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The Gap Year Blog

Frontier Environment News of the Week 17/09/18

17 Sep 2018 15:05 PM

Photo Credits: Flikr | Oton Barros (DSR/OBT/INPE)

Edited with permission by Frontier

El Niño will be round again 

El Niño, the natural cyclical weather event, may be coming around again. 

Last week, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) announced that there is a 70% chance of another El Niño by the end of 2018.  

El Niño and its sister La Niña, are the two extremes of sea surface temperature changes that sometimes occur in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. They are also accompanied by air pressure changes known as the Southern Oscillation. 

Under normal conditions, winds blow warm equatorial Pacific Ocean surface water westwards, towards Australia and Asia. This causes cooler water to rise up in the warm water’s place in South America.

During El Niño, these westerly winds are weaker, causing warm surface water to accumulate near the South American coast. This also cause low surrounding air pressure and high rainfall and flooding in South American countries, while simultaneously causing high pressure and drought in Australia and Asia. 

La Niña is the effective opposite of El Niño, causing stronger westerly winds, pushing warm oceanic surface water towards Australia and Asia. In these areas, the associated lower air pressure causes flooding. In contrast, the cooler waters around South America lead to high air pressure and drought. 

El Niño and La Niña events traditionally occur every 5-7 years. The last El Niño  occurred in 2015/16 and this affected weather patterns across the globe, causing droughts in Africa and flooding in Brazil and Argentina. 

This latest announcement by the WMO is worrying, as it appears that the current risk of an El Niño in the near future will wreak havoc on national economies that may have just recovered from the last one in 2015/16. Scientists believe that this higher frequency may be due to the impact of climate change on global weather patterns. 

Woodland Trust urges people to stop tree felling on Britain’s railways

The Woodland Trust have urged the public to voice their concern over the current attitude taken by National Rail towards tree felling.

The charity are concerned that National Rail is felling trees near Britain’s railways without good reason. There are an estimated 13 million trees currently within falling distance of railway lines, with National Rail currently felling as many as 1000 a week.

Following the Woodland Trust’s push to ensure National Rail is held accountable for its actions, the government have set up a review examining the organisation's current felling practices. 

When interviewed by The Guardian, Dr Nick Atkinson, Woodland Trust’s senior conservation advisor, expressed concern about National Rail’s lack of biodiversity targets:

“Network Rail should be required to have a biodiversity action plan that includes measures relating to maintaining and enhancing the wildlife value of their estate’s trees and woodland. Their performance should in turn be monitored by the Office of Rail and Road.”

Public consultation as part of the government’s review closed on the 14th of September. In the meantime, many wait for the review’s conclusion, with the future of many trees hanging in the balance. 

Photo Credits: The Guardian | Ray Walton

Hurricane Florence brings huge rainfall to the US

Hurricane Florence made landfall on the East Coast of the US on Friday 14th September, hitting states including North and South Carolina. The hurricane had been travelling from West Africa, gathering force and speed since the 29th of August.  

Initially categorized as a category one storm by the National Hurricane Center, the hurricane has caused 40 inches of rain to fall in parts of the Carolinas since Thursday. When it made landfall, the hurricane had very high windspeeds but has now weakened to a depression with windspeeds of 35mph. However, many are concerned by the potential that flash-floods and storm surge may cause extensive damage. 

The hurricane is currently sitting above North Carolina where some 650,000 homes and businesses are without electricity. The city of Wilmington in the state has been cut off by floodwaters, with all roads currently impassable, making entry or exit impossible. 

The hurricane is expected to continue onto New England on Tuesday and continue into the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday.

Typhoon Mangkhut strikes hard 

Typhoon Mangkhut has been steadily moving across the Philippines, Hong Kong and China in recent days, leaving destruction in its wake. 

The typhoon initially struck the island of Luzon in the Philippines on Saturday morning, triggering landslides which have caused widespread damage and loss of life. When it made landfall its windspeeds were 165 mph which decreased to 134mph.

The typhoon then moved to Hong Kong, where it effectively shut down the city over the weekend, causing flights and trains to be suspended and roads to close. The winds of 110mph were a particular hazard in the high-rise city, with 200 people injured and a 3.5m rise in water levels. 

Making landfall in China on Sunday, the typhoon prompted authorities to evacuate 2.5 million residents from Guangdong and Hainan Island. Currently, it is now moving inland towards Guizhou, Chongquing and Yunnan. There is hope in the near future however, as the typhoon is expected to weaken to a tropical depression by Tuesday. 

Photo Credits: BBC News | Getty Images

Quick Fire News

  • California – clean energy by 2045. Last week, the state governor committed to sourcing all of the state’s energy from clean sources by 2045. The proposal has been called “unsustainable and not affordable” by one of the state’s utility companies. 
  • Return of the voles. It has been announced that 150 water voles will be released in the Aller river on Exmoor in Somerset. This release is of significance as the water vole has now disappeared from 94% of its former habitats due to predation and declining natural habitat space. 

By Ignatius-Roy Hillcoat-Nalletamby - Online Journalism Intern

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