Sand storms, wildfires, heatwaves, drought ... what is it with the weather?

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A trio of super strong hurricanes pummeled the Caribbean and US Gulf coast with each storm causing tens of billions of dollars in damage.
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In a spate of ice slides dozens were killed in a series of avalanches on the Afghanistan Pakistan border.
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The dry conditions that fueled flames in some spots also perpetuated long term drought in others.
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Hurricane irma hit Florida hard; growers are worried about the long term effects on their crops.
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Experts estimate the damage from Hurricane Harvey alone could cost upwards of $100 million.
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California spent much of the fall in flames.
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Chinese village was utterly destroyed in a June landslide but the death toll there is still a mystery.
Updated 30 July 2018
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Sand storms, wildfires, heatwaves, drought ... what is it with the weather?

  • The World Meteorological Organization has predicted temperatures from Ireland to Scandinavia and the Baltic countries will remain at record levels until early August
  • The perils of extreme heat have been illustrated in Greece, where the worst forest fires in the country’s history have killed 82 people

DUBAI: From heatwaves to white-outs, from fires to floods … the weather appears to be throwing everything it has at our planet.
Across the world, the climate and the conditions are going to vastly different extremes. For some, it means delight. For others, it spells danger. And for those living in the Arabian Gulf, it has just brought dust.
Riyadh, the Saudi capital, was blasted by a sandstorm last week, and on Sunday it was the turn of the UAE. High winds and sandstorms swept across the emirates, cutting visibility to virtually zero at times, and giving the nation its own weather talking-point as countries around the world coped with both heat and horror.
In Myanmar, at least 10 people were killed and tens of thousands more driven from their homes as the region was drenched by monsoon rain that, in some places, left only the rooftops of houses visible above the rising waters.
Tragedy has also struck 12,500km away in northern California, where wildfire has claimed five lives and entire neighborhoods have been devastated by a blaze that has now destroyed more than 500 buildings and has already continued into its seventh day. The US state has seen temperatures rise to a record 48.9C in the city of Chino.
In Japan, western areas which have already had to withstand floods and landslides earlier this month were hit by a fresh weather crisis, as Typhoon Jongdari struck. Winds of up to 180km an hour were accompanied by torrential rain and travel chaos.
But across the northern hemisphere, the vagaries of the weather have brought something that sounds like a dream but which carries its own threat — record high temperatures.
The perils of extreme heat have been illustrated in Greece, where the worst forest fires in the country’s history have killed 82 people. But they have also been felt in Sweden, hardly a nation used to sweltering temperatures, but now suffering an unprecedented drought and devastating wildfires amid its hottest spell in 250 years.
Meanwhile, in less-than-tropical Germany, farmlands in northern areas have been stripped bare by unrelenting sun, leaving combine harvesters to kick up dust rather than gather up crops. Farmers have voiced concerns that their livelihood is in danger, with talk now turning to whether a natural disaster — which is declared in Germany when 30 percent of the average annual harvest is destroyed — will be called.
There is no respite in immediate sight, either: The World Meteorological Organization has predicted temperatures from Ireland to Scandinavia and the Baltic countries will remain at record levels until early August. Its deputy secretary-general, Elena Manaenkova, has said the heatwave is “consistent with what we expect as a result of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
It perhaps should not come as a surprise, as the past three years have been the hottest ever recorded on Earth. But as Anders Levermann, a professor at the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: “The most important question is ‘Will we see this more often if we don’t reduce carbon emissions?’
“And this question is the one we can say ‘yes’ to.”


Four charged over MH17, Russia slams ‘unfounded allegations’

Updated 19 June 2019
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Four charged over MH17, Russia slams ‘unfounded allegations’

  • Investigation team said in May 2018 that BUK anti-aircraft missile which hit Boeing 777 had originated from 53rd Russian military brigade
  • One of the accused Girkin, who is thought to be living in Moscow, denied the separatists were involved

NIEUWGEIN: International investigators on Wednesday charged three Russians and a Ukrainian with murder over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the first people to face justice over the tragedy five years ago in which 298 people were killed.
The trial of the four men with military and intelligence links will start in the Netherlands in March next year, although they are likely to be tried in absentia as neither Russia nor Ukraine extradites their nationals.
Moscow slammed the “absolutely unfounded accusations” over the downing of the plane, which was traveling between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur when it was hit by a missile over part of eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russian rebels.
The Dutch-led inquiry team said international arrest warrants had been issued for Russian nationals Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko, all of whom are suspected of roles in the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic.
Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said the four were to be held responsible for bringing the BUK missile system from Russia into eastern Ukraine “even though they have not pushed the button themselves.”
“We won’t demand their extradition because Russian and Ukrainian law forbids the extradition of their nationals. But we ask Russia once more to cooperate — many of our questions remain unanswered,” he told a press conference.
The same investigation team said in May 2018 that the BUK anti-aircraft missile which hit the Boeing 777 had originated from the 53rd Russian military brigade based in the southwestern city of Kursk.
Relatives of those killed aboard MH17 welcomed the news.
“It’s a start. I’m satisfied,” Silene Fredriksz, whose son and daughter-in-law were killed in the disaster, told reporters. “I am happy that the trial is finally going to start and that the names have been announced.”
Asked if she personally blamed anyone for the crash, Fredriksz said: “Mr (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. Because he made this possible. He created this situation. He is the main responsible person.”
Piet Ploeg, president of a Dutch victims’ association who lost three family members on MH17, told AFP that it was “very important news.”
“The relatives of the victims have been waiting for this for nearly five years,” he said.
Girkin, 48, is the most high-profile suspect, having previously been the self-proclaimed defense minister in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine before apparently falling out with the Kremlin.
Girkin, who is thought to be living in Moscow, denied the separatists were involved. “I can only say that rebels did not shoot down the Boeing,” he told Russia’s Interfax news agency.
Dubinskiy, 56, who was formerly in the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, was head of the intelligence service of the Donetsk People’s Republic, while Pulatov, 52, an ex-soldier in the GRU’s Spetznaz special forces unit, was one of his deputies.
Kharchenko was a military commander in Donetsk at the time, the Dutch prosecutors said.
During the press conference by the investigators, number of telephone intercepts were played that they said showed the four were involved.
Russia vehemently denied all involvement, and complained that it had been excluded from the probe.
“Once again, absolutely unfounded accusations are being made against the Russian side, aimed at discrediting Russia in the eyes of the international community,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.
Russia insisted last year that the missile was fired by Kiev’s forces, adding that it was sent to Ukraine in the Soviet era.
Despite claims by Ukraine’s government and Dutch media that senior Russian officers would also face charges, none were named by the prosecutors on Wednesday.
The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the attack includes Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, representing the countries hardest hit by the disaster.
The Netherlands and Australia said in May last year that they formally “hold Russia responsible” for the disaster. Of the passengers who died, 196 were Dutch and 38 Australian.
Australia said Wednesday’s announcement was a “significant step” toward achieving justice, while NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said it was “an important milestone in the efforts to uncover the full truth.”
Ukraine’s foreign ministry urged Russia to “acknowledge its responsibility,” while the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s said he hoped to see “everyone who is to blame for the murder of innocent children, women and men” go on trial.
The war in eastern Ukraine and the MH17 disaster continue to plague relations between Russia and the West.
Since 2014, some 13,000 people have been killed. Kiev and its Western backers accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms to back the separatists. Moscow has denied the claims despite evidence to the contrary.