World sees rapid upsurge in extreme weather: report

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The US capital is shrouded in snow on March 21, 2018 amid the fourth Nor’easter to strike in less than three weeks. Winter Storm Toby is throwing a fresh blanket of snow just as spring begins. (AFP / DAVID GANNON)
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In this Feb. 28, 2018 file photo, students rally for clean energy in front of San Francisco City Hall. A federal judge presiding over lawsuits accusing big oil companies of lying about global warming is turning his courtroom into a classroom. U.S. District Judge William Alsup has asked lawyers for two California cities and five of the world's largest oil and gas companies to come to court on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 to present "the best science now available on global warming." (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Updated 21 March 2018
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World sees rapid upsurge in extreme weather: report

PARIS: A world addled by climate change has seen a four-fold increase in major flooding events since 1980, and a doubling of significant storms, droughts and heat waves, Europe’s national science academies jointly reported Wednesday.
In Europe, where precise data reaches back decades, the number of severe floods has jumped five fold since 1995, according to the report, which updates a 2013 assessment.
“There has been, and continues to be, a significant increase in the frequency of extreme weather events,” said Michael Norton, environmental program director for the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council.
“They underline the importance of avoiding greenhouse gases, which are fundamentally responsible for driving these changes,” he told AFP.
For impacts that cannot be avoided, he added, “this makes climate proofing all the more urgent.”
In the United States, the damage wrought by storms doubled, on average, from $10 billion in 1980 to $20 billion in 2015, adjusted for inflation, according to the report, based in part on data from insurance giant Munich Re’s NatCatSERVICE.
The update also assessed new findings on possible changes in the Gulf Stream, powerful ocean currents running between the Arctic region and the Caribbean that warm the air in northwestern Europe and the US eastern seaboard.
The weakening of the Gulf Stream “is now a credible hypothesis,” said Norton.
“Some of the underlying drivers of extreme weather which were speculative four years ago are looking less speculative.”
The prospect of the Gulf Stream — also known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) — slowing, or even shutting down entirely, “must be taken as a serious possibility,” he added.
Scientists have estimated that winters in Britain and much of western Europe would be several degrees Celsius colder under such a scenario.
The study also examined recent disruptions of the polar Jet Stream, a band of west-to-east winds that circulate at bullet-train speed some 10 kilometers above Earth’s surface at the upper boundary of the troposphere.
Recent research has linked severe winters in North America and Europe, as well some extreme summer weather, to Jet Stream fluctuations possibly driven by global warming in the Arctic, where temperatures have risen twice as fast as for the planet as a whole.
A 2016 study in Climatic Change forecast that, by mid-century, pockets of southern Europe will face at least one severe climate hazard every year of the scale now occurring only once every 100 years.
By 2100, according to these predictions, Europe’s entire Mediterranean seaboard will be confronted annually with extreme droughts, coastal floods or heatwaves.
And a few “hotspots” will be hit every year by two or more such formerly once-in-hundred-years hazards, which also include wildfires, river floods and windstorms.


Armenian protest leader will only discuss PM's 'departure'

Updated 19 min 15 sec ago
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Armenian protest leader will only discuss PM's 'departure'

  • Demonstrators waved Armenian flags and blocked streets, disrupting traffic in the capital.
  • "The whole world can see this is a people's velvet revolution, which very soon will be victorious," Pashinyan said.
YEREVAN: Armenia's political crisis deepened Saturday on the ninth day of anti-government demonstrations, with protest leader Nikol Pashinyan insisting he would only discuss the exit of the country's newly elected prime minister.
Tens of thousands of people flocked to Republic Square in the capital Yerevan to protest against new premier Serzh Sarkissian's rule, according to AFP journalists at the scene.
"We are only ready to discuss the conditions of his departure," news agencies quoted Pashinyan as saying, rejecting Sarkissian's appeal for "political dialogue".
"Serzh Sarkissian doesn't understand the new situation that has emerged in the recent days... the Armenia and Yerevan he knows does not exist anymore," he told protestors.
Opposition supporters are angry over Sarkissian's efforts to remain in power, after he became prime minister last week, following a decade serving as president.
Demonstrators waved Armenian flags and blocked streets, disrupting traffic in the capital. Police said they made 84 arrests on Saturday afternoon, and more than 230 people were arrested on Friday.
Rallies were also planned in other cities such as Gyumri, Ararat and Artashat.
President Armen Sarkissian -- no relation to Serzh -- on Saturday afternoon met Pashinyan at the demonstration, an AFP journalist said.
Flanked by bodyguards President Sarkissian shook hands with the opposition leader and the pair spoke for around ten minutes.
Prime Minister Serzh Sarkissian had earlier sought discussions with the protest leader.
"I am deeply concerned about the unfolding internal political events. In order to avoid irreversible consequences, I call on deputy Nikol Pashinyan to sit at the table of political dialogue and negotiation," the 63-year-old leader said in a statement.
At a 30,000 strong rally in Yerevan on Friday evening, Pashinyan laid out his demands for the authorities.
"First, Sarkissian resigns. Second, parliament elects a new prime minister that represents the people.
"Third, it forms a temporary government. Fourth, they schedule parliamentary elections. We will enter negotiations around these demands," he said, calling Serzh Sarkissian a "political corpse".
"The whole world can see this is a people's velvet revolution, which very soon will be victorious," Pashinyan told the rally.
Demonstrators on Saturday held up placards reading "Sarkissian is a dictator".
"I believe we will win this time because when the youth is on the street the police can do nothing," Hovik Haranyan, a 25-year-old protester blocking traffic, told AFP.
"Our generation has the right to live in a functioning country," he added.
Opposition supporters have criticised the 63-year-old leader over poverty, corruption and the influence of powerful oligarchs.
A former military officer, Serzh Sarkissian has been in charge of the landlocked South Caucasus nation of 2.9 million people for a decade.
Under a new parliamentary system of government, lawmakers elected Serzh Sarkissian as prime minister last week after he served a decade as president from 2008.
Constitutional amendments approved in 2015 have transferred power from the presidency to the premier.
After he was first elected in 2008, 10 people died and hundreds were injured in bloody clashes between police and supporters of the defeated opposition candidate.