Puerto Rico’s climate change Hurricane Maria


This 29 September 2017 video is called Hurricane MARIA Devastates Humacao, Puerto Rico.

From the American Geophysical Union:

Climate change to blame for Hurricane Maria‘s extreme rainfall

April 16, 2019

Hurricane Maria dropped more rain on Puerto Rico than any storm to hit the island since 1956, a feat due mostly to the effects of human-caused climate warming, new research finds.

A new study analyzing Puerto Rico’s hurricane history finds 2017’s Maria had the highest average rainfall of the 129 storms to have struck the island in the past 60 years. A storm of Maria’s magnitude is nearly five times more likely to form now than during the 1950s, an increase due largely to the effects of human-induced warming, according to the study’s authors.

“What we found was that Maria’s magnitude of peak precipitation is much more likely in the climate of 2017 when it happened versus the beginning of the record in 1950,” said David Keellings, a geographer at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and lead author of the new study in AGU’s journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Previous studies have attributed Hurricane Harvey‘s record rainfall to climate change, but no one had yet looked in depth at rainfall from Maria, which struck Puerto Rico less than a month after Harvey devastated Houston and the Gulf Coast. Extreme rainfall during both storms caused unprecedented flooding that placed them among the top three costliest hurricanes on record (the other being Hurricane Katrina in 2005).

The new study adds to the growing body of evidence that human-caused warming is making extreme weather events like these more common, according to the authors.

“Some things that are changing over the long-term are associated with climate change — like the atmosphere getting warmer, sea surface temperatures increasing, and more moisture being available in the atmosphere — together they make something like Maria more likely in terms of its magnitude of precipitation,” Keellings said.

Constructing a history of rain

José Javier Hernández Ayala, a climate researcher at Sonoma State University in California and co-author of the new study, is originally from Puerto Rico and his family was directly impacted by Hurricane Maria. After the storm, Hernández Ayala decided to team up with Keellings to see how unusual Maria was compared to previous storms that have struck the island.

The researchers analyzed rainfall from the 129 hurricanes that have struck Puerto Rico since 1956, the earliest year with records they could rely on. They found Hurricane Maria produced the largest maximum daily rainfall of those 129 storms: a whopping 1,029 millimeters (41 inches) of rain. That places Maria among the top 10 wettest hurricanes to ever have hit United States territory.

“Maria is more extreme in its precipitation than anything else that the island has ever seen,” Keellings said. “I just didn’t expect that it was going to be so much more than anything else that’s happened in the last 60 years.”

Keellings and Hernández Ayala also wanted to know whether Maria’s extreme rain was a result of natural climate variability or longer-term trends like human-induced warming. To do so, they analyzed the likelihood of an event like Maria happening in the 1950s versus today.

They found an extreme event like Maria was 4.85 times more likely to happen in the climate of 2017 than in 1956, and that change in all probability can’t be explained by natural climate cycles.

At the beginning of the observational record in the 1950s, a storm like Maria was likely to drop that much rain once every 300 years. But in 2017, that likelihood dropped to about once every 100 years, according to the study.

“Due to anthropogenic climate change it is now much more likely that we get these hurricanes that drop huge amounts of precipitation,” Keellings said.

The findings show human influence on hurricane precipitation has already started to become evident, according to Michael Wehner, a climate scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, who was not connected to the new study. Because so much of Maria’s damage was due to flooding from the extreme amount of rain, it is safe to say that part of those damages were exacerbated by climate change, Wehner said.

“Extreme precipitation during tropical cyclones has been increased by climate change,” he said. “Not all storms have a large amount of inland flooding, of freshwater flooding. But of those that do, the floods are increased to some extent by climate change.”

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Giant honey bee colony buzzing in sync


This 16 April 2019 video says about itself:

Massive Bee Colony Buzzing In Sync To Scare Off Predators | BBC Earth

These giant bees buzzing create spectacular waves.

Fukushima, Japan, nuclear plant disaster news update


This 18 August 2014 live punk rock music video by Japanese band Scrap, consisting of Fukushima disaster survivors, is their song Fuck TEPCO; about the corporation owning the Fukushima disaster nuclear plant.

The tune is based on the song Rockaway Beach, by the Ramones.

From Al Jazeera, 20 February 2019:

Fukushima operator told to pay over 2011 nuclear disaster

A court in Japan has awarded nearly $4m in new damages to 152 residents forced to flee their houses after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown eight years ago, the world’s most serious nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The Yokohama district court on Wednesday ordered the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) to pay 419.6m yen ($3.8m) to the residents, a court spokeswoman told AFP news agency.

Triggered by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake, a tsunami crashed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in March 2011, overwhelming reactor cooling systems, causing multiple meltdowns and sending radiation over a large area that forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate.

Nearly 19,000 people were killed or went missing and 160,000 lost their homes and livelihoods in the massive earthquake and tsunami.

Presiding judge Ken Nakadaira said the government and TEPCOcould have avoided the accident if they had taken measures” against the tsunami, according to public broadcaster NHK.

The verdict was the fifth time the government has been ruled liable for the disaster in eastern Japan.

In March last year, a court in Kyoto, western Japan, ruled that both the government and TEPCO were responsible and ordered them to pay 110m yen ($992,300) to 110 residents.

However, in a separate case in September 2017 in Chiba near Tokyo, the court ruled that only the operator was liable.

Around 12,000 people who fled after the disaster due to radiation fears have filed various lawsuits against the government and TEPCO.

Cases have revolved around whether the government and TEPCO, both of whom are responsible for disaster prevention measures, could have foreseen the scale of the tsunami and subsequent meltdown.

Dozens of class-action lawsuits have been filed seeking compensation from the government.

Is life in Fukushima really getting back to normal? — The Washington Post: here.

[Japan’s] Prime Minister Abe uses the Tokyo Olympics as snake oil cure for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdowns — Fairewinds Energy Education: here.

San Diego judge dismisses U.S. sailors’ Fukushima radiation lawsuits, rules Japan has jurisdiction — The San Diego Union-Tribune: here.

Great white sharks scared of killer whales


This video says about itself:

This Is The Biggest Great White Shark Ever Caught On Camera

Great white sharks are… big. Obviously. But a few years ago, divers met up with Deep Blue, probably the biggest great white shark ever caught on camera. So what do we know about the massive great white?

From the Monterey Bay Aquarium in the USA:

White sharks flee feeding areas when orcas present

Electronic tag data reveals white sharks do not return until following season; elephant seals benefit

April 16, 2019

Summary: New research challenges the notion that great white sharks are the most formidable predators in the ocean. The research team documented encounters between white sharks and orcas at Southeast Farallon Island off California. In every case examined by the researchers, white sharks fled the island when orcas arrived and didn’t return there until the following season. Elephant seal colonies in the Farallones also indirectly benefited from the interactions.

New research from Monterey Bay Aquarium and partner institutions published today in Nature Scientific Reports challenges the notion that great white sharks are the most formidable predators in the ocean. The study “Killer Whales Redistribute White Shark Foraging Pressure On Seals” shows how the great white hunter becomes the hunted, and the elephant seal, the common prey of sharks and orcas, emerges as the winner.

“When confronted by orcas, white sharks will immediately vacate their preferred hunting ground and will not return for up to a year, even though the orcas are only passing through,” said Dr. Salvador Jorgensen, senior research scientist at Monterey Bay Aquarium and lead author of the study.

The research team — which included Jorgensen and Monterey Bay Aquarium scientist Scot Anderson, and research partners from Stanford University, Point Blue Conservation Science and Montana State University — documented four encounters between the top predators at Southeast Farallon Island in the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, off San Francisco, California. The scientists analyzed the interactions using data from 165 white sharks tagged between 2006 and 2013, and compiled 27 years of seal, orca and shark surveys at the Farallones.

“The research in this paper combines two really robust data sources,” said Jim Tietz, co-author of the study and Farallon Program Biologist at Point Blue Conservation Science. “By supplementing the Aquarium’s new shark tagging data with Point Blue’s long-term monitoring of wildlife at the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, we were able to conclusively show how white sharks clear out of the area when the orcas show up.”

In every case examined by the researchers, white sharks fled the island when orcas arrived and didn’t return there until the following season.

Elephant seal colonies in the Farallones also indirectly benefited from the interactions. The data revealed four to seven times fewer predation events on elephant seals in the years white sharks left.

“On average we document around 40 elephant seal predation events by white sharks at Southeast Farallon Island each season,” Anderson said. “After orcas show up, we don’t see a single shark and there are no more kills.”

Each fall between September and December white sharks gather at the Farallones to hunt for young elephant seals, typically spending more than a month circling Southeast Farallon Island. Transient orcas also feed on elephant seals, but only show up occasionally at the island.

To determine when orcas and sharks co-occurred in the area, researchers compared data from the electronic shark tags with field observations of orca sightings. This made it possible to demonstrate the outcome on the rare instances when the predators encountered each other.

Electronic tags showed all white sharks began vacating the area within minutes following brief visits from orcas. Sometimes the orcas were only present for less than an hour. The tags then found the white sharks either crowded together at other elephant seal colonies farther along the coast or headed offshore.

“These are huge white sharks. Some are over 18 feet long (5.5 meters), and they usually rule the roost here,” Anderson said. “We’ve been observing some of these sharks for the past 15 to 20 years — and a few of them even longer than that.”

The study’s findings highlight the importance of interactions between top predators, which aren’t well-documented in the ocean.

“We don’t typically think about how fear and risk aversion might play a role in shaping where large predators hunt and how that influences ocean ecosystems,” Jorgensen said. “It turns out these risk effects are very strong even for large predators like white sharks — strong enough to redirect their hunting activity to less preferred but safer areas.”

The researchers drew no conclusions about whether orcas are targeting white sharks as prey or are bullying the competition for the calorie-rich elephant seals.

“I think this demonstrates how food chains are not always linear,” Jorgensen said. “So-called lateral interactions between top predators are fairly well known on land but are much harder to document in the ocean. And because this one happens so infrequently, it may take us a while longer to fully understand the dynamics.”

Climate change theatens North American sparrows


This 24 June 2011 video from the USA says about itself:

Seaside Sparrows in Connecticut Saltmarsh. ©JimZipp2011; following New Moon high tides that flooded out all nests.

From Oxford University Press USA:

Climate change threatens endangered sparrows

April 16, 2019

A new study in The Condor: Ornithological Applications finds that some sparrow species will go extinct within the century due to climate change.

Seaside (Ammospiza maritima) and saltmarsh (A. caudacuta) sparrows are closely related species and among only five bird species that are almost completely restricted to coastal salt marshes for their entire life. These sparrows’ nests are predominantly destroyed by predators or flooding.

Salt marshes are globally limited to about 30,000 square miles (45,000 square km), with one-third of the total on North American coasts. Of the 25 species or subspecies limited to tidal wetlands worldwide, 15 are restricted to the US Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Given rapid climate changes and other threats to salt marsh ecosystems, many of these species are in serious danger.

The global breeding range of the saltmarsh sparrow extends from Virginia to Maine, with a population estimate of 60,000 birds. Sea-level rise can negatively impact breeding seaside and saltmarsh sparrows by reducing the amount of available habitat, and by increasing nest flooding rates. Furthermore, the high human population densities of Mid-Atlantic states also make it difficult for sparrows to thrive in the region.

This study aimed to estimate population trajectories for seaside and saltmarsh sparrows within Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, identify the primary drivers of those trajectories, and explore potential management strategies to prevent declines.

The researchers found that seaside sparrows persisted under a 1 ft (0.35 m) rise in sea level scenario and also under a sea level rise of almost 2.5 ft (0.75 m). Saltmarsh sparrows survived in neither scenario. With a 1 ft rise in sea level, the seaside sparrow population experienced a compound decline of .35% a year. Under the 2.5 ft sea level rise scenario, this decline increased to .56% a year. The saltmarsh sparrow median time to quasi-extinction was 20 years under both scenarios.

The results indicated that seaside sparrows are likely to persist, while saltmarsh sparrows are likely to become locally extinct in the next 30 years.

“Given the projected increases in sea level over the next few decades and threats from predators, we will need to implement timely and creative actions to avoid extinction of saltmarsh sparrows,” said the paper’s lead author, Samuel Griffith Roberts.

Free Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Sri Lankans say


Sri Lankans demonstrate for freeing war crimes whistleblowers Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning

From the World Socialist Web Site in Sri Lanka:

SEP and IYSSE in Sri Lanka rally to defend Assange and Manning

By our reporters

17 April 2019

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) and the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) held a powerful demonstration and rally in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, yesterday to demand the release of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.

Around 100 people, including workers, youth and housewives, attended the picket which was held outside the Colombo Fort Railway Station. A group of SEP members travelled 400 kilometres from war-ravaged northern Jaffna to participate and several estate workers came from the central hills plantation district.

It was one of several demonstrations called by Socialist Equality Parties around the world and the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) following Assange’s arrest by British police last Thursday. The WikiLeaks publisher faces extradition to the US on bogus charges.

Demonstrators enthusiastically chanted slogans in Sinhala and Tamil, including “Free Julian Assange, Free Chelsea Manning”, “Defend the right for free speech, Defend democratic rights”, and “Stop internet censorship, No to world war, fight for international socialism.” Hundreds of copies of the WSWS April 12 Perspective, “Free Julian Assange” were distributed to those watching the event or passing through the station.

Sri Lankan media outlets, including Veerakesari, Sri Lanka’s main Tamil-language daily newspaper, IBC radio, Dan tv, Capital fm and madhyavadiya.lk, covered the event.

K. Ratnayake

K. Ratnayake, Sri Lanka’s WSWS national editor, addressed a 45-minute rally following the demonstration. He explained the circumstances surrounding Assange’s arrest by British police and his illegal removal from the Ecuadorian embassy, and the moves to extradite him to the US where he could face espionage and violation of national security charges.

“What is the crime Assange is being hounded for by Washington and Britain, with the connivance of pro-imperialist Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno?

“His so-called crime was to publish leaks by former US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, exposing the enormous war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The exposure of US imperialist crimes committed in its predatory neo-colonial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a great service to the international working class.

“In preparation for new hegemonic wars, the Trump administration wants to cover up Washington’s previous criminal acts, attack freedom of speech and expression, and suppress democratic rights.”

SEP political committee member M. Thevarajah speaking to the media

Ratnayake denounced the total silence of Sri Lanka’s mainstream media about Assange’s arrest and the attacks on freedom of the press. He pointed out that the brief reports by some Sri Lanka media were hostile to Assange and Manning.

“Equally, Sri Lankan pseudo-left groups, such as the Frontline Socialist Party, United Socialist Party and Nava Sama Samaja Party, have nothing to say about this dangerous attack on democratic rights. There is not a word in their press over the jailing of Assange or Manning,” Ratnayake said.

“Like the ruling class in other semi-colonial countries every faction of the Sri Lankan ruling class—from President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to opposition leader Mahinda Rajapakse—will use this attack of their imperialist masters as a licence to intensify their assault on the democratic rights of the Sri Lankan working class.”

Kapila Fernando

YSSE Convenor Kapila Fernando told the rally that the exposure of imperialist crimes by Assange and Manning had won them enormous respect from workers, young people and others who value democratic rights.

Assange had been imprisoned in the London’s Ecuadorian embassy for the past seven years. Vast changes have occurred during this period. In every country, the working class has come forward to defend their rights against rising social inequality and austerity measures,” Fernando said.

“This is the context in which Assange has been arrested. His jailing is an attack against the working class as a whole and bound up with the drive of American imperialism toward a world war,” he said.

SEP members and supporters from the country's north and from tea plantations

The struggle to free Assange and Manning, he added, has to be carried forward through the fight for the independent mobilisation of the working class and on the basis of a socialist and internationalist program.

After the rally, freelance photographer Sunil Harischandra told the WSWS that he fully supported the fight to free Assange and Manning.

Sunil Harischandra

“World imperialism is trying to make an example out of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning and are putting their lives in great danger because they have exposed war crimes.

“They are victims of class war and we cannot let the US and other imperialists determine this,” he added. “Their fate is decisive for the world proletariat and we have to demand their freedom.”

Lohan Gunaweera, an artist, said: “The imperialist countries are preparing massively for war. This is shown by Assange being taken into custody and the jailing of Manning. The World Socialist Web Site has taken the lead in the fight against the imperialist preparations for war and in opposing the jailing of Assange and Manning.

“If the frame-ups of Assange and Manning go ahead then all journalists, artists and others who oppose imperialism will become victims. These attacks must be defeated”, he said.

Unsealed affidavit demonstrates US seeking to prosecute Assange for his journalism: here.

Last week’s arrest of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has been met with universal approval from the US print and broadcast media. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, the three major US newspapers, have all enthusiastically endorsed Assange’s arrest and extradition to the United States, for charges related to his publication of documents implicating the US government in war crimes and the mass murder of innocent people: here.