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Riyadh Sandstorm turns Day into Night

Motorists flash hazard lights to alert other drivers as traffic slows down in the capital during a sandstorm on Saturday afternoon. (AN photo)

Riyadh: A heavy sandstorm hit the Saudi capital yesterday, making the city totally dark after 4 p.m. as it swept through neighboring areas.

“Darkness enveloped the main arteries of the capital city such as Qassim, King Fahd, Khurais and Makkah roads because of the storm which started at about 12 noon,” said Benny M. Quiambao, a Filipino building contractor. Drivers slowed down and switched on their hazard lights as visibility dropped to zero, he said.

Earlier, the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) had warned that a sandstorm was approaching Riyadh with a one-meter horizontal visibility.

Director General of Health Affairs in Riyadh Dr. Adnan bin Sulaiman Al-Abdulkarim, announced at 3 p.m. yesterday that hospitals under the Ministry of Health were ready to admit dust-hit patients.

Other regions like Qassim and Hail had also been affected. “The sandstorm started at 8:30 in the morning in Qassim, followed by rains at about 12:15 in the afternoon. It stopped at about 3:30 p.m.,” said Arnold G. Pineda, a community leader in Buraidah. He added that by 5:30 p.m. the rains had stopped but the skies remained cloudy.

Edmund Nieto, who works for the STC in Hail, said there was no storm in the area. “However, there were intermittent rains and the skies were cloudy the whole day,” he said.

Murad Al-Sagaf, manufacturing director at a Saudi firm in Buraidah, added that in the northern region, it was cloudy with intermittent rains.

…(Arab News)

February 27, 2012 Posted by | Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

Super-Cyclone Giovanna Targets Madagascar, “Massive Destruction” Possible

Satellite image of tropical cylcone Giovanna as it nears the east coast of Madagascar Monday morning. (Joint Typhoon Warning Center)

Extremely dangerous cyclone Giovanna, equivalent to a category 4 hurricane, is set to make landfall on the east coast of Madagascar today. The powerful storm contains maximum sustained winds of 145 mph (125 knots) and may produce extensive damage on this island off the SE coast of Africa.

Satellites reveals a storm with a well-defined eye, excellent symmetry and deep convection around its core.Its outer bands are already lashing the coast and the eye should move ashore late today.

Concerns are mounting about the toll the storm may afflict on this relatively poor country, especially as it may target highly populated areas. John Uniack Davis, Madagascar’s director for the humanitarian organizationCARE, told the United Nations news agency IRIN that if the storm center moves just south of the coastal port of Toamasina “it has the potential to cause massive destruction.”

AccuWeather’s Jesse Ferrell,reviewing the history of storms to strike Madascar, found that Giovanna’s track most closely remembles cyclone Geralda from 1994. That storm “destroyed 80% of the city’s seaport Toamasina.” IRIN news said Geralda “killed about 200 people, displaced 40,000 and affected another 500,000.” In addition to the destructive category 4 intensity winds, a large storm surge and 4-8” or more of flooding rain are also likely with this storm.

Wunderground’s Jeff Masters notes an elevated risk of damage relative to past storms due to deforestation over the last 30 years, which will worsen runoff from flood waters.

As Giovanna crosses Madagascar, it will weaken considerably before it re-emerges over the water late Tuesday or early Wednesday. It is then forecast to strike Mozambique as a tropical storm or depression late this week.

…(Washington Post)

February 14, 2012 Posted by | Climate, Flooding, Major Alert, Weather | , , , , | 2 Comments

Cold Weather Continues to Affect Europe, as well as Afghanistan

Europe’s record freezing temperatures have claimed hundreds of lives, snarled traffic and trapped tens of thousands of residents in remote villages across Serbia and Romania.

It is the worst cold snap to happen in February in 26 years, Georg Mueller, a forecaster at Point Carbon told Reuters.

“It was in 1986 when we had the last similarly severe cold weather (in February),” he said. “In this instance this big blocking of cold air . . . seemed to influence the way the winds behaved rather than the other way around,” he said. “We didn’t expect the cold block to become so persistent and then move westward.”

In many European capitals, authorities have set up extra shelters for the homeless to help them survive the cold snap that has seen temperatures sink as low as minus 36 C. The majority of the cold-related deaths have been of the homeless.

Meteorologists predict the frigid temperatures will last until the end of February.

…(The Star)

More than 20 children have recently died due to the cold weather in Kabul which the Afghan capital has been experiencing its worst cold-snap and heaviest snows in at least 15 years, the National Weather Center said Wednesday. According to an Afghan based TV channel, some of the internally displaced people of the country warn that cold weather may claim more lives.

Lack of food and firewood is said to be their main problems in the winter. This year’s severe cold weather has raised concerns among the population, especially the displaced families. “In this winter, eight children, three old men and women have so far lost their lives,” one of the displaced people said. “We cannot pass the winter by burning plastic, paper and pieces of clothes.

We really need help. “Living under these tents is very difficult,” said another displaced person. “Life is difficult when you don’t have anything to eat or burn.”The families living under the tents in Kabul are badly in need of help and most of them may perish if not helped.”We ask everyone to help these needy families, they can help one family and protect them from cold weather,” Head of the Afghan Red Crescent, Fatima Gilani said.

The Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Returnees rejects reports about the death of 20 children due to severe cold in Kabul, a spokesman for the Ministry, Salamuddin Jurat said on Tuesday.

The refugees living under the tents have not faced any kinds of losses so far, he added. “The reports are baseless and untrue,” the spokesman said.Meanwhile, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health confirms the deaths due to the severe cold in Kabul.”Because the cold weather was unprecedented and they were living under the tents, they died before arriving to our health facility during last month,” Spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, Ghulam Sakhi Kargar told the channel.

There are currently more than 30,000 poor families living under tents in Kabul. There reports of high level of maternity deaths in these camps with 144 out of 1,000 children under five years of age.

…(The Frontier Post)

February 10, 2012 Posted by | Climate, Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

Europe Cold Wave Claims 260 Lives

The death toll from the vicious cold snap across Europe has risen to more than 260, with hundreds having to be rescued after a ferry caught in a snow storm hit a breakwater off Italy.

Ukraine has suffered the heaviest toll with 122 deaths, including many who froze to death in the streets as temperatures plunged to as low as minus 38.1 degrees Celsius (minus 36.5 Fahrenheit). Airports were shut, flights and trains delayed, and highways gridlocked as emergency services raced to clear falling snow.

In Italy, the ferry Sharden hit a breakwater shortly after setting off from the port of Civitavecchia near Rome. It caused panic among the 262 passengers who feared a repeat of a cruise ship tragedy in the area last month that is thought to have killed 32 people. Coastguard spokesman Carnine Albano said the accident, which tore a 25-metre (80-foot) hole in the ship’s side above the waterline, happened after the vessel was buffeted by a violent snow storm from the north-east. All passengers were evacuated and no injuries reported.

The heaviest snowfall in 27 years in Rome caused the capital, better known for its warm sunshine, to grind to a halt with taxis and buses unable to navigate the icy streets.

Parts of the Venice lagoon also froze over.

Among the cold-weather deaths in Italy was 46-year-old woman who died in Avellino, near Naples in southern Italy, after a greenhouse roof laden with snow collapsed on her.

A homeless man in his sixties of German origin was found dead, apparently of cold, in the central town of Castiglione del Lago. These latest deaths brought the total in Italy to seven.

In Poland, the death toll rose to 45 as temperatures reached minus 27C (minus 32F) in the north-east. In Romania, four more victims were found, bringing the number of fatalities to 28.

The cold snap has also killed people in Bosnia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Slovakia, France, Austria and Greece. Snow fell in Bosnia for the second straight day, paralysing traffic, with one patient dying as an ambulance was unable to reach his village in the south of the country.

Two people were found dead in Croatia on Saturday, in the southern region near the Adriatic coast and the main port Split where the snow has surprised inhabitants, Hina news agency reported. In Serbia, a man was found dead in the southern town Lebane as the authorities in 28 municipalities, mostly in remote mountainous regions in the south and southwest, declared a state of emergency.

Maric said some “60,000 people … or 25,000 households, have been cut off by snow” with emergency services engaged in clearing off the areas and bringing in necessities.

In tiny Montenegro, where one person was found frozen to death in a village, many hamlets in the mountainous north were cut off. Rescuers managed to evacuate 120 people, among them 31 school children from neighbouring Albania on a field trip, Interior Minister Ivan Brajovic said.

The freeze shut several airports in eastern and central Europe.

Further west, London Heathrow, the world’s busiest in terms of international passenger traffic, cancelled 30 percent of Sunday’s flights as it braced for heavy snow and freezing fog.

In the Netherlands, Amsterdam-Schiphol airport reported dozens of delays and cancellations.

In France, snow fell from Lille in the north to Marseille in the south, though the west of the country and the capital Paris were spared.

A 12-year-old boy died in the eastern French city of Strasbourg when the ice broke as he played with a friend on a frozen pond, paramedics said.

“He fell straight through and couldn’t be revived by the medics,” Philippe Biette, of the emergency services said.

His friend, 11, was in hospital being treated for hypothermia after plunging in to try to save him.

Frigid temperatures even edged into north Africa, with the temperature forecast to drop below freezing in Algiers on Saturday night.

In Algeria’s eastern region, a 17-year-old man was assumed killed after he was swept away by a swollen river. Many domestic and international flights were cancelled… (Yahoo)

R.I.P. to all those who were taken by this cold wave.

February 5, 2012 Posted by | Climate, Weather | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lack of Rains Puzzles Kenyan Elders

Nomadic communities living off the dry terrain of northern Kenya have relied for generations on the powers of village elders to predict the weather. But the divinations of traditional forecasters were confounded by an unexpectedly severe drought in 2011, threatening herders’ livelihoods.

Now pastoralists and meteorological experts are trying to find better ways to cope with regional weather that is increasingly difficult to anticipate – a situation some believe is linked to climate change.

Herders in Marsabit district use traditional weather forecasting systems linked to the seasons and the calendar. These include phenology (the study of plant and animal life cycles), animal behaviours, astrology, studying animal entrails and divining.

Elders detect changes in temperature and humidity from a tree locally known as the marer. They observe the migratory patterns of species of birds, and trace the progress of stars in the sky or look for the presence of particular stars in constellations.

In the belief system of the Marsabit communities, all this information can be used to forecast particular weather events such as long or short periods of rainfall, flash flooding, dry spells, or cold weather that could cause illness in people and livestock. The level of pasture in the region can also be foretold on this basis.

When the elders predict a dry spell, herders may move to other areas with more water and pasture, or even cross the border into Ethiopia, to return once the situation has improved. They may sell their goats, sheep and cattle and buy camels, which are better able to withstand drought. Others slaughter their older cattle and preserve the meat to use as food during the dry period.

Using their traditional forecasting systems, the elders in Marsabit district predicted that rains would fail in the area from October or November 2010 until April 2011, but that after this dry spell the situation would return to normal. This information was relayed to the community through the network of traditional elders in every village in the district.

“We have given our community weather information for many years, and that assisted them in understanding what to expect and plan, but now I am seeing something else from what we predicted. We predicted good rains after the dry spell and (yet) the rains failed from April to October,” said Halakano.

The forecaster blamed the failure of the traditional predictions on powers beyond the elders’ knowledge and systems. Elders have met repeatedly to discuss what happened, and some say the problem lay with insufficient attention to signs in the natural world.

Boru Duba, an elder from Dirib Gombo village, said that he had predicted the dry spell from October to April based on the behaviour of cattle and sheep, particularly their lack of interest in mating, strange noises they had been making, and the cattle coiling their tails.

“These scenarios perfectly matched the dry spell or minor droughts that hit the region occasionally from October to April. The last time we saw this minor drought was 10 years ago, and the situation then returned to normal,” said Duba.

But he said that the elders had not properly taken into account other telltale signs, such as the non-appearance of certain migratory birds, and the failure of frogs to make certain noises at the time that the birds would normally arrive.

“Without these signs and behaviours from the birds and frogs, I knew something was amiss in our prediction,” said Duba.

Despite the failure of the forecast, pastoralists’ strong cultural ties to traditional systems of forecasting make them reluctant to stop believing in them.

…(Trust)

February 3, 2012 Posted by | Climate, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment

Thousands trapped in Serbia villages, Rare snowfall hits Rome

At least 11,000 villagers have been trapped by heavy snow and blizzards in Serbia’s mountains, authorities said, as the death toll from Eastern Europe’s week-long deep freeze rose to 123, many of them homeless people. The harshest winter in decades has seen temperatures in some regions dropping to minus 30 C (minus 22 F) and below, and has caused power outages, traffic chaos and the widespread closure of schools, nurseries and airports.

On Friday, thick snowflakes fell in Rome, a rare occurrence for a capital usually blessed by a temperate climate, and other parts of the country experienced frigid temperatures unseen in years. The snowfall prompted authorities to stop visitors from entering the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill, the former home of Rome’s ancient emperors.

The director of the Colosseum, Rossella Rea, said the sites were closed out of fears that visitors could slip on ice. The last substantial snowfalls in Rome were in 1985 and 1986, though there have been other cases of lighter snow since then, including in 2010. Snow began falling in the late morning on Friday, leaving a light dusting on trees and cars and forming slush on the roads. It wasn’t clear if there would be any significant accumulation on the ground. The north of the country has also been gripped by snow and ice that is disrupting train travel.

The stranded in Serbia are stuck in some 6,500 homes in remote areas that cannot be reached due to icy, snow-clogged roads with banks reaching up to five meters (16 feet). Emergency crews were pressing hard to try to clear the snow to deliver badly needed supplies, and helicopters were dispatched to some particularly remote areas in Serbia and neighboring Bosnia. On Bosnia’s Mt. Romanija, near Sarajevo, a chopper thumped down in the small hamlet of Ozerkovici, where a single nun lives in a Serb Christian Orthodox monastery surrounded by just a few village residents.

Wrapped tight in a black jacket and a scarf, Sister Justina greeted aid workers at her monastery: “I live alone here,” she said, but noted “God will help me.” In Serbia, relief efforts are concentrated on evacuating the sick, on food delivery and gasoline distribution.

“We are trying everything to unblock the roads since more snow and blizzards are expected in the coming days,” Serbian emergency police official Predrag Maric told The Associated Press. He said “the most dramatic” situation is near Serbia’s southwestern town of Sijenica, where it has been freezing cold or snowing for 26 days, and diesel fuel supplies used by snowplows are running low.

…(Today’s Zaman)

February 3, 2012 Posted by | Climate, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Several Records Broken as Cold Spell Grips Europe

The death toll in Europe due to the extremely cold weather has exceeded 100 people. People died due to record low temperatures in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ukraine. Temperatures fell to below 30 degrees Celsius in some parts of Europe, causing power supply disruptions, traffic chaos and the closing of schools.

Heavy snow has caused disruption across Europe, carpeting much of Italy to the south and Turkey to the east. The freeze that has swept south through the continent has caused at least 80 deaths, mainly in Ukraine and Poland. Temperatures were so low that some areas in Romania along the shores of the Black Sea froze.

In central Italy, heavy goods lorries were barred from motorways and several top-flight football matches have fallen victim to the wintry conditions. London is set to see it’s first significant snowfall as the bitter cold snap continues to grip the country.

Ukrainian officials reported that the number of deaths attributed to the freeze had risen to 43, with 13 people falling victim to hypothermia in the past 24 hours. Schools and colleges in the capital, Kiev, were shut on Wednesday because of the severe cold.

School closures were also reported in northern Greece, where temperatures of -16C (3F) were recorded. Several towns and cities in Bulgaria saw record lows, with -29C reported in Kneja in the north for the second day running. For much of the country an “orange” alert was in place, warning of dangerously low temperatures.

In Bosnia and Serbia helicopters were used to airlift supplies to villages cut off by drifting snow. Seven more deaths were reported in Poland, bringing to more than 20 the number who have fallen victim to the cold snap. Five were said to have been homeless people. In Bosnia and Serbia helicopters were used to airlift supplies to villages cut off by drifting snow.

Seven more deaths were reported in Poland, bringing to more than 20 the number who have fallen victim to the cold snap. Five were said to have been homeless people.

German media reported that ice and sub-zero temperatures had led to the deaths of two women: a pedestrian froze after falling into a drainage ditch and a driver was killed when she lost control of her car on an icy road.

In Turkey, three crew-members from a ship that sank during a storm in the Black Sea were pulled out alive by coastguard near the north-western port of Eregli but eight others were missing. The bulk carrier Vera, with a crew of 10 Ukrainians and a Georgian, had been carrying a cargo of scrap metal from Rostov in Russia to Izmir in western Turkey.

Snowfalls were recorded as far south as southern Italy and Corsica, where at least 20cm of snow covered the centre of the Mediterranean island.

…(BBC)

February 2, 2012 Posted by | Climate, Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tropical Cyclones to cause $109 billion in damages by 2100

That figure represents an increased vulnerability from population and especially economic growth, as well as the effects of climate change. Greater vulnerability to cyclones is expected to increase global tropical damage to $56 billion by 2100—double the current damage—from the current rate of $26 billion per year if the present climate remains stable.

Climate change is predicted to add another $53 billion of damages. Damage from climate change is equal to 0.01 percent of GDP in 2100.

The United States and China will be hardest hit, incurring $25 billion and $15 billion of the additional damages from climate change, respectively, amounting to 75 percent of the global damages caused by climate change. Small islands, especially in the Caribbean, will also be hit hard, suffering the highest damages per unit of GDP.

The research reveals that more intense storms will become more frequent with climate change. “The biggest storms cause most of the damage,” said Robert Mendelsohn, the lead economist on the project. “With the present climate, almost 93 percent of tropical cyclone damage is caused by only 10 percent of the storms. Warming will increase the frequency of these high-intensity storms at least in the North Pacific and North Atlantic Ocean basins, causing most of the increase in damage.”

The authors based their estimates on a future global population of 9 billion and an annual increase of approximately 3 percent in gross world product until 2100. “More people making a lot more income will put more capital in harm’s way,” he said.

Tropical cyclones today cause $26 billion in global damages, which is 4 percent of gross world product. North America and East Asia account for 88 percent of these damages, because these regions have powerful storms and well-developed coastlines.

…(Physorg)

February 1, 2012 Posted by | Climate, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment

Deaths in Ukraine and Poland due to Freezing Europe Weather

At least 30 people have died in Ukraine and 10 in Poland after heavy snow fall and a drop in temperatures across much of central and eastern Europe. Three deaths were also reported in Serbia and one in Bulgaria. Ukrainian health officials said more than 600 people had sought treatment for frostbite and hypothermia in just three days. And over that time, nearly 24,000 people sought refuge in some 1,590 shelters, the officials say.

Temperatures have plunged to -16C (3F) during the day and -23C (-10F) at night. Many of the dead were homeless people, whose bodies were discovered on the streets, Ukraine’s Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Poland had been having a relatively mild winter, until temperatures dropped last Friday from just below freezing to -26C (-15F). Malgorzata Wozniak of Poland’s interior ministry told the Associated Press that elderly people and the homeless were among the dead. Polish forecasters have warned that temperatures could fall further during the week, to below -20C during the day and -30C at night.

In Serbia, police reported that the snowy conditions had led to the deaths of a woman and two elderly men. Two other men, in their 70s, are believed to be missing in the south of the country.

The freezing conditions also claimed a life in neighbouring Bulgaria.

Emergency shelters offering food and heat are being set up in the Bulgarian capital Sofia and the Czech capital Prague, reports say.

…(BBC)

February 1, 2012 Posted by | Climate, Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

Cyclone and Bushfires Threaten Western Australia

A tropical cyclone and major bushfires are posing a twin threat to travellers in Western Australia’s central west. Authorities are concerned holidaymakers from Perth and elsewhere may find themselves stranded. The Fire and Emergency Services Authority had urged tourists to leave the Gascoyne region because flooding, linked to the approaching Cyclone Iggy, could cut off the highway to Perth.

But now bushfires have forced the closure of the highway, south of Carnarvon. Department of Environment and Conservation spokesman Anthony Desmond says there was a window of opportunity earlier yesterday when families, returning to Perth for the new school year, could have made it through.

“Either way there were two issues people needed to deal with, a cyclone and now a fire, so I don’t think there was anything wrong with making that call for people,” he said.

“But we’ll be talking to the Department for Child Protection about accommodating people in Carnarvon if they need accommodation.”

…(ABC)

January 28, 2012 Posted by | Weather | , , , | Leave a comment

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