashes happen

"It wasn't possible to get inside to conduct rescue operations. We could hear blasts from the parts and engines of the aircraft."

Images showed burning wreckage at the crash site and dozens of rescue and security personnel.

British mountaineer Alan Hinkes told the BBC he had taken the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla many times and that problems usually occurred at the Lukla end.

"The landing strip in Lukla is a bit like an aircraft carrier with a mountain at the end of it, with a 1,000ft drop at the end of the runway. Normally crashes happen at that end," he said.

He added: "It is not the safest place to fly, I must admit, but it is what you have to do to get into the mountains."

Aviation accidents involving small aircraft are not uncommon in mountainous Nepal.

In May, 15 people were killed when a plane crashed trying to land at an airport in the north of the country.

And in September 2011, 19 people were killed when a Buddha Air plane crashed during a flight to view Mount Everest.

- BBC

Soweto train crash investigation report released


Photo: Independent Newspapers

By Nthambeleni Gabara

Johannesburg - The Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) on Friday released its long awaited investigation report on the Metrorail Soweto train crash that left 857 commuters injured.

Last year, on May 19, a speeding train travelling between Mzimhlophe and Phomolong in Soweto en route from Johannesburg to Naledi, collided with a stationary Soweto Business Express train after sustaining a rolling stock failure.

The report fingered the train driver, who was fired by Metrorail shortly after the crash, as a high risk individual with a history of speeding.

Briefing reporters, chairperson of the Board of Inquiry, Dr Chris Dutton, said the risk profile of the train driver indicates a prevalence of over speeding incidents in August and November 2009 as well as March 2011.

"The driver risk profile also shows that in June 2005, the driver did not sign off for duty, in August 2010, he refused a lawful instruction, while in September 2010, he was responsible for a train delay and in March 2011, he was late for duty.

"Our conclusion is that the driver is a high risk and if disciplinary hearings were applied properly, the driver would have been fired before the fatal crash," he said.

In terms of Passenger Rail Agency South Africa (PRASA) disciplinary procedure, the process resulted with the driver receiving three previous over speeding sanctions from September 2009 to April 2011, two of which resulted in six months warning and the last one a 12 month warning.

"The accident in November 2009 should have resulted in a 12 month warning, while the accident in April 2011 would have been sufficient to take the driver off the footplate. These points to a substandard process with the (disciplinary) procedure," he said.

According to Dutton, the weather on the day of the accident was cool as there was no cloud cover or any other natural restriction of vision of signals.

He said all signals were visible and their location was not confusing to the driver, however, he said the horizontal alignment of the section of line between signal 934 of the speeding train and the rear end of the stationary train was in a cutting and a curve such that the driver would have limited vision to the rear end of the stationary train.

Dutton said analysis from the data logger on the speeding train showed the signals were passed at speed and no attempt was made to stop. The train driver exceeded the 30 km/h speed restriction.

He said one of the three lines where the accident occurred, which he referred to as the up slow line, was closed in December 2010 due to flood damage.

Dutton maintained that if the line was available, the stationary train would have been routed onto the up slow line and the crash may not have happened.

As the train is reported to have been overcrowded, Dutton said overcrowding was not conducive to safe running of trains.

The report also singled out a communication break-down as another area of concern as train drivers resort to using their cellphones as a result of the regular equipment failure in the trunking radio.

Metrorail provides train drivers with R200 worth of airtime to communicate with their Train Control Officers, however they indicated that the airtime was not enough resulting in them using messages instead of voice communication.

According to the report, the train driver of the stationery train was also to blame for the accident as he did not report the failure of the train to the Train Control officer; instead he wasted time phoning another driver and technical control.

"The act of not reporting directly to the Train control Officer when normal train operations are interrupted is a substandard act.

"Should the correct procedure have been followed the Train control Officer may have had the opportunity to inform the driver of the train of the prevailing circumstances which may have averted the accident," said Dutton.

In June this year, PRASA boss, Lucky Montana said they were planning to buy thousands of new trains - with most manufactured locally - and was refurbishing old coaches, while revamping and modernising stations and signaling.

Briefing the National Council of Provinces' (NCOP) select committee on public services, Montana said a preferred bidder for the building of new passenger coaches would be announced in November and he expected the new train sets to be running in 2014.

- SAnews.gov.za

Ethiopia turns to wind power to boost energy security

A view of the Adama I wind farm, located about 95 km (59 miles) southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The farm is the only wind power scheme in the Rift Valley. ALERTNET/E.G. Woldegebriel

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AlertNet) – Ethiopia is venturing into large-scale wind power generation for the first time as it embarks on an ambitious plan to increase its electrical capacity four-fold by 2015 to meet rising domestic demand and gain export revenues.

While hydroelectric power will remain a predominant energy source, the country is looking to diversify its production of renewable power. Hydro power is vulnerable to the effects of climatic change, and non-renewable fuels such as gasoline and charcoal are polluting and expensive.

The government hopes that its plan will enable it to generate surplus power for export to neighbouring countries.

Wind power has been pursued primarily in Asia, the West and to some extent North Africa. Ethiopia’s first steps into this technology call for seven projects as part of the government’s Growth and Transformation Plan.

The first is the 120 megawatt (MW) Ashegoda Wind Farm Project, about 760 km (475 miles) north of the capital, Addis Ababa, in Tigray Regional State. It is set to be commissioned in late 2012 or early 2013 after almost four years of work.

The farm will consist of 54 wind turbines with a capacity of 1.67 MW each, and 30 with a capacity of 1 MW. Construction is being undertaken by the French company Vergnet SA at cost of nearly $300 million, with the loan guaranteed by French financial firms.

A further project is the 51 MW Adama I wind farm, located about 95 km (59 miles) southeast of the capital, and the only wind power scheme in the Rift Valley.

The $117 million Adama project is financed through a loan from the Export-Import Bank of China and being undertaken by the Chinese companies CGCOC Joint Venture and Hydro China. The wind farm was slated to be commissioned by June 2012 but is now reportedly due to be finished this month.

Hydro power currently makes up about 90 percent of Ethiopia’s total power supply. Officials at the state-owned power utility Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCo) acknowledge that electricity generated by wind is more expensive, although the cost of hydro power varies depending on factors such as the water flow in rivers, they said.

COPING WITH LACK OF RAINFALL

Nevertheless, officials point out that wind power can complement the hydro supply and serve as a guarantor against power shortages as the demand for electricity rises.

The technologies may be particularly complementary as power production from reservoirs and dams diminishes once the rainy season is over, but winds begin to pick up at the same time, they said.

“The wind power project is cheaper and takes little space to install compared to the (gasoline fuelled) generators that the country uses in times of power shortages,” said Gossaye Mengiste, director of energy studies and development follow-up at the Ministry of Water and Energy (MoWE), which oversees the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation.

Mengiste said that power outages are still a regular occurrence in Ethiopia’s major cities. About half the area of Ethiopia still has no access to mains electricity.

According to Stephan Willms, a project manager and coordinator for the Wind Energy Public Private Partnership Programme run by European companies Enervest, Consta and Renewco, Ethiopia must do more to use its wind power potential effectively.

According to Willms, whose programme provides training to local wind energy based industries, major challenges include persuading international companies of the market potential for wind power in Ethiopia, as well as getting them to work with local companies.

He added that it can be difficult finding competent local business that can produce the necessary high-technology products.

Fisseha Gebremichael, the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation’s manager for wind projects, said the new schemes aim not only to generate energy from wind power but also to enhance local expertise and resources.

“Because this is the inaugural project in this sector in Ethiopia, local input is lower,” Gebremichael said.

However, he added that the power company expects technology transfer and capacity building of local staff in the Ashegoda project to enable subsequent wind projects to be built mostly with local expertise.

LEARNING FROM CHINA

Willms believes that Ethiopia could learn from the experience of China, which after building up its domestic skills mandated that at least 70 percent of wind energy products be made locally. At present he estimates that Ethiopian companies can make up to 50 percent of the value-added products needed for wind turbines.

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government is moving ahead with further projects. Officials at the Ministry of Energy and Water said that a feasibility study for a 153 MW Adama II wind farm has been completed, with construction slated to start by the end of the year.

These projects are part of the government’s plan to generate 890 MW of wind energy by the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Other projects include a 300 MW Ayesha wind farm, projects at Debre Berhan and Assela, which are set to produce 100 MW each, and a Messebo/Harena wind farm with a capacity of 51 MW.

Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan aims to increase electricity generation from hydro-electric, geothermal, wind and sugar by-products from the current level of about 2,000 MW to 8,000 MW by the end of the plan period in 2015.

The government wants to create a “climate resilient” economy by 2025, with adequate energy for the country’s domestic needs even if hydro power runs short because of reduced rainfall.

A recent 17-month study undertaken by Chinese firm Hydrochina Corporation confirmed the high potential for wind power in the northern and southern parts of Ethiopia, particularly in the Somali region, with a huge estimated wind energy potential of 1.3 million MW.

“If Ethiopia is able to overcome (its) challenges, I believe that the economic as well as the societal cost associated with manmade and naturally inflicted power shortages in the energy supply of the country can be alleviated,” Willms said.

E.G. Woldegebriel is a journalist based in Addis Ababa with an interest in environmental issues.

- AlertNet

Storms Approaching

download large image (465 KB, JPEG, 3102x1034) 


Editor's Note: The top image was one of five winners from an extreme weather photo contest sponsored by NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement mission.
In 2012, south central Kansas endured bone-dry conditions throughout May, a month when ample rains usually wash over the region (3.80 inches/96.52 millimeters on average). By May 29, Wichita had recorded just 0.63 inches (16.00 millimeters) of rain, putting the city on track for its second driest May on record.
But on May 30, the dry spell ended in dramatic fashion. The three key ingredients for thunderstorms—humid air, atmospheric instability, and convection—came together in the afternoon to create fierce storms. Around 3 p.m., storms began to develop in large numbers north and west of the city. By 5 p.m., a band of intense storms had formed a squall line, which forecasters warned could turn into a derecho. The system was racing south toward Wichita at up to 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour, dumping torrential rains and hail the size of ping-pong balls.
The leading edge was approaching Kechi, a small city 10 miles north of Wichita, when storm-chasing photographer Brian Johnson captured the images he used to stitch together this ominous view of the approaching weather (top image). The panorama view shows a low-elevation, wedge-shaped cloud known as a shelf cloud forming over a freshly-cut wheat field. Shelf clouds (a type of arcus cloud) often have damaging winds underneath them and form just ahead of squall lines in an area called the gust front.
On the same day, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite was orbiting 438 miles (705 kilometers) overhead. A few hours before Johnson snapped his photographs, MODIS acquired this (bottom) view of the developing storm system.The large white cloud in the upper part of the image is one of the numerous storm clouds that billowed up over the area that afternoon as warm, moist air from the surface rose rapidly toward the stratosphere. (Watch this animation to see the storm clouds evolve over time).
“There is an open farm field roughly two miles from my house...I sat there for about 20 minutes before this large squall line pushed through the clouds,” Johnson wrote on a blog that chronicles his storm chasing. “I was hit with a pretty good gust front as it got closer, but as the winds increased, I decided to get to shelter. This photo was one of the last ones I took.“
NASA image courtesy LANCE MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Photograph by Brian Johnson. Caption by Adam Voiland.
Instrument: 
Photograph - NASA

Friday, 28 September 2012

SA National Severe Weather Warnings: 28 September 2012 16h00 SAST


Current warning: Eastern Cape Province
Updated: 28/09/2012 15:56:08
Validity: 2012-09-28 to 2012-09-28
Type: Watch. Be prepared
Subject: severe thunderstorms, heavy falls
Detail: WATCHES: -------- 1. Severe thunderstorms are possible in places over eastern parts 2.Heavy rain is expected in places over the north eastern and eastern parts of the eastern half

Current warning: Free State Province
Updated: 28/09/2012 15:56:08
Validity: 2012-09-28 to 2012-09-28
Type: Watch. Be prepared
Subject: severe thunderstorms
Detail: Severe thunderstorms are possible in places over north-eastern parts


Current warning: Kwazulu Natal Province
Updated: 28/09/2012 15:56:08
Validity: 2012-09-28 to 2012-09-28
Type: Watch. Be prepared
Subject: severe thunderstorms, heavy falls
Detail: 1. Severe thunderstorms are possible in place western parts 2.Heavy rain is expected in places over the southern and eastern parts


Current warning: Mpumalanga Province
Updated: 28/09/2012 15:56:08
Validity: 2012-09-28 to 2012-09-28
Type: Watch. Be prepared
Subject: severe thunderstorms
Detail: 1. Severe thunderstorms are possible in place over southern highveld.


Current warning: All other Provinces
Updated: 28/09/2012 15:56:08
Validity: 2012-09-28 to 2012-09-28
No warnings nor advisories in effect
Subject: No alerts
Detail: No alerts

- SAWS

SA Weather Satellite Image: 28 September 2012 16h00 SAST


Image: Eumetsat (Click on image for larger view.)

Climate Conversations - We are causing our crazy weather - so what now?

A woman walks through floodwaters after heavy rains in La Libertada, El Salvador, on October 19, 2011. REUTERS/Luis Galdamez

Have you ever been drenched by heavy rain or sweltered in searing heat and wondered whether it might have been exacerbated by climate change?

Until recently, the answer from scientists might have been: ‘today’s weather was consistent with the kind of extremes that we can expect in the future, but we can’t link individual weather events to climate change’.
This picture is changing rapidly though, with climate scientists much more willing to tie weather events to climate change; an exercise known as ‘attribution’.

Improvements in data and statistical techniques based on more refined models of the climate have allowed scientists to claim, for example, that the 2012 US drought has been made 20 times more likely by climate change. Such is the volume of new scientific papers on ‘attribution’ that the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Extreme Events and Disasters, released earlier this year, probably need updating already.

To find out more about these scientific advances and to understand the implications of attribution, I attended a gathering of the world’s foremost attribution scientists in Oxford last week.

The meeting also involved a myriad of other groups keen to hear what the scientists had to say:  journalists, lawyers, insurance experts, government officials, NGOs, army engineers and water managers. The breadth and quality of the participants, combined with a room bursting at the seams, gave a clear indication that this was no standard scientific conference.

Being more technical for a moment – ‘attribution’ is the ability to decipher an anthropogenic climate change signal in the cause of a particular weather or climate event (e.g. extreme temperature, drought, heat wave, tropical cyclone) from other potential causes.

These other causes could include El Nino/La Nina, natural longer-term climatic cycles, or just regular variability. Until recently, separating a climate change signal from the other causes has been hampered by the lack of long-term data on observed weather extremes.

By definition, weather extremes are rare and you need a long data record to see if one event is a significant departure from the historic trend. This record does not exist in many places, and is certainly rare in developing countries.

A new technique however, based on the availability of improved climate models, allows scientists to run a set of statistical experiments in the model to see how often a particular weather or climate event is predicted. Based on analyses of many such experiments, they can then say how much more (or less) likely the event is given anthropogenic influence on the climate.

Importantly, this even allows such judgements to be made in areas or countries without long data records or incomplete coverage of weather stations. The result is a set of statements about the enhanced probability of experiencing such an event given greenhouse gas emission volumes.

Of course, using models, rather than historic records introduces a higher degree of uncertainty, especially in places where the climate model lacks observational data to calibrate it. The greatest degree of certainty emerges where the model includes larger numbers of variables and the data records extend back over a century or more.

Naturally, attribution scientists spend lots of time discussing and worrying about uncertainty and want to communicate it as clearly as possible. Nonetheless, using models does offer the potential to make predictions about the future of weather and climate extremes under different emissions scenarios – valuable information given that the historical record is an increasingly poor guide to the weather of 20 years time.

When asked to reflect on what attribution information meant for their work, interested groups said some uncomfortable things that made the scientists squirm in their seats:

LAWYERS
Lawyers, primarily from the US, are already engaged in lawsuits trying to get big oil companies to pay for a share of the damages caused by weather and climate extremes.

 They were clear that proving liability in such cases involves two elements – what role did climate change play in causing the extreme and what role have the oil companies played in causing climate change?
 Clear enough answers to both these questions based on high quality science have the potential to shape a generation of legal battles and lead to costly payouts for historical emitters. Whether the attribution scientists in the room were willing to be expert witnesses was a different matter.

I was left wondering whether enough negative outcomes of such courtroom battles might eventually change the tide of US political opinion and the international climate negotiations too.

JOURNALISTS
Journalists talked about media coverage of the US drought (and other disasters) and how this was being portrayed on weather channels and in newspapers.

 Public opinion about climate change is notoriously fickle, but recent articles have suggested that extreme events have created a reasonably significant shift in the US public’s belief in climate change. A clear message that says the more you emit, the worse the weather will be appears to have some currency at a time when individuals are experiencing damaging extremes.

INSURERS
Insurers were more circumspect, saying that marginal changes in probabilities of extremes or their attribution was unlikely to have much impact given the way that they aggregate risks in their pricing of policies.

They did however admit that any changes to tropical cyclone frequency or severity was likely to have more fundamental consequences (at the moment evidence of attribution in tropical cyclones is inconclusive).

 Other wider changes were also likely to result in increases in the pricing of policies, with the potential implication being that fewer and fewer people will be able to afford to take out insurance for extreme weather.

GOVERNMENTS
Governments talked about the need to understand changing extreme event risk in the design of infrastructure, land-use planning and economic investment plans, with a representative of the UK government talking about the importance of public perceptions of climate change for formulating policy.

For many developing country governments that CDKN works with, there is a certainly a need for more precise information. Learning that rainfall extremes or drought recurrence might exceed current design thresholds in the future is an important part of CDKN’s climate resilience work with the Ministry of Transport in Colombia or in post-flood reconstruction in Pakistan for example.

I talked about the international climate change negotiations and the way that attribution questions were being discussed in the ‘loss and damage’ work programme, where CDKN is a key supporter of the Government of Bangladesh in its capacity as co-chair.

‘Loss and damage’ is a term used to describe what happens when adaptation thresholds have been exceeded. For poor countries, this is most acutely experienced when a disaster strikes where climate change can be identified as a contributing factor.

The loss and damage work programme is considering how international mechanisms to reduce disaster risk, insure losses and boost humanitarian action might play be developed with the support of historic emitters.
The science questions in the work programme are challenging and mirror some of those of the US courtroom described above – how do you distinguish the extent to which climate change has caused the ‘loss and damage’ and therefore what proportion should be addressed by a mechanism?

Such questions resonate for a number of CDKN’s projects, especially in El Salvador, where CDKN is helping the country to deal with a radically changing pattern of extreme rainfall and economic losses. The government there wants to know who will help them cover these losses.

Undoubtedly the attribution sciences and the way society digests and uses the information are in their infancy but there are clear implications for how we tackle climate change.

At times the meeting did give the impression that this corner of the climate sciences is shaped by a small, tight-knit community from the US, UK, Australia and a handful of other countries. As it evolves it will need to globalise by involving scientists and institutions from many more developing country regions.

The challenge for CDKN, in its role in supporting the policy community in developing countries, is to optimise the way attribution information is used to create the best possible outcomes for poor and vulnerable people. The diversity of user groups, the depth of uncertainty and the number of communications angles makes this both a challenging and exciting frontier.

Tom Mitchell is the theme leader for Climate-related Disaster Risk Management at CDKN. This blog first appeared on the CDKN website.

- ALERTNET

Kwazulu Natal declares war on mushrooms

The KwaZulu-Natal government and eThekwini municipality have declared war on wild mushrooms following the deaths of six people poisoned by mushrooms picked in a nearby field.

The Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs yesterday confirmed that a sixth person, Sifiso Bhekuyise Ntuli, died this week after eating mushrooms that were picked from the same field where Bheki Mkhize had found the deadly mushrooms that wiped his family out last week.

Mkhize, 29, had taken the mushrooms to his Dassenhoek home on Tuesday last week for his girlfriend, Xoli Buthelezi, to make a curry for his two sisters, Nozipho and Nombulelo, and his 17-month-old child, Emenhle Mkhize.

The family started hallucinating, vomiting and losing physical energy.

Within five days, everyone save Nozipho's eight-month-old baby, Asanda, had died.

However, Asanda is being medically tested for poison as she was breast-fed after her mother had consumed the meal.

Yesterday, Durban mayor James Nxumalo and municipal officials publicly destroyed mushrooms growing in the wild.

"Following such tragedy in the city we took a decision to launch an offensive campaign to destroy wild mushrooms.

"Our officials will continue to educate people not to eat any mushrooms from the wild if they are not sure," Nxumalo said.

The city will send officials to the fields in Mariannhill to clear mushrooms as they spring up.

Ian MacDonald, from the provincial department of agriculture and environmental affairs, said that, with more than 14000 mushroom species, it was difficult to differentiate between poisonous and edible ones.

Agriculture and environmental MEC Meshack Radebe said the government would pay for the family's funerals.

The department has bought cattle for relatives while five funeral parlours have donated coffins.

- Times Live

Worst flood for decades uproots 10,000 in central Nigeria

LOKOJA, Nigeria, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Nigeria's worst flooding in decades has displaced more than 10,000 people in the centre of the country over the past week and stranded some villagers on rooftops, emergency services said on Thursday.

At least 140 people have been killed around Nigeria and tens of thousands have been forced to abandon their homes since the beginning of July, officials say. The flooding has been the worst for more than 50 years, according to Yushua Shuaib, a spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

"Over 10,000 people are displaced completely from their houses in my area and the numbers are increasing," NEMA's coordinator for central Nigeria, Ishaya Chonoko, said by phone. "In some parts, like Ibaji, the entire local government area is submerged by water. People are living on top of their roofs."

Emergency services were trying to access displacement camps -- in some cases by boat -- to hand out emergency items, he said. Worst affected was Kogi state.

Nigeria, which gets heavy tropical rains from May to September, suffers from seasonal flash floods. These are sometimes lethal, especially in rural areas or overcrowded slums.

"I've been here all night and there's nothing to eat," Adamu Musa told Reuters by a flooded highway holding his stranded vehicle outside the central Nigerian city of Lokoja.

(Reporting by Afolabi Sotunde; Writing and additional reporting by Tim Cocks in Lagos. Editing by Jason Webb.)

- AlertNet

‘Poor management’ caused Soweto train crash

ROSEBANK - An investigation into a May 2011 Soweto train crash has revealed the driver was considered a "high risk" individual.

The Railway Safety Regulator revealed its findings into the accident at a media briefing in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Friday.

It said at the time of the accident, the driver had already faced a number of disciplinary hearings for several misdemeanours, including speeding.
More than 800 people were injured when the train travelling from Johannesburg to Naledi, in Soweto, collided with a stationary train.

In a damning report, investigator Chris Dutton said Metrorail’s poor management was to blame for the accident.

“Management’s lack of intervention to speedily respond to asset [management] failure is questionable”

Dutton said it made no sense why the driver was allowed to drive a train after he proved to be a “high risk”.

The regulator also fingered Metrorail’s ageing infrastructure as one of the factors that contributed to the crash.

The train driver has since been fired.

- EWN