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Updated every Friday.

Friday, June 22, 2018

June 22nd

Upcoming events 

II Meeting of Ministers and High-Level Cooperation Authorities "Strengthening capacity for development cooperation and partnerships: Building resilience to disasters" to take place from September 20-21, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

The Executive Secretariat for Integral Development of the Organization of American States (OAS-SEDI), as technical secretariat for the ministerial process of cooperation in order to facilitate the logistical arrangements for the participation of ministers, high authorities, and special guests informs the Cooperation Authorities, through the Permanent Missions of the OAS Member States, that the second meeting of ministers and high-level cooperation authorities "Strengthening capacity for development cooperation and partnerships: Building resilience to disasters" will take place from September 20th to the 21st, 2018 in Washington D.C. 

What happened this week?

The Sixth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Americas : UNISDR head calls for more inclusion in DRR

Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutoritold the opening of the three-day Vl Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas that the issue of inclusion will be a significant area of discussion at the regional platform. A key topic at the conference will be implementing a target of the global plan for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, calling for a substantial increase in the number of countries with national and local strategies for disaster risk reduction by the year 2020, the UNISDR chief said. Effective disaster risk management requires an “inclusive, all-of-society approach” that reflects the views of those who suffer most from such events and policy makers must heed the “voices of those who suffer disproportionately in such events. People living with disabilities, older persons, women, children and indigenous groups need to be consulted and engaged"...Read more   

Interesting Facts 

Five cities in the Americas to take part in the "Making cities sustainable and resilient: Implementing the Sendai framework for Disaster Risk reduction 2015-2030 at the local level" program

Representatives of five cities in the Americas met this week in Colombia at the Sixth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction to discuss progress against the Sendai Framework, the global plan to reduce disaster losses by 2030. Santo Domingo Este in the Dominican Republic, Guayaquil in Ecuador, Guatemala City in Guatemala, San Juan de Lurigancho in Peru and Tegucigalpa in Honduras are among twenty cities that have been chosen globally to take part in a three-year program called Making cities sustainable and resilient: Implementing the Sendai framework for Disaster Risk reduction 2015-2030 at the local level, launched in 2016.  The initiative, launched by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) and the European Commission, supports local governments to better manage disaster risks.... Read more

Guatemala earthquake mapped: Where did the earthquake hit? Could there be more?  

Map of where the earthquake struckFollowing on from the devastating eruption that covered Guatemala in volcanic mud, ash and lava, a magnitude 5.6 earthquake struck on Sunday, June 17 according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). On June 17 at 10.32pm local time (3.32am BST) a magnitude 5.6 earthquake shook Guatemala, at a depths of 100 km according to the USGS.  This is just two weeks since Guatemala’s Volcan de Fuego (Volcano of Fire) erupted explosively, raining down ash and pyroclastic flow on residential areas. The epicenter of the earthquake was close to the Pacific Coast, less than 18.7 kilometers from Escuintla. Escuintla was an area that had incurred the most deaths and injuries following the eruption that began two weeks ago. This is 67 km southwest of Guatemala City, Guatemala’s capital. Following Sunday’s 5.6 magnitude quake, residents have been warned to stay prepared for aftershocks. As the volcano has recently erupted, the likelihood of earthquakes remains high with the volcano shifting and settling... Read more       

No, World Cup Fans Didn't Trigger an Earthquake. Here's Why.  


Mexico’s victory over Germany in an early World Cup game on Sunday caused quite the stir in Mexico City. At 11:35 am, when Hirving Lozano scored the game-winning goal at a match in Russia, seismometers in Mexico City picked up a spike in seismic activity. Mexico’s Institute of Geological and Atmospheric Research claims these tremors were caused by thousands of soccer fans jumping up and down in celebration, but some scientists are not so sure. “It was probably a person, or people, jumping up and down next to the [seismology] station,” says Xyoli Pérez Campos, who heads Servicio Sismológico Nacional (SSN), Mexico’s national seismological service. Campos says the vibrations picked up by the seismometers do not resemble an earthquake, man-made or otherwise. “People [jumping] can generate vibrations, but they look very different on the record than an earthquake,” says Campos. Seismometers have picked up sounds and vibrations from boisterous crowds before, but no synchronized celebration has ever been able to trigger a true seismic event, according to William Yeck, a geophysicist with the U.S Geological Survey... Read more       

Thursday, June 14, 2018

June 14th

Upcoming events 

Organization of American States (OAS)-Amazon Web Services (AWS) Webinar: Overview of the AWS Disaster Risk Management Program  

The Executive Secretariat for Integral Development of the OAS in its on-going efforts to build the resilience of member states to disasters has been exploring opportunities for collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), particularly with a view to reducing disaster-related business interruptions and enhancing overall business continuity. In order to better prepare member states to avail themselves of the considerable expertise, know-how and experience of AWS' within the Americas in disaster risk management capabilities and the suite of products that is has developed, the OAS and AWS has jointly convened a webinar for June 18th, 2018 at 10:00 am (EST) in English and at 2:00 pm (EST) in Spanish. The webinar, targeted towards disaster risk management officials in the Caribbean, will be delivered by Maggie Carter and Abby Daniell of AWS Latin America, Canada and Caribbean Public Sector Team

The agenda is as follows:

1. Overview of AWS Disaster Risk Management program
  • Disaster Relief by Amazon and Amazon Business initiatives
2. Summary of AWS Projects in Latin America and Caribbean
  • St. Kitts Pilot Project
3. Presentation of AWS Products - Snowball Edge
4. AWS Volunteers - Net Hope collaboration
5. Procurement Considerations
6. Legal and Compliance Considerations
7. Questions and Answers

 Please click here to register 

What happened this week?

Guatemala: Volcán de Fuego Eruption Situation Report (as of 13 June 2018)  

The Volcán de Fuego  continues to register seismic activity, specifically avalanches and eruptions. The National Institute for Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH) is constantly monitoring the volcano and has not yet ruled out the possibility of more pyroclastic flows of similar or greater severity than those recorded since the beginning of the emergency. The National Coordination for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) estimates that 966 homes have been affected. The families will be relocated once authorities determine a suitable location. First responders continue to find the deceased in their search and rescue efforts. Municipal authorities and the local community are deciding whether not to now designate the affected area as a cemetery ground. The Humanitarian Assistance and Aid Coordination Centre (CCAH) has followed up with the various offers of aid from foreign governments and the international community that have come in after calling for international aid. Countries such as Canada, Honduras, Mexico and the United States have provided aid. International search and rescue personnel have been aiding as well, working in the most affected areas
Per the Red Cross (as of 12 June, 2018), there are 1,714,373 people affected, 12,823 people evacuated, 110 people killed, 3,557 people sheltered, and 197 people missing...Read more   

Interesting Facts 

Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), World Bank partner to increase disaster resilience through improved procurement

Acting on lessons learned from a devastating 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the World Bank are partnering with governments of countries in the Region to harness public procurement to improve disaster preparedness and response. A recent World Bank study found that disasters impact gross domestic product in developing states, at a rate 20 times higher than in industrialized nations, causing greater disruption and severe consequences for vulnerable members of society.
“At the heart of the issue, is the management of the procurement and contracting process within the public sector,” Cheryl Dixon, Coordinator, Environmental Sustainability Unit, CDB told regional procurement and emergency response officials attending a Procurement in Emergency Situations workshop at the Bank on June 4 and 5.
With natural hazards increasing in frequency and intensity, Dixon stressed the importance of a greater understanding of why procurement under these conditions is unique, adding that too often, public procurement frameworks and systems do not give sufficient attention to procurement in the context of disasters... Read more

Combination of Climate Change and Inequality Increasingly Drives Risk  
floods 2010 pakistanA combination of climate change and rising levels of inequality is a key driver of risk in the world today, and the convergence of these two factors calls for heightened attention as they pose an existential threat to the survival of the poor, especially those living in climate risk zones. This was the key finding of a discussion involving UN experts at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn this week.
Poor people are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change and have fewer resources to adapt. In 2017, many countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, South Asia, and Africa were confronted with disastrous consequences of hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Thousands of people lost their lives, while millions were displaced and were left scrambling for basic necessities, including food and water. Owing to the gravity of the situation, the UN Human Rights Council last year adopted the UN Resolution on Human Rights and Climate Change, calling on member states and non-state actors from the private sector to address the human rights of climate-affected people... Read more       

Friday, June 8, 2018

June 8th

What happened this week?

Guatemala volcano eruption death toll: Why was Fuego eruption so deadly? 

Images from the volcano aftermath Volcan de Fuego (‘volcano of fire’ in Spanish) erupted on Sunday resulting in a devastating pyroclastic flow which obliterated everything in its path. So far, at least 109 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds are still missing. A second eruption on Tuesday sent rescue workers scrambling for cover, proving just how dangerous and unpredictable the situation still is. Officials have issued warnings of hazards still presented by falling ash as well as the risk of ash clouds to aviation. Pyroclastic flows are fast-moving currents of extremely hot gas and volcanic matter that pour down volcanic slopes at incredibly high speeds. They contain a mix of hot lava rocks ranging from pebbles to boulders, pumice, ash and volcanic gasses.  Pyroclastic flows can reach speeds of up to 430mph and temperatures of about 1,000 degrees Celsius. While a pyroclastic flow doesn’t leave much chance for survival as it is, there were a few additional factors at work here which put the people of Guatemala at risk. Katharine Cashman, Professor of Volcanology at the University of Bristol said: "We have been seeing over the past few years there were more frequent paroxysmal eruptions - or sudden outbursts. “Because there’d been these smaller paroxysms, the valleys had been filled with material.  So if the valleys are full, when the bigger flows come down they just immediately overflow and that’s what appears to have happened.”... Read more

June 5th: World Environment Day - Latin America and the Caribbean bids good-bye to plastic bags

World Environment Day logo: Beat Plastic PollutionOn May 30th, Chile became the first South American country to approve a nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags, garnering congratulations from around the world for its efforts to beat plastic pollution ahead of World Environment Day on June 5th. The ban will come into force in one year’s time for major retailers and in two years’ time for smaller businesses. Several other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are using taxes, bans, and technological innovation to restrict the production and consumption of plastic bags and reduce their harmful impact on oceans and marine species. Antigua and Barbuda was the first country in the region to ban plastic bags in 2016. Soon after, Colombia passed a similar ban, and in 2017 applied a tax to large plastic bags, while ordering changes to their design with the aim of achieving greater resistance and reusability. Colombia’s neighbor, Panama, became at the beginning of 2018 the first country in Central America to ban polyethylene bags. The country is also drawing up a national plan to combat marine litter. Costa Rica adopted a national strategy to drastically reduce the use of disposable plastics by 2021, while in the Caribbean, Belize, Bahamas and Bermuda have passed or are drafting laws to eradicate single-use plastics. Ecuador aims to transform the remote Galápagos Islands into a plastics-free archipelago: no more plastic straws, bags or bottles will be sold or used after 21 August of this year. In Peru, several bills on the issue of plastic bags are debated in Congress. The most recent, prepared by the Government, seeks to reduce the consumption of this product by 35 per cent during the first year of implementation...Read more   

June 8th: World Ocean Day - World overwhelmingly commits to protecting the oceans and Clean Seas   

Image result for world ocean day 2018World Oceans Day is celebrated annually on June 8th, to raise global awareness of the state of the oceans and aquatic life, and advocate for individual and policy action for healthy seas. This year, in line with World Environment Day celebrated on June 5, the theme of World Oceans Day is centered around preventing plastic pollution – 8 million tonnes of which ends up in the world’s ocean’s every year. On this World Ocean Day, June 8th, nations are showing an unprecedented commitment to healthy, thriving oceans and seas, free from plastic pollution. With eight new countries having joined UN Environment’s Clean Seas Campaign in the past week, Clean Seas is now the largest global compact for combating marine litter, with commitments from 51 nations covering 62% of the world’s coastlines. Other countries who pledged this week to step up their protection of the ocean and their coastlines include Argentina, Cote d’Ivoire, United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Guyana and Vanuatu...Read more   

June 8th: World Ocean Day - Latin American and Caribbean countries champion marine conservation

Image result for hammerhead sharksSeveral countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are protecting millions of square kilometers of seas in some of the world’s most biodiverse zones. Marine protected areas are one of the best tools to safeguard the health of our oceans and stop overfishing, pollution and acidification. They bring ecological benefits, but also great economic gains. Studies show, for example, how a a single hammerhead shark sighted in the Isla del Coco, in Costa Rica, generates up to $1.6 million during its life thanks through eco-tourism. There are more than 15,300 marine protected areas on the planet, covering an area of ​​26.3 million square kilometers, equivalent to 7.2 per cent of the total ocean surface, according to the Protected Planet report.
The so-called Aichi Target 11, set by the Convention on Biological Diversity, recommends the protection of at least 10 per cent of marine and coastal areas by 2020. Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Colombia have already surpassed this target. Brazil was lagging behind, but last March made a major announcement. The country decided to protect almost 1 million square kilometers around the archipelagos of São Pedro and São Paulo, in the central Atlantic, and the submarine volcanic chain that connects the islands Trinidad and Martin Vaz, further south.  The designation increased the Brazilian marine protected areas from the current 1.5 per cent to 24.5 per cent...Read more   

Interesting Facts 

Guatemala volcano alert too late to save lives, officials admit 

Emergency personnel retrieve the body of a victim of the volcanic eruption in Guatemala -- so far, at least 99 people are known to have diedA communication breakdown between a disaster agency and volcanologists in Guatemala delayed evacuations as gas and ash clouds cascaded down the Fuego volcano last Sunday in its most violent eruption in four decades, authorities have admitted. Compounding the situation, rain and clouds hid signs of the toxic shower of debris, known as a pyroclastic flow, hurtling down the mountainside, hindering visual observation. While the poor visibility delayed villagers’ own reactions to the impending danger, 27 miles (43 km) away in Guatemala City, disaster authorities failed to understand the magnitude of the eruption, meaning the alert level leading to mandatory evacuations was not raised quickly enough, the heads of the responsible government agencies admitted on Wednesday. That meant people were left in their homes for hours after the dangerous flows began and has led to opposition calls for criminal charges and resignations. Guatemala’s public prosecutor said on Thursday that it would open an investigation into whether protocols were followed to inform proper decision-making in the handling of the disaster. In a tense meeting at Guatemala’s Congress on Wednesday, the head of the country’s volcanology institute accused his counterpart at disaster agency CONRED of failing to heed bulletins warning that Fuego was dangerously erupting. CONRED chief Sergio Cabanas accepted the evacuation order was late, but blamed the volcanologists for not being explicit enough that the situation was dangerous... Read more
International interest in Jamaica's crisis management center 

Development of a Global Resilience and Crisis Management Center in Jamaica to deal with climate-related issues has been attracting attention from international financial and academic interests, says Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett. First announced during the UNWTO Global Conference on Sustainable Tourism in St James in November 2017, the center, which is the first of its kind, will be tasked with creating, producing and generating toolkits, guidelines and policies to handle the recovery process following a disaster. Bartlett noted that academic institutions on “every continent” are also showing interest in the center. They include Queensland University in Australia; Hong Kong Polytechnic in Hong Kong; Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom; and universities in the United States such as George Washington and Harvard. “We know already that the tourism leadership — World Travel and Tourism Council, Pacific Area Tourism Authority, United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Caribbean Tourism Organization, and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association — have all already committed and support this resilience institution,” he pointed out... Read more    

Friday, June 1, 2018

June 1st

Interesting Facts

Study estimates a prolonged increase in death rate in Puerto Rico in months following Hurricane Maria 

Puerto-Rico-Hurricane-MariaAs with any major natural disaster, assessing the loss of life caused by Hurricane Maria was difficult and contentious. For disaster-related deaths to be confirmed in Puerto Rico, bodies must be transported to San Juan or a medical examiner must travel to the region to verify the death. This makes it difficult to log deaths that were caused by delays in treatment or chronic conditions that worsened in the aftermath of the storm. In December 2017, media reports suggested that the official death toll was significantly underestimated. To produce an independent estimate of lives lost as a result of the storm, the researchers surveyed 3,299 randomly chosen households across Puerto Rico. Results from the survey showed that there were an estimated 14.3 deaths per 1,000 people between September 20 and December 31, 2017. By comparing this post-hurricane mortality rate with the same time period in 2016, the researchers estimated that there were 4,645 additional deaths in the three-month period following Hurricane Maria.
In addition to a significantly higher death toll, the study showed that the average household went approximately 41 days without cell phone service, 68 days without water, and 84 days without electricity following the storm. More than 30% of surveyed households reported interruptions to medical care, with trouble accessing medications and powering respiratory equipment being the most frequently cited challenges. Support for the study came from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, Section of Wilderness and Environmental Medicine.... Read more

Grenada PM says frequent natural disasters new normal for the region 

The board of governors of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) began its 48th annual meeting on Wednesday, with Grenada's Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell warning that natural disasters and hazards associated or linked to climate change is creating a new normal in the region that will require a shift in developmental planning. He said that at the macro level, the region must accelerate its transition to green and blue economies, and in so doing, synchronize economic development with environmental sustainability. “Operationally, we must institutionalize climate-risk screening of all infrastructure projects and programs, of both the public and private sectors. In tandem, we also need to enforce proper building standards that support climate-resilient infrastructure,” he said, while explaining that it is crucially important that the region invest in climate-smart education to entrench a culture of respect for, and preservation of the planet earth... Read more

Building Better Power Grids  

Earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, ice storms, solar storms, brush fires, cyber attacks—these are just some of the events that can disrupt or incapacitate an electric grid. But for many countries in the region, it is the threat of hurricanes that looms the largest, especially with the start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1 and last year’s brutal storms still fresh in people’s memories. The challenge is how to make the region’s power grids more resilient, so that they can withstand or recover from increasingly severe storms. According to a consensus report called “Enhancing the Resilience of the Nation’s Electricity System,” issued last year by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, it is impossible to eliminate power outages 100 percent, no matter how much money or effort a country invests in its electric grid. To increase the resilience of the grid,” the report stated, “the nation must not only work to prevent and minimize the size of outages, it must also develop strategies to cope with outages when they happen, recover rapidly afterward, and incorporate lessons learned into future planning and response efforts.” Dr. Gary Jackson, an independent energy consultant in the Caribbean, framed the issue of resilience this way: “It’s more than just the wires that connect the poles. It’s building a resilient framework so that countries have the ability to recover in the shortest possible time.”... Read more

For a Resilient Power Grid, Think “Micro”

In most places, on most days, the ability to turn on a light relies on a large centralized power plant, a network of high-voltage transmission lines, and a local distribution system. Most people don’t even think about the electric grid that powers their everyday lives until suddenly it’s not there. Of course, that’s what happened in Puerto Rico and several other Caribbean islands after a series of devastating hurricanes last year. The system failures are shining a light on new solutions for the energy grid. Part of the answer may lie in microgrids. Unlike an emergency gasoline generator that sits idle most of the time, a solar-powered microgrid is typically connected to the main energy grid, providing supplemental power generation on a regular basis. But if need be, it can be decoupled from the electric power system and run on its own. In other words, even if the main grid is down, microgrids can continue providing power to critical areas. Christopher Burgess, the project director for the Islands Energy Program at the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), believes that more countries will take a more “modular” approach to energy and incorporate microgrids into their power systems in the long term. Not only is this type of approach more resilient, he said; it’s also more cost-effective than a huge transmission and distribution system... Read more
Assessing the Real Cost of Disasters: The Need for Better Evidence

image of Assessing the Real Cost of DisastersDisasters disrupt socioeconomic activities and cause substantial damage. Yet, their full economic impact remains largely unknown, especially the cost of smaller disasters and indirect impacts such as those due to business disruptions. Similarly, little information exists on the total amount of public resources that countries devote to disaster risk management. Reliable, comprehensive and comparable data on the economic impact of disasters as well as on public spending on disaster management and risk prevention are essential for developing effective disaster risk management policies. This report provides an overview of countries' efforts to improve the quality and quantity of information on the costs of disasters.    ... Read more   Download the report (subscription to OECD iLibrary needed)     

Friday, May 25, 2018

May 25th

What happened this week?

Hidroituango dam failure in Central Colombia forces evacuation of thousands and leaves downriver communities at risk

On May 24th, the Colombia Civil Defense declared a red alert for the Pacific and Orinoquia Regions and an orange alert for the Caribbean, Andina, and part of the Pacific Regions due to heavy rain and an increase of the water level in several rivers. Media reported an overflow of the Cuanapi river in the city of Tumaco, Nariño Department, where at least 300 people were affected due to floods. Elsewhere, in the Municipality of Jamundi, Valle del Cauca Department, approximately 3,000 people were affected due to a strong cold wave and the villages of Jamundi and Valle were affected by 25 landslides...Read more   Latest press release from the Colombia National Disaster Risk Management Unit(spanish)

Colombia's Ituango hydroelectric dam: threats, violence, and mismanagement 

A landslide at Colombia’s biggest dam that forced the evacuation of about 26,000 people highlights the risks to communities who have lived the area for generations, according to campaigners who have protested for years over the massive project. The $4 billion Ituango hydroelectric dam in northwestern Colombia has been dogged by protests since construction started in 2010 but was due to start generating power this year as part of a global push into clean renewable energy projects. But campaigners fear the Ituango dam will wreak havoc on the environment and destroy fishing and farming communities and they have been campaigning to stop the dam’s construction.
Following a trend of rising violence against environmental defenders across Latin America, on May 2, one of the local opponents to the dam was assassinated. Hugo Albeiro George Perez was a member of Movimiento Ríos Vivos in Colombia and one of the leaders of opposition to Ituango and associated mining projects in the region. Meanwhile, poor ecological management practices on the part of EPM caused major issues for the dam itself. Three landslides occurred between April 28th and May 7th that blocked the flow of water through an upstream diversion tunnel that was intended to keep the reservoir from filling to unsafe levels...Read more  Read more

Interesting Facts

As Hawaii’s Kilauea erupts, volcanologists learn what warning signs may exist that point to future eruptions 

Weeks after it first erupted on May 3, Kilauea’s dramatic volcano activity continued to threaten homes, with lava and dangerous gases as it cracks apart at its base and blows periodically at its top to jettison lava and plumes of ash. Scientists are studying these oozing fissures, explosive eruptions and magma flow patterns as they happen, a rare opportunity for many of them who, without the real thing, are often left to model volcano behavior in distant laboratories. Where the volcano cracks into fissures, how the magma tracks through the ground and what warning signs may exist that point to future eruptions will be used to better plan and protect the state’s communities in the future. Scientists have noted chemical similarities between the lava emerging from the fissures here in what is known as the “lower east rift area” and the magma at Kilauea’s peak.
Researchers are particularly interested in the observations of Kilauea’s steam-powered “phreatic” eruptions, which occur when hot rock interacts with water in the ground. If the volcano’s vent is blocked by falling rock, the resulting steam will build up pressure until it explodes. The warning signs for these events are poorly understood, said Maarten de Moor, a researcher at Costa Rica’s Volcanological and Seismological Observatory ... Read more

Hurricanes: Stronger, slower, wetter in the future? New analysis compares 22 named storms with possible hurricanes of the future

Satellite image of 2017's Hurricane Jose off the U.S. Atlantic coast and Hurricane Maria over Atlantic waters to the southeast of Jose.
Scientists have developed a detailed analysis of how 22 recent hurricanes would be different if they formed under the conditions predicted for the late 21st century. While each storm's transformation would be unique, on balance, the hurricanes would become a little stronger, a little slower-moving, and a lot wetter.
In one example, Hurricane Ike -- which killed more than 100 people and devastated parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2008 -- could have 13 percent stronger winds, move 17 percent slower, and be 34 percent wetter if it formed in a future, warmer climate. Other storms could become slightly weaker (for example, Hurricane Ernesto) or move slightly faster (such as Hurricane Gustav). None would become drier. The rainfall rate of simulated future storms would increase by an average of 24 percent.
The study, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and published in the Journal of Climate, compares high-resolution computer simulations of more than 20 historical, named Atlantic storms with a second set of simulations that are identical but for a warmer, wetter climate that's consistent with the average scientific projections for the end of the century.... Read more

Policy Developments and Outlook
Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay join to increase resilience of tri-border region

South America’s tri-border region – where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet – is highly exposed to extreme climate and weather events. It suffers from numerous vulnerabilities, including: poverty, economic and political instability, lack of resources and infrastructure. Now the unique ‘Triangle City Cooperation’ project has recommended that cities of this region must take precipitous action to reduce their climate change vulnerability and forge more climate-resilient development – to secure the region’s future. The project’s work has led directly to the formation of several tripartite initiatives among Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, to shore up the region’s short- and long-term resilience.
Since the project’s inception in March 2017, the project has sought to to identify cooperation strategies among the three cities of Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil), Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) and Puerto Iguazú (Argentina): cities which meet at the confluence of borders – and of the major Parana and Iguazú Rivers. The project has been a joint effort among the University of Leeds (United Kingdom), the National University of Misiones (Argentina), the Instituto Internacional Polo Iguassu (Brazil) and the Catholic University of Our Lady of the Assumption (Paraguay). It has been supported by the Climate Resilient Cities in Latin America initiative of CDKN, Fundacion Futuro Latinoamericano and IDRC (Canada).
The research team analysed vulnerability and adaptation strategies in the tri-border region, in order to identify existing climate-related trends and problems in the cities... Read more   Download the report Evaluación de la vulnerabilidad y estrategias de adaptación en la región trinacional (Spanish) 

Friday, May 18, 2018

May 18th

Interesting Facts

Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) looks at past disasters to prepare for the future

Released by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), Aftershocks: Remodeling the Past for a Resilient Future looks at various disasters from the distant and recent past and explores the likely impacts similar events would have if they were to occur in today’s more populous and connected world. Aftershocks notes that impacts from disasters are increasing due to population growth and development. These trends are likely to continue in the future. For example, models show that by 2050, population growth and rapid urbanization alone could put 1.3 billion people and $158 trillion in assets at risk to river and coastal floods. The report explores how understanding the great disasters of the past enables governments and communities to better prepare for the risks they face. For example, earthquakes that struck Chile and Haiti in 2010 demonstrate the value of enforcing building standards and resilient urban planning to mitigate the impact of future events. A remodeling of typhoon Wanda, which devastated the coastal regions of China in 1956, illustrates both the impact of natural hazards in a rapidly growing economy and the benefits of effective risk identification and early warning systems. A closer look at the two earthquakes in Mexico City in 1985 and 2017 illustrate the importance of integrating multiple interventions to mitigate risk, from early warning to improved building practices and financial protection... Read more   Download the report    

Caribbean Lost Almost $700M in Tourism Revenue Due to Hurricanes in 2017

Waves crash against El Malecon ahead of the passing of Hurricane Irma, in Havana, Cuba.The Caribbean's tourism sector lost close to US $700 million in revenue and saw almost one million fewer visitors in 2017 due to the devastating impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria. An industry report released by the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council revealed the disastrous effect the storms had on one of the region's most critical industries when compared to previous years Tuesday. The report notes that the hurricane season resulted in an estimated (loss) in 2017 of 826,100 visitors to the Caribbean, compared to pre-hurricane forecasts. It is estimated that those tourists and the missed revenue could have sustained more than 11,000 jobs within the region. Tourism is a crucial sector for Caribbean countries. The industry, according to the report, is responsible for 15.2 percent of the region's gross domestic product. It's also responsible for 14 percent of the overall all jobs in the islands... Read more

Hurricanes Irma and Maria a hint of what the future holds 

Hurricanes Irma and Maria a hint of what the future holdsSecretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ambassador Irwin LaRocque warned that Hurricanes Irma and Maria which devastated many countries in the Region last year were “a hint at what the future holds”. Speaking at the opening of a meeting with the Heads of Institutions of the Community at the Marriott Hotel, Georgetown, Guyana, on Monday, the Secretary-General noted that the long-term forecasts for climatic activity in the Region were even “more foreboding as the effects of climate change become more pronounced.” The meeting was aimed at strengthening the co-ordination among the Institutions and the Secretariat as the Community builds resilience to encounter the new normal of more intense and frequent climatic activity. A review of the preparedness and management of the response to the events of last September has been undertaken by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to glean lessons learned... Read more

Cuban Scientific Center to Help Reduce Disasters in the Caribbean 

According to the minister of Science, Technology and Environment Elba Rosa Perez, the weather center in the Cuban province of Ciego de Avila will train specialists from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Perez said that the Ciego de Avila-based institution will host three disaster risk reduction training courses for experts, researchers and scientists from the Caribbean. She stressed that the facility has conditions, new technology and a competent staff, so it can become an excellent convention unit in central Cuba. The minister added that it would be an ideal place to hold events on meteorological forecast and climate change, and it can provide technical assistance, scientific technological and innovative services to sectors of the economy and society... Read more

Policy Developments and Outlook
U.S. Senate aims to improve volcano warning system 

The U.S. Senate has passed legislation aimed at improving the country’s volcano monitoring and early warning capabilities. The measure would strengthen existing volcano monitoring systems and unify them under one connected system. It also would create a Volcano Watch Office, which would operate around the clock, to monitor all active volcanoes in the U.S. and U.S. territories. The measure still must be approved by the U.S. House. Washington state Sen. Maria Cantwell says her state has five of the highest-threat volcanoes in the nation. She says Thursday’s eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is a reminder that volcanoes are a persistent and serious threat.... Read more  

Jamaican government working on framework for disaster risk financing

Jamaica has been working on establishing a policy framework for disaster risk financing, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service Fayval Williams said on Tuesday. Williams, who was making her first contribution to the sectoral debate in the House of Representatives since being promoted to minister in a Cabinet shuffle by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on March 26, said she is pleased that the Government has put in motion, and are far along with the analytic work that will guide the eventual establishment of a Policy Framework for Disaster Risk Financing ahead of a disaster. Williams said that the Government would continue to maintain a contingency in the budget to deal with high frequency events, but relatively low levels of damage. She added that an analysis of the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Fund would also guide Jamaica's continued participation in the product... Read more  

Friday, May 11, 2018

May 11th

What happened this week?

The damages of Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano and its possible explosive eruption 

Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano has been sputtering lava for a week, forced around 2,000 residents to evacuate, destroyed 36 structures — including 26 homes — since May 3, when it began releasing lava from vents about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of the summit crater. Now experts fear that it could hurl ash and boulders the size of refrigerators miles into the air in the coming days or weeks. What could happen is not an eruption of volcanic gases but mostly trapped steam from flash-heated groundwater released like in a kitchen pressure cooker, with rocks, said volcanologist Janine Krippner of Concord University in West Virginia. The problem is the lava lake at the summit of Kilauea is draining fast, about 6.5 feet (2 meters) per hour and in little more than a week, the top of the lava lake has gone from spilling over the crater to almost 970 feet (295 meters) below the surface as of Thursday morning. The lava levels in the lake are dropping because lava is spewing out of cracks elsewhere in the mountain, lowering the pressure that filled the lava lake... Read more

Belize signs $20 million loan with IDB to reduce climate vulnerability  

Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow, and Country Representative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Dr. Cassandra T. Rogers, today signed a loan contract for US$10 million that will seek to reduce Belize’s vulnerability to climate change and risk with the implementation of climate resilience measures in the tourism sector, and the improvement of disaster risk management governance. The project is a continuation of the Bank’s support for flood mitigation in Belize City, which included the Flood Mitigation Infrastructure Project, completed in 2017
The program consists of two components. The first will seek to reduce climate change risk in the tourism sector. It will include studies and investments to reduce floods in the Orange Street area of Belize City, an area with a comparatively high climate risk. Additionally, this component includes actions to control coastal erosion in Palapa Gardens beach on Caye Caulker and to reduce the impacts of intense tourism activities on the surrounding coral reef and seagrasses at Goff’s Caye. The second component deals with disaster risk management governance and climate change adaptation. The US$10 million loan, from the Bank’s Ordinary Capital, is for a 25-year term, with a 5.5-year grace period and a LIBOR-based interest rate... Read more

Interesting Facts

The science behind the volcanic activity on Hawaii's Big Island 

The science behind the volcanic activity on Hawaii's Big IslandHawaii’s Kilauea volcano has entered a new destructive period of eruptions, which has happened several times since it resumed producing lava in 1983. Here’s some context behind one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Hawaii Island’s youngest: Kilauea is currently in the second phase of growth, the “shield building” stage, where it is the most active and the most voluminous. Lava eruptions have occurred at the volcano’s summit since 2008 and since 1983 on its eastern shoulder at a crater called Pu'u O'o, which collapsed on April 30, and sent lava searching for a new path downhill. Scientists are concerned that if the lava column drops to the level of groundwater beneath Kilauea Caldera, it will cause more eruptions... Read more    

To live on a volcano is to accept risk. On Hawaii’s Big Island, the risk has become reality. 

Hawaii exists, and continues to take on new shapes, in large part because of Kilauea, the longest-erupting volcano on the planet, and — according to some Hawaii residents — because of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess. Living here has always been a gamble. Home sales in high-risk areas in Hawaii tend to plummet in the wake of volcanic activity, and insurance companies are increasingly limiting their offerings. But while some residents are devastated by knowing they might have lost everything, others say it’s a gamble they’ll take again as the area is believed to maintain its appeal.
Land on this side of Hawaii is some of the cheapest in the state — not just because of the sputtering volcano, but because, residents say, it’s also relatively rainy and it lacks the white-sand beaches that tend to draw tourists....   Read more

The Quest to Hurricane-Proof an Island 

Eight months ago, Category 5 Hurricane Maria hit Dominica, where nine out of 10 buildings lost a roof. The World Bank estimated the total damage at $1.3 billion, or 224 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Remarkably, though, less than a year later, there’s optimism in the air as Dominica is making a bid to be the world’s first climate-resilient nation. Climate Resilient Execution Agency for Dominica (CREAD), a task force to hurricane-proof the entire island has been conceived shortly after the storm by government officials. The government expects to appoint a chief executive and leadership team to the agency as soon as it gets parliamentary approval, likely in July. CREAD’s first mission will be to determine best practices across every sector—roads, building codes, energy grids, water management—before enforcing them islandwide.
The government has already been collaborating with international organizations to establish some parameters ahead of CREAD’s inauguration. Any roofs that are being rebuilt with aid from the government or major nonprofit groups are being reengineered according to United Nations Development Programme standards. The UNDP guidelines call for steeper roof angles to better withstand wind, for example, and for the use of screws rather than nails to strengthen frames. Building codes are being rewritten with the help of the Canadian government and the U.K.’s Department for International Development, as well. And the Dominica government is taking the first steps of burying utility cables, elevating bridges, and shifting to solar from generator power—all projects that CREAD will see through to completion. If Dominica is successful, it will eventually be able to rebound from a Category 5 storm in a matter of weeks, not months or years... Read more

Learning from big innovations in Small Island States 

Small island developing states (SIDS), which account for less than 1% of the world’s population, are some of the world’s most vulnerable countries to disasters and climate change. Of the countries with the highest disaster losses relative to GDP, two-thirds are small island states, with annual losses between one and nine percent of GDP on average.
Even those numbers are misleading, however, since a single disaster can cripple an island’s entire economy. Without tropical cyclones, for instance, Jamaica’s economy could have grown by as much as 4% per year; instead, over the past 40 years, it has grown 0.8% annually. Sometimes, growth is wiped out all at once: When Hurricane Maria struck Dominica last year, it caused damages and losses equivalent to 220% of the country’s GDP. But what we learn from these small, remote, highly exposed islands could be useful for millions of people around the world. Though their size makes SIDS vulnerable, it also makes them ideal for piloting comprehensive analytical tools and innovative methodologies that help us understand climate and disaster risks and design resilience strategies. Successful tools and methodologies can later be applied to bigger countries or broader regions with similar challenges, particularly coastal areas... Read more    

What men in disaster response should do to promote gender equality

Currently, the majority of disaster response staff are men. They have a large role to play in creating safer and more supportive work environments for women in disaster response roles — both on the ground and at headquarters. Last year, ActionAid and CARE International came together to compile a report on what holds women back from disaster response positions. Following allegations of sexual misconduct in Haiti by Oxfam, Save the Children, and staff from other aid organizations, Devex spoke with emergency preparedness staff focused on diversity inclusion from CARE International and ActionAid to get their advice on what men in disaster response can do to create a more inclusive environment and work toward gender equality. While some of the best practices they suggest seem simple, it’s clear that they are often not implemented. From recruiting more diverse teams, breaking down “bro-culture,” and knowing when to take a step back, here are eight tips from experts... Read more